The Persian manuscripts constitute a comparatively small section of the Gotha Research Library’s collection, which comprises more than 3,500 oriental manuscripts in total. Like the other oriental manuscripts, the Persian ones were acquired primarily by Ulrich Jasper Seetzen (1767–1811). They were catalogued by Wilhelm Pertsch (1832–1899) who followed cataloguing standards still recognised today. He assigned around 93 shelf marks to Persian manuscripts and acquired further Persian manuscripts during the second half of the 19th century – partly at antiquarian bookshops or auctions, for example in London and Leipzig. The collection is not complete; more recent acquisitions supplement the holdings. See the entries in the Gotha Research Library’s database of oriental manuscripts under the shelf mark group Ms. orient. P.
The number of Persian manuscripts in Gotha is not large, but works from almost all fields of knowledge have been preserved: encyclopaedic, lexicographical and grammatical works are represented, but also theology, mysticism, philosophy and magic. Besides politics, history and biography, works about cosmography, mathematics and astronomy as well as medicine and poetry belong to the collection.
Some outstanding codices are elaborately decorated with illuminations or precious bindings, such as Ms. orient. P 48, which includes selected pieces from the Shāh-Nāme of Firdawsī, the Persian national epic. Another example is Ms. orient. P 49, the Dīwān of Awḥaduddīn Anwarī. No less richly illuminated is Ms. orient. P 77 which narrates and depicts the romantic verse epic of Joseph and Zulaikha, a very popular work at the time. The elaborate and delicately designed book binding of Ms. orient. P 78*, which depicts Joseph being sold into slavery, is exemplary for the art of oriental book binding.