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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 February 2015


This article investigates the evolution of print culture and commerce in Tehran during the first half of the 20th century. The first section examines technological changes that facilitated the commercialization of texts and then details the history of early print entrepreneurs in the Tehran bazaar. The second section examines the expansion of the book trade between the 1920s and 1940s, tracing the emergence of modern bookstores in a rapidly changing Tehran. I argue that patterns of change in print commerce between 1900 and 1950 contributed to the emergence of mass culture by midcentury. This new mass culture involved the social and political empowerment of a diversity of new reading publics in the city, and enabled the emergence of new forms of popular politics.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2015 

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Author's note: This article was originally presented at the 2013 Middle East Studies Association conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. I thank my copanelists for their valuable feedback. I also thank the four anonymous IJMES reviewers for their helpful comments as well as Kathleen A. Kelly, Akram Khater, and Jeffrey Culang for their detailed editorial suggestions.

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14 Babazada, Tarikh-i Chap, 20; Mahbubi-Ardakani, Muʾassisat, 215–16; Green, “Stones from Bavaria,” 321–22; Marzolph, Illustration, 14–15.

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16 Pedersen, The Arabic Book, 44; Messick, The Calligraphic State, 21–26, 117–18; Hirschler, The Written Word, 124–35.

17 For estimates of lithographic print-runs, see Afshar, Sayr-i Kitab, 27; Afshar, “Kitabha-yi Chap-i Qadim dar Iran va Chap-i Kitabha-yi Farsi dar Jahan,” Hunar va Mardum 49 (1966): 29Google Scholar; Rajabi, Muhammad, Tarikh-i Kitab dar Iran: Az Aghaz ta Kunun (Tehran: Intisharat-i Ittilaʿat, 2009)Google Scholar, 35; and Shahri, Jaʿfar, Tarikh-i Ijtimaʿi-yi Tihran dar Qarn-i Sizdahum, vol. 4 (Tehran: Intisharat-i Ismaʿiliyan, 1989), 117Google Scholar.

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19 The population of Tehran rose from 106,482 in 1883 to 210,000 in 1922. For the growth of Tehran's population, see Zandjani, Habibollah, “Teheran et sa population: deux siecles d’histoire,” in Téhéran: capitale bicentenaire, ed. Adle, Chahryar and Hourcade, Bernard (Paris: Institut Français de Recherche en Iran, 1992), esp. 252–54Google Scholar; Firuz Tawfiq, “Census I. In Iran,” Encyclopedia Iranica, vol. 2, 142–52, table 13, accessed 16 June 2014,

20 Keshavarzian, Arang, Bazaar and State in Iran (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 4445CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

21 Injavi-Shirazi, Sayyid Abulqasim, “Hadis-i Kitab va Kitabfurushi,” Adinah 18 (1366): 5253Google Scholar; Musahib, Mahmud, Kitab dar Iran (Tehran: Chap-i Taban, 1963), 3435Google Scholar; Shahri, Tarikh-i Ijtimaʿi, 2:165; Javad Iqbal, “Kitabfurushi,” in Afshar, Kitabfurushi, 1:95–114.

22 Shahri, Jaʿfar, Tihran-i Qadim, vol. 2 (Tehran: Muʿin, 1992), 225–26Google Scholar; Nafisi, Rivayat, 558–59; Iqbal, Javad, Yadnama-yi Iqbal: Yik Qarn Khidmat ba Chap, Nashr, va Farhang-i Iran (Tehran: Iqbal, 2002), 3536Google Scholar.

23 Shahri, Tihran-i Qadim, 2:209; Jaʿfari, ʿAbd al-Rahim, Dar Justiju-yi Subh, vol. 1 (Tehran: Ganjina-yi Chap, 2003), 393Google Scholar; Nafisi, Rivayat, 147; Injavi-Shirazi, “Hadis-i Kitab,” 54; Jaʿfari, Dar Justiju, 1:393.

