Household anthologies of seventeenth-century Isfahan collected everyday texts and objects, from portraits, letters, and poems to marriage contracts and talismans. With these family collections, Kathryn Babayan tells a new history of the city at the transformative moment it became a cosmopolitan center of imperial rule. Bringing into view people’s lives from a city with no extant state or civic archives, Babayan reimagines the archive of anthologies to recover how residents shaped their communities and crafted their urban, religious, and sexual selves.
Babayan highlights eight residents―from king to widow, painter to religious scholar, poet to bureaucrat―who anthologized their city, writing their engagements with friends and family, divulging the many dimensions of the social, cultural, and religious spheres of life in Isfahan. Through them, we see the gestures, manners, and sensibilities of a shared culture that configured their relations and negotiated the lines between friendship and eroticism. These entangled acts of seeing and reading, desiring and writing converge to fashion the refined urban self through the sensual and the sexual―and give us a new and enticing view of the city of Isfahan.