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Hidden Stories: Books Along the Silk Roads

Introduction

Robe, Central Asia, 20th century, Wool, woven, felted and embroidered, AKM PS24

Robe, Central Asia, 20th century.  Wool, woven, felted and embroidered. Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, AKM PS24.

From antiquity to the Middle Ages and beyond, the Silk Roads were trade routes across land and sea that linked Africa, Asia, and Europe.

Along the Silk Roads, people travelled:  merchants and scholars and pilgrims, knowledge-seekers and diplomats and spies.  Goods travelled:  silk, gold, ivory, porcelain, paper, furs, and amber.  Stories, ideas, and skills travelled. 

And books travelled, too.

Step in to learn more about books along the Silk Roads and their hidden stories.

There are many paths into this exhibit.

The first begins where the books are:  our map of the Silk Roads, which situates our books in time and space.

The second is our guided tour, shaped like reading a book. Begin with the closed book. Turn to its covers. Then open the book and examine its shape. Turn the pages: What are they made of? What kind of writing do you encounter? What writing technologies were used to produce the text? Finally, dive into the book and read its stories.

The third begins with your curiosity. Are you a student? A teacher? A researcher? A curious passer-by? To learn more about books along the Silk Roads, take a look at our resources: images, videos, articles and books for specialists and nonspecialists alike, and sample assignments.

Manuscript of the Book of Kings (Shahnameh) by Firdausi (d. 1020), Iran, 1492 - 93 CE / 898 AH, Opaque watercolour, ink, silver and gold on paper, Binding: leather, pasteboard, lacquer, paint, AKM269

Manuscript of the Book of Kings (Shahnameh) by Firdausi (d. 1020), Iran, 1492 - 93 CE / 898 AH.  Opaque watercolour, ink, silver and gold on paper. Binding: leather, pasteboard, lacquer, paint. Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, AKM269.

Introduction