24 Injavi-Shirazi, “Hadis-i Kitab,” 53.

25 Gulbun, “Danishmandan,” in Afshar, Kitabfurushi, 1:491–92.

26 Injavi-Shirazi, “Hadis-i Kitab,” 55; Ramazani, Muhsin, “Az Khandanha-yi Khadim-i Kitab,” in Tarikh-i Shafahi-yi Nashr-i Iran, ed. Azarang, ʿAbd al-Husayn and Dihbashi, ʿAli (Tehran: Intisharat-i Quqnus, 2003), 85100Google ScholarPubMed.

27 Ramazani, “Khandan,” 85; ʿAin Allah Jalali, “Chahar Nasl Nashir,” in Afshar, Kitabfurushi, 1:229; Iqbal, Yadnama, 23–24. On the modernization of naming practices, see Chehabi, H. E., “The Reform of Iranian Nomenclature and Titulature in the Fifth Majles,” in Converging Zones: Persian Literary Tradition and the Writing of History, Studies in Honor of Amin Banani, ed. Ahmadi, Wali (Costa Mesa, Calif.: Mazda Publishers, 2012), 84116Google Scholar.

28 Injavi-Shirazi, “Hadis-i Kitab,” 53.

29 Ibid.; Iqbal, Yadnama, 20; Mahmud ʿIlmi and ʿAli Asghar ʿIlmi, “Du Nasl Az Miyan-i Panj,” in Azarang and Dihbashi, Tarikh, 129.

30 Nafisi, Rivayat, 141; Iqbal, Yadnama, 14; Mir-Muhammadi, Hamid-Riza, Jughrafiya-yi Khvansar (Tehran: Khvansari, 1999), 156–59Google Scholar; Azarang, ʿAbd al-Husayn, “Tarikh-i Nashr-i Kitab dar Iran, 7,” Bukhara 76 (2010): 518–19Google Scholar.

31 Iqbal, Yadnama, 15–19.

32 For the distribution of printed books by city in 19th-century Iran, see Mansoureh Ettehadieh Nezam-Mavi, “The Emergence of Tehran as the Cultural Centre of Iran,” in Adle and Hourcade, Téhéran, 138. According to Ettehadieh's data, Tehran's 1,883 printed books far exceeded production in other cities.

33 Ramazani, “Khandan,” 86.

34 Marzolph, Narrative Illustration, 25–26; Marzolph, Ulrich, “Persian Illustrated Lithographed Books,” in The Beginnings of Printing in the Near and Middle East: Jews, Christians and Muslims, ed. Kreiser, Klaus (Wiesbaden, Germany: Harrossowitz Verlag, 2001), 84101Google Scholar; Shahri, Tarikh-i Ijtimaʿi, 4:123.

35 Marzolph, Ulrich, “Persian Popular Literature in the Qajar Period,” Asian Folklore Studies 60 (2001): 219, 223–28CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Mahjub, Muhammad Jaʿfar, Adabiyat-i ʿAmiyana-yi Iran (Tehran: Nashr-i Chishma, 2003), 113–19Google Scholar; Jaʿfari, Dar Justiju, 1:133–34.

36 Shahri, Tarikh-i Ijtimaʿi, 4:124.

37 Marzolph, “Persian Popular Literature,” 219.

38 Sharhi, Tarikh-i Ijtimaʿi, 5:646–51.

40 Balaghi, Nationalism, 195–200.

41 Nabavi, “Readership,” 213; Browne, Press and Poetry, 25.

42 Naseruldin Parvin, “Kitabfurushi, Ruznamanigari, Ruznamafurushi,” in Kitabfurushi, 1:179–81.

43 Balaghi describes shipments of newspapers hidden in crates of cloth and sugar being smuggled via networks of Iranian merchants in Iran and abroad. See Balaghi, Nationalism, 198.

