Columbia University in the City of New York holds a long and distinguished tradition of Iranian Studies, which was inaugurated in 1895 with the appointment of A. V. Williams Jackson as the University’s first professor of Indo-Iranian languages.  In the early 1970s Ehsan Yarshater, then Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies, continued this tradition when he initiated the project of the Encyclopædia Iranica 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 July 2012, 15 volumes and fascicle XVI/1 have appeared in print, with entries ranging from “Āb” to “Ḵaṣṣa.” In 1996, the Encyclopædia Iranica launched its first website iranica.com to provide free access to pdf-files of previously published fascicles.  During the last decade, the project's priorities have moved 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. In 2009 the Encyclopædia Iranica began, in collaboration with the web design company Electric Pulp, to develop its current website iranicaonline.org. Since spring 2010, this website has provided readers with easy access to all entries through full-text search. As of July 2012, the online version comprises about 6,600 entries, of which more than 800 entries are available only on the Internet. To create an additional platform for interaction with its online audiences, the Encyclopædia Iranica established a Facebook page in the summer of 2011.

Since its inception in the 1970s 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-profit Encyclopædia Iranica Foundation was established to guarantee the project’s intellectual independence and strengthen its long-term viability.


Revised 29 August 2012