Henning - Taqizadeh Letter

Shedding light on those involved in the progress of Iranian Studies


Henning - Taqizadeh Letter
by Touraj Daryaee


During my visit to Tehran in the summer of 1999, Iraj Afshar showed me a series of letters between the great Iranist, W.B. Henning and the Iranian scholar and statesman S.H. Taqizadeh. He asked me what can be done with these letters and whether they were important enough to be published. After looking through the correspondences I realized that they are important as they shed light on a discipline that I was educated in. While there are many stories circulating about the great Iranists and Orientalists, very little has been done on the history of the discipline and the role of those involved in the progress of Iranian Studies. The publication of these letters -- Scholars and Humanists: Iranian Studies in Henning and Teqizadeh Correspondence, 1937-1966 -- attempts to take an early step towards this direction ... Lastly, I would also like to thank Iraj Afshar who by asking me to collaborate on this project with him in the past five years has produced a close acquaintance in Los Angeles and Tehran. This has been both a pleasure and an honor for me. May it be that in the future, such people as Taqizadeh come along in Iran who work to promote the culture of this ancient land as he did more than a half a century ago. -- Touraj Daryaee University of California, Irvine.


38. Radegund Road

25th March 1949.

Dear Mr. Taqizadeh,

The recent Nowruz reminded me forcefully of my outrageous neglect of my correspondence with you. Needless to say I had firmly resolved to send a letter to you in good time to offer my congratulations on that day - will you kindly accept them, together with my very good wishes for your well-being, even now?

The last time I wrote to you was early in August when I sent you a letter and a couple of re-prints of my recent articles (registered). Did you receive that? Believe me, I am as anxious to keep in touch with you as you are to keep in touch with Western progress (if any!); so naturally I want to be sure that you receive my contributions; as a rule I have large numbers of re-prints, so if a few go astray, I can easily send a second lot.

A few days after I had sent off these things, I received your letter. For years it has been like that: whenever I write to you, you write at the same moment, so that our missives “cross” each other. There must be a special divinity (Zoroastrian Naryosang) Trying to foil our efforts at correspondence.

I could recently say of a Persian student who has come here to learn Pahlavi. He is a truly intelligent young man who is really grasping the subject. I learned with pleasure that he had been inspired by a talk you gave in Teheran. His name is Yarshater, and everybody he meets quotes the well-known Sa’dī verse at him; I don’t suppose you know him personally. He came here with a British Council scholarship, ostensibly to study “Western Education”; one might wish he were supported by his home Government instead. After a few weeks he came to me and said he had discovered that he did not really know Persian; a discovery that is truly the first step to wisdom. When I think of poor old Raffaty.

Last autumn a young German scholar, Giesecke by name, sent me a manuscript article he had written on the early Sassanian Chronology, and the date of Mani’s death, etc. He started off from the earlier (240) of the two possible dates for Shapur’s coronation, & then, ended up with putting Mani’s death into 273! Somehow he managed to make the Coptic date of the death, and the Middle Persian one (4th Šahrevar) to agree, on a day in November 273. He refused to believe that either of these two dates had been translated from the other, or both from a third (Babylonian) source, both took both as real and correct dates, & asserted that they would in fact have coincided in 273; that they both happened to be 4th day, would be accidental. Of course, he rejected the usual theory on the movable Persian year.

Anyway, even if appearances may not encourage you to do so, you can rely on my writing you from time to time and telling you what happened. Can you not get new books in Teheran? Can one not at least order them? Nothing much has appeared: There is that book by Altheim I mentioned; quite interesting, but very wrong in patches. Then there is a book on Alexander (2 vols.) by Dr. Tarn, which is undoubtedly important though I do not like it at all; he makes Alexander look like a kind of God, while I would rather compare him to Hitler; or Jingiz-Khan. Then there is a new book on Zoroaster by Duchesne-Guillemin. Let me know which of these books you wish to have and I shall arrange to have them sent to you.

My one contact is Mr. Minovī whom I admire more and more. At last I persuaded the people at the school to give him a minor job at the school to help me a little; only two hours a week, but it is something. We are reading the Tansar-nāme, very thoroughly, with my star student, Miss Boyce. But there is deep hostility to him, engendered chiefly by Arberry and Miss Lambton who hate him because he criticized them in his manner, so there is little prospect of getting him a permanent job in which he can work. Still, I am not giving up hope. And thanks to having been recently appointed to a professorship (“of Central Asian Studies”), I have a little more influence than before.

I suppose there is no hope that you will change your mind and come back to live here? Nothing, I assure you, could give me greater pleasure. You have still a house waiting for your occupation, and many friends ready to receive you with open arms. But I suppose that next time I shall see you will be in Tehran: I am certainly determined to visit your country before the next war breaks out. Only I must finish that Dictionary first.

May I hope you will have got over the first discomfort and the acclimatizing illnesses by now? Have you found a suitable house? I read your speech on the Persian language in Yādgar; but you did not send it to me. Will you please write to me soon?

With my very best wishes for your health and well-being, and greetings, I remain.

Yours very sincerely,

W.B. Henning.

--  F. Altheim, Weltgeschichte Asiens im griechischen Zeitalter, 1947, I. Halle (Saale). (T.D.)
--  W. Tarn, Alexander, Cambridge, 1948. (T.D.)
--  J. Duchesne-Guillemin, Zoroastre. Étude critique avec une traduction commentée des Gâthâ, 1948, Paris. (T.D.)
--  M. Minovī, edited the text in 1930, see Nāme-ye Tansar, Tehran, 1930; and then with revisions in 1976. Also M. Boyce, The Letter of Tansar, Rome 1968. (T.D.)


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by pas-e-pardeh on

thank you.  


S, H Taqizadeh

by Nabarz on

Dear Touraj Daryaee, it is good to see these letters.  It’s great making all these material accessible for a whole new generation of Iranians with an interest in their history.


S, H Taqizadeh was a great scholar and I too also found it a pleasure to be involved in reprinting one his works the 'Old Persian Calendar'.  

For your
interests here are the details:

Persian 'Mar Nameh', The: The Zoroastrian 'Book of the Snake' Omens and Calendar & The Old Persian Calendar

By Payam Nabarz, and S, H Taqizadeh

ISBN-13: 978-1905524259

Paperback: 132 pages

Publisher: Twin Serpents Ltd (2006)

Available from Amazon etc…



Part one
by Payam Nabarz

The centuries old Persian poem 'Mar Nameh' describes in
verse a method of augury; what seeing a snake on every one of the 30 days of a
month will mean and what omen it will portend. The thirty-two couplets in
Persian informative rhyme are shown here in beautifully handwritten Persian
calligraphy. The poem is both translated and transliterated into English. The symbolic connection of the snake to Time is discussed and a modern approach to use the 'Mar Nameh' is described using the Zoroastrian Calendars.

Part two
by S, H Taqizadeh

The Old Iranian calendar describes in detail the foundation of Persian calendar system and its ancient festivals, such as the New Year celebration of Nawruz, the Tiragan festival, and the feast of Mithra. The connection of the Persian calendar to the Egyptian and Babylonian calendars is also examined in depth.



Yarshater of Columbia U (editor of encyc. Iranica) mentioned 2

by MM on

One more paragraph in a brilliant career

Ehsan Yarshater


Darius Kadivar

A Great Constitutionalist Too Who Served Both Qajar & Pahlavi

by Darius Kadivar on

A Great Constitutionalist Too Who Served Both Qajar & Pahlavi Kings ...


Hassan Taqizadeh

A secular enlightened politician, who advocated the separation of state and religion.