44 Parvin, “Ruznamanigari,” 180–81.

45 Ibid., 180.

47 Ibid., 185–92.

48 Ibid., 181–82; Strauss, “Who Read What,” 47.

49 Parvin, Naseruldin, “Darbara-yi Karburd-i Zaban-i Muhavira dar Ruznamaha, va Muʿarifi-yi Ruznama-yi Sharafat,” Iranshinasi 8 (1996): 523Google Scholar.

50 Ibid., 524.

51 Ibid., 523–24.

52 Ibid., 518–19.

53 Perry, John, “New Persian: Expansion, Standardization, and Inclusivity,” in Literacy in the Persianate World: Writing and the Social Order, ed. Spooner, Brian and Hanaway, William L. (Philadelphia, Pa.: University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, 2012), 8182Google Scholar.

54 Ibid., 82.

55 Ibid., 82; Anderson, Imagined Communities, 18–19, 45.

56 Browne, Edward G., A Literary History of Persia, vol. 4 (Bethesda, Md.: Iranbooks, 1997), 482Google Scholar; Rypka, Jan, History of Iranian Literature (Dordrecht, Netherlands: Reidel, 1968), 362–65CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

57 Parvin, “Darbara-yi Zaban,” 525.

59 Ibid.; For a comparison of newspaper prices during this period, see Nabavi, “Readership,” 218–19, 454; and Shahri, Tarikh-i Ijtimaʿi, 5:646.

60 Shahri, Tarikh-i Ijtimaʿi, 4:130; Balaghi, Nationalism, 199; Afary, Revolution, 117.

61 Shahri, Tarikh-i Ijtimaʿi, 5:647–48; Balaghi, “Print Culture,” 168–70.

62 Balaghi, “Print Culture,” 168.

63 For similar patterns elsewhere in the region, see Ayalon, Reading Palestine, 96–101; and Fortna, Learning to Read, 78.

64 Kuhistani-Nizhad, Masʿud, Qiraʾat-khanaha-yi Iran (Tehran: Markaz-i Mutaliʿat va Tahqiqat, 2003), 1326Google Scholar.

65 Jalali, “Chahar Nasl,” 230; Kuhistani-Nizhad, Qiraʾat-khanaha, 46.

66 Browne, Press and Poetry, 26; Nabavi, “Readership,” 214.

67 Kuhistani-Nizhad, Qiraʾat-khanaha, 67–71.

68 See, for example, discussions in Afshar, Iraj, “Anjumanha-yi Adabi dar Iran,” Ayanda 12 (1987): 376–83Google Scholar; and Ashtiyani, Abbas Iqbal, “Kitabkhanaha-yi ʿUmumi-yi Tehran,” Yadigar 1, no. 7 (1945): 15Google Scholar.

69 Afshar, “Anjumanha,” 381.

70 Ibid. The terms kānūn (assembly), anjuman (society), and pātugh (haunt) added to the complexity of terms referring to sites of social gathering where books were made available for purchase, reading, and/or discussion. See also ʿAli Muhammad Hunar, “Kitabfurushiha-yi Patughi,” in Afshar, Kitabfurushi, 1:689–90.

71 Nadir Mutallabi-Kashani, “Kitabfurushan-i Tehran Dar Sal-i 1306,” in Afshar, Kitabfurushi, 1:603–7.

72 Ibid., 605.

74 Ibid., 606.

76 Ibid. On this practice, see also Nafisi, Rivayat, 147.

77 Martin Seger, “Segregation of Retail Facilities and the Bipolar City Centre of Tehran,” in Adle and Hourcade, Téhéran, 287.

