iii. Book Publishing

When Kanun began producing children’s books, there were no specialized children’s book publishers in Iran. While some publishers at the time had sporadically tried their luck in the children’s field, most of these books were of poor quality and did not meet modern educative criteria (such as age, suitability and understanding, translation and language adaptation, graphic setup and lettering, illustration, size, and binding styles). Most of the fantasy books for children before Kanun’s “standards” had only the storytelling expression of “Once upon a time” to begin a tale, with little attention paid to the complexity of the text for children, level of language, length, or sentiment and psychology of children and young adults. For instance, poems of social criticism such as “The mouse and the cat” (Muš o gorbeh) or funny but moralistic stories like the Mollā Naṣr-al-Din tales, had for decades been recited to children by literate parents as suitable books for the young. Illustrations and drawings of the pre-Kanun children’s books were also generally very poor.

The initial effort at creating quality books for children was led by the Bongāh-e tarjoma wa našr-e ketāb (hereafter Bongāh) in the mid-1950s and continued until the mid-1960s, when Kanun was formed. Bongāh published two series of books, one for children and another for adolescents. The children’s series consisted of both illustrated translations (13 vols.) and original works (6 vols.). The other series consisted of translations of simplified literary works or works written for adolescents (21 vols). Both Homā Zāhedi and Lily Amirarjomand began their work on children’s books by translating two books for the Bongāh at the suggestion of Yarshater (see Bongāh, Fehrest-e entešārāt, 1971).

Sokhan Publishers (Entešārāt-e soḵan), in cooperation with Franklin Book Program, also began preparing and publishing quality children’s books. This project intended to encourage qualified writers and competent illustrators to rewrite popular tales from Persian folklore. These books included “Rolling pumpkin” (Kadu qelqelehzan), rewritten by Manuchehr Anvar and illustrated by Parviz Kalāntari, and “Hasani,” rewritten by Farideh Farjām and illustrated by Ḡolām-ʿAli Maktabi, both in 1961 (interviews with Anvar and Farjām). Zāhedi and Amirarjomand continued their interest in children’s books at Franklin Book Program in the early 1960s, when they volunteered to distribute boxes of books donated by Franklin’s director among schools in the southern quarters of Tehran. The publication schedule of the third book by Franklin, “Uninvited guests,” rewritten by Farjām, coincided with the initial efforts towards the formation of Kanun in the mid-1960s. Franklin Publishers then agreed to terminate its project and turn over publication of Farjām’s book to Kanun (interviews with Farjām and Manuchehr Anvar, Franklin’s editor of children’s books, in July 2010; see also Moḥammadi and Qāyini , VI, pp. 443-44).

Shirvanlu, rightly convinced that the few already known children’s writers were not the sole answer to Kanun’s children’s book project, approached many writers of adult literature—novelists, translators, dramatists, essayists in social sciences, and scholars in humanities—and invited them to try their hand in this new field. At the same time, he organized an editorial team, among them the poet Maḥmud Mošref Āzād Tehrāni (M. Āzād, 1933-2005), who, apart from his valuable editorial tasks, wrote and adapted many books for Kanun (folklore, fables, his own poems and stories for children); Cyrus Tāhbāz (1913-98), who eventually became responsible for publications when Shirvanlu left Kanun; Moḥammad Qāżi (1913-97), a well-known translator of quality literature; Ḥasan Pastā (1933-2001); and Manučehr Ṣafā (1932-2008).

The first books, prepared and published by Kanun in 1968 with the assistance of Shirvanlu’s Negāreh, included “A little black fish” (Māhi-e siāh-e kučulu) by Ṣamad Behrangi, illustrated by Faršid Meṯqāli (Figure 2); and “Sun’s crystal flower” (Gol-e bolur-e ḵoršid) by Farjām, illustrated by Nikzād Nojumi; both were award winners at Bologna Children’s Book Fair in 1969.

Thus, at Shirvanlu’s persuasion a number of famous artistic and cultural figures tried their pen at works aimed for children, such as Mehrdād Bahār (1930-94), a noted scholar of ancient Iranian mythology, who prepared the ancient tale of Bastur, a hero of the Iranian national epic, for children, illustrated by Nikzād Nojumi, 1968 (Figure 3).

Bahār also prepared “King Jamšid” (Jamšid šāh) for children, illustrated by Faršid Meṯqāli, 1968. Other well-known writers and poets who contributed to Kanun’s children’s literature include Mehdi Aḵavān Ṯāleṯ, noted poet (Figure 4); and Daryoush Ashouri (1938-), a well-known essayist, who wrote “Money and the economy” (Pul o eqteṣād) for adolescents, 1970, which was praised by UNESCO.

Maḥmud Eʿtemādzādeh (known as Beh Āzin, 1904-2006), a novelist and translator of classic and contemporary literature, wrote “Lady Sun” (Ḵoršid ḵānom, 1969) for children. Siāvaš Kasrāʾi (1926-95), one of the best and most admired popular poets of the time, wrote a children’s short story, “After winter in our village” (Baʿd az zemestān dar ābādi-e mā), published in 1967 by Kanun (Figure 5); it was translated into English by Joan and Daryoush Valanejd.

Also collaborating with Kanun were Moḥammad-ʿAli Sepānlu, a writer and poet, who offered a new adaptation of “The seven voyages of Sinbad the sailor” (Safarhā-ye Sendbād); Ḡolām-Ḥosayn Ṣāʿedi, a well-known playwright and novelist, who wrote “Lost man on the beach” (Gomšode-ye labe-e daryā, 1950; Figure 6); and Bahrām Beyżāʾi, noted scriptwriter and director, who wrote “The truth and the sage” (Ḥaqiqat va mard-e dānā), 1972.

Kanun titles were published in initial printings of 5,000 to 10,000, both in paperback and hardcover, and many of the titles have been reprinted a number of times, both before and after the 1979 Revolution. The official site of Kanun estimates a total of “over 3,000,000 copies of 140 titles’ published by 2005 (http://www.kanoonparvaresh.com/84/about.asp; accessed 20 September 2010).

Bibliography: See at end of part IX.

(Fereydoun Moezi Moghadam)

Originally Published: December 15, 2010

Last Updated: April 20, 2012

This article is available in print.
Vol. XV, Fasc. 5, pp. 505-507

Cite this entry:

Fereydoun Moezi Moghadam, “KĀNUN-E PARVAREŠ-E FEKRI-E KUDAKĀN VA NOWJAVĀNĀN iii. Book Publishing,” Encyclopædia Iranica, XV/5, pp. 505-507, available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/kanun-e-parvares-e-fekri-e-kudakan-va-nowjavanan-book-publishing (accessed on 30 December 2012).