In the early 1970s, Ehsan Yarshater, then Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies at Columbia University initiated the Encyclopædia Iranica project as a comprehensive Iranian Studies reference work. Professor Yarshater’s objective was to provide specialists on Iran with a platform for the publication of research outside highly specialized journals, while giving scholars in related fields, as well as the general public, access to knowledge about the Iranian civilization.

In 1982, the first fascicle of the Encyclopædia Iranica was published. As of September 2017, 15 volumes and fascicles XVI/1, XVI/2 and XVI/3 of Volume 16 have appeared in print, with entries ranging from “Āb” to “eisai I dialect”. In 1996, the Encyclopædia Iranica launched its first website, iranica.com, to provide free access to pdf files of previously published fascicles.  During the past decade, the project's priorities have shifted from the publication of a printed encyclopedia to the development of the free online database. The print edition, however, is being continued since the long-term preservation of digitally born contents remains a challenge.

As of September 2018, the online version comprised about 7300 entries, of which more than 850 entries are available only on the Internet.

In 2009, Encyclopædia Iranica began developing its current website. Since 2010, this website has provided readers with easy access to all entries through full-text searches.  

Since its inception, the Encyclopædia Iranica project has received funding from independent grant-making agencies, such as the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS). In 1990, the non-for- profit Encyclopædia Iranica Foundation was established to guarantee the project’s intellectual independence and secure  its long-term viability.

Revised November 2018