78 The 1939 data comes from Fatima Qaziha, “Asnadi az Kitabfurushan dar Sazman-i Asnad va Kitabkhana-yi Milli-yi Iran,” in Afshar, Kitabfurushi, 1:421–79. The 1935 data comes from “Salnama va Ihsaʾiyya: 1312–1313 va 1313–1314,” Dawlat-i Shahanshahi-yi Iran: Vizarat-i Maʿarif (Tehran: Idara-i Kull-i Intibaʿat, 1935), 122–25. I am grateful to Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi for providing me with this source. See also Mansur Safat-Gul, “Ihsaʾiyya-yi Kitabkhanaha va Kitabfurushiha-yi Iran dar Khurdad-i Sal-i 1314,” in Afshar, Kitabfurushi, 2:225–29.

79 “Salnama va Ihsaʾiyya,” 122–24; Safat-Gul, “Ihsaʾiyya-yi Kitabkhanaha,” 225–29.

80 Qaziha, “Asnadi az Kitabfurushan,” 456–58.

83 For a discussion of movie houses in this context see Naficy, Hamid, A Social History of Iranian Cinema, vol. 1, The Artisanal Era, 1897–1941 (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2011), 128–32Google Scholar.

84 Jaʿfari, Dar Justiju, 394–95. For the urban reform of Tehran during the Reza Shah period, see Mohsen Habibi, “Reza Chah el le Development de Tehehran (1925–1941),” in Adle and Hourcade, Téhéran, 199–206; and Ehlers, Eckart and Floor, Willem, “Urban Change in Iran, 1920–1941,” Iranian Studies 26 (1993): 251–75CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

85 Qaziha, “Asnadi az Kitabfurushan,” 458–61.

86 Jaʿfari, Dar Justiju, 154.

87 Azarang, ʿAbd al-Husayn, “Tarikh-i Nashr-i Kitab dar Iran, 10,” Bukhara 82 (2011): 443–44Google Scholar.

88 Bizhan Taraqqi, “Az Khandan-i Nashir,” in Azarang, Tarikh, 51–63. See also Taraqqi, Az Pusht-i Divarha-yi Khatira (Tehran: Javidan, 2007).

89 Taraqqi, “Khandan,” 51.

90 Ibid., 52.

91 Ramazani, “Khandan,” 85–99.

92 Ibid., 88–89.

93 Ibid., 85–86.

94 Mahmud and ʿAli Asghar ʿIlmi, “Du Nasl,” in Azarang and Dihbashi, Tarikh, 129–51.

95 Ibid., 130–35.

96 Ibid.; Injavi-Shirazi, “Hadis-i Kitab,” 54.

97 Jaʿfari, Dar Justiju, 1:153–55.

98 Iqbal, Yadnama, 12–13.

99 Ibid., 45, 100–103.

100 Ibid., 103–6; Jaʿfari, Dar Justiju, 1:395.

101 Iqbal, Yadnama, 116.

102 Ibid., 122–23.

103 Green, Nile, Bombay Islam: The Religious Economy of the West Indian Ocean, 1840–1915 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 118–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

104 ‘Ilmi, “Du Nasl,” 130; Jaʿfari, Dar Justiju, 1:127, 257, 393, 397.

105 Taraqqi, “Khandan,” 55–59.

106 Green, Bombay Islam, 124.

107 Ibid., 58; Katayun Mazdapur, “Kitabfurushi Miyan-i Zartushtiyan,” in Afshar, Kitabfurushi, 2:97–98; Iraj Afshar, “Parakandaha dar bara-yi Kitabfurushi,” in Afshar, Kitabfurushi, 2:592–93.

108 Injavi-Shirazi, “Hadis-i Kitab,” 55; Taraqqi, “Khandan,” 55–56.

109 Injavi-Shirazi, “Hadis-i Kitab,” 55; Jaʿfari, Dar Justiju, 1:411; Hunar, “Kitabfurushiha,” 693–94.

110 Marashi, Afshin, “Patron and Patriot: Dinshah J. Irani and the Revival of Indo-Iranian Culture,” Iranian Studies 46 (2013): 185206CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

111 Taraqqi, “Khandan,” 56–57; Jaʿfari, Dar Justiju, 1:398.

112 Jaʿfari, Dar Justiju, 1:257.

113 Babazada, Tarikh-i Chap, 28–30; Mahbubi-Ardakani, Muʾassisat, 1:217; Jaʿfari, Dar Justiju, 1:425; Azarang, ʿAbdulhusayn, “Tarikh-i Nashr-i Kitab dar Iran, 10,” Bukhara 82 (2011): 440–43Google Scholar.

