BAYĀNĪ, MEHDĪ (Mahdī; 1285-1346 Š./1906-68), specialist in Persian manuscripts and calligraphy and pioneer in the field of Persian librarianship. Though born in Hamadān, he was the scion of a long line of dīvān secretaries and fiscal officers (mostawfī) from Farāhān. He was related to Mīrzā Salmān Farāhānī, secretary and confidant of Abu’l-Qāsem Khan Nāṣer-al-Molk Hamadānī, whose title Bayān-al-Salṭana is apparently the origin of the family name (Bayānī, Aḥwāl o āṯār-e ḵᵛošnevīsān, 2nd ed., Tehran, 1363 Š./1984, introd. by Ḥ. Maḥbūbī Ardakānī, p. 3). Bayānī received his early education and training in calligraphy at the Aqdasīya and Ašrāf primary schools and, after graduating from the secondary school Dār al-Fonūn, enrolled in the Dar al-Moʿallemīn-e ʿĀlī (later Dāneš-sarā-ye ʿĀlī; higher teachers’ college). In 1324 Š./1945, Bayānī received a doctorate in Persian literature from the University of Tehran.
Bayānī spent his early career as a teacher of Persian language and literature while working at the same time in the library of Dāneš-sarā-ye ʿĀlī; later he became the head of the Ministry of Education’s public library (Ketāb-ḵāna-ye ʿOmūmī-e Maʿāref, 1312-16 Š./1933-37); as the founder and director of the Ketāb-ḵāna-ye Mellī, Iran’s first national library, he directed the transferring of the books in the Maʿāref Library to the national library (1316-19 Š./1937-40; see Anjoman-e Maʿāref). He became the director of education for the province of Isfahan in 1319-20 Š./1940-41. In 1335 Š./1956, he was appointed head of the Royal Library (Ketāb-ḵāna-ye Salṭanatī, q.v.), a post which he held until he died on 18 Bahman 1346 Š./7 February 1968. While serving as chief imperial librarian, Bayānī also taught courses on the evolution of Persian scripts and on codicology. Bayānī was a long-time member of the Iran-Soviet Cultural Society and edited the journal Payām-e now (q.v.). He also founded a society for the support and publicizing of calligraphers and the calligraphic arts (Anjoman-e ḥemāyat-e ḵaṭṭ o ḵaṭṭāṭān). His biographical dictionary of Iranian calligraphers, Aḥwāl o āṯār-e ḵᵛošnevīsān, is one of the most important research tools in Persian codicology. Bayānī’s pioneering efforts in the fields of bibliography and manuscript identification, evaluation, and collection have yielded valuable catalogues of major holdings in Iran.
Among his other published works are: Rāhnamā-ye ganjīna-ye Qorʾān, with Mahdī Bahrāmī, Tehran, 1328 Š./1949. Fehrest-e ḵoṭūṭ-e ḵᵛoš-e Ketāb-ḵāna-ye Mellī, 1328 Š./1949. Nomūna-ye ḵoṭūṭ-e ḵᵛoš-e Ketāb-ḵāna-ye Salṭanatī-e Īrān, Tehran, 1329 Š./1950. Aḥwāl o āṯār Mīr ʿEmād, Tehran, 1331 Š./1952. Fehrest-e Ketāb ḵāna-ye Salṭanatī: Dīvānhā, Tehran, 1347-48 1968-69.
Ī. Afšār, Sawād-o-bayāż II, Tehran, 1350 Š./1971, pp. 546-51.
Idem, “Wafāt-e Doktor Mahdī Bayānī,” Rāhnamā-ye ketāb 11/1-3, 1347 Š./1968, pp. 115-18.
Originally Published: December 15, 1988
Last Updated: December 15, 1988
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Vol. III, Fasc. 8, p. 882