114 On the complexities of the transition to typography, see Brinkley Messick, “On the Question of Lithography,” in Roper, The History of the Book, 299–317.

115 Jaʿfari, Dar Justiju, 1:154–55.

116 Abrahamian, Ervand, Iran between Two Revolutions (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1982), 142Google Scholar; Abrahamian, A History of Modern Iran (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 2Google Scholar.

117 Firoozi, Ferydoon, “Tehran: A Demographic and Economic Analysis,” Middle Eastern Studies 10 (1974): 6076CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Zandjani, “Teheran et sa Population,” 252–54.

118 Azarang, ʿAbdulhusayn, “Tarikh-i Nashr-i Kitab dar Iran, 10,” Bukhara 82 (2011): 438–39Google Scholar.

119 Jaʿfari, Dar Justiju, 1:277–79; Hunar, “Kitabfurushiha,” 689; Sayyid ʿAbd Allah Anvar, “Nukhust Barkhurdam ba Kitabfurushi,” in Afshar, Kitabfurushi, 1:118–19.

120 Jaʿfari, Dar Justiju, 1:402–3; Iqbal, Yadnama, 61–66.

121 Enrollment figures are derived from Menashri, David, Education and the Making of Modern Iran (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1992), 102, 110, 191Google Scholar; Szyliowicz, Joseph S., Education and Modernization in the Middle East (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1973), 389–90, 466Google Scholar; Matthee, Rudi, “Transforming Dangerous Nomads into Useful Artisans, Technicians, Agriculturalists: Education in the Reza Shah Period,” Iranian Studies 26 (1993): 318CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Azarang, ʿAbd al-Husayn, “Tarikh-i Nashr-i Kitab dar Iran, 14,” Bukhara 86 (2012): 239Google Scholar.

122 Ibid., 64, 106–8.

123 Jaʿfari, Dar Justiju, 1:278–79.

124 Ibid., 279.

125 Taraqqi, “Khandan,” 55.

126 Ibid., 56–57.

127 Ibid.; Injavi-Shirazi, “Hadis-i Kitab,” 56.

128 Jaʿfari, Dar Justiju, 1:413, 537–40.

129 Taraqqi, “Khandan,” 57; Mushar, Khanbaba, Fihrist-i Kitabha-yi Chapi-yi Farsi, ed. Yar-Shater, Ehsan (Tehran: Anjuman-i Kitab, 1973), 1:1296–305Google Scholar.

130 Shalfurush, Husayn Zahidi, Farhang-i Khayyam: Farsi-Ingilisi, ed. Taraqqi, Muhammad ʿAli (Tehran: Kitabkhana-yi Khayyam, 1944 [1928])Google Scholar, preface. There was also a 1938 edition.

131 Mushar, Fihrist, 2:2416–26.

132 The emergence of Sadiq Hidayat as a literary figure is perhaps the best example of this. For a discussion of Hidayat's publishing history, see Jaʿfari, Dar Justiju, 1:459–68.

133 Berkes, Niyazi, The Development of Secularism in Turkey (New York: Routledge, 1998), 26Google Scholar.

134 Geoffrey Roper, “The Printing Press and Change in the Arab World,” in Baron, Agent of Change, 263.

135 Ibid.

136 Vivek Bhandari, “Print and the Emergence of Multiple Publics in Nineteenth-Century Punjab,” in Baron, Agent of Change, 285.

137 Azarang, ʿAbd al-Husayn, “Tarikh-i Nashr-i Kitab dar Iran, 22,” Bukhara 97 (2013): 7178Google Scholar.

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