The country to which this volume relates, is one of those which possesses the double interest of ancient and modern celebrity. Situated near, if not actually embracing the cradle of the human race, Persia was, according to the concurrent testimony of tradition and history, at an early period of the world a powerful empire. The ineffectual struggles of its despotic rulers to enslave the independent republics of Greece, and its rapid subjugation by the Macedonian conqueror, occupy a very prominent place in the annals of antiquity: while its reduction by the disciples of Mahomet, the many subsequent invasions of barbarous marauders, its frequent hostilities with Turkey, and the commercial relations which long subsisted between Persia and some of the European States, have in more recent ages rendered it an object of curiosity and attention.
Little, however, was done, till near the close of the seventeenth century, towards making the western world acquainted with a country, with the name of which all that is most attractive, elegant, and tender, in oriental literature, romance, and poetry, is intimately associated. The work of the accurate Chardin then removed much of the profound obscurity in which the character and manners of the Persians were enveloped. That writer continued to be the only authority on those subjects till the commencement of the present century, since which the assiduity bestowed by our countrymen on the study of the language and letters of Persia, our frequent intercourse with that country, the repeated embassies sent to its sovereign, and the travels, researches, and labours of an Ouseley, Malcolm, Morier, Kinnier, Scott, Waring and Porter, have furnished nearly as complete notions respecting the government, laws, manners, customs and character of the people of this empire, as we possess relative to those of any European nation.
The reader will naturally conclude that in the compilation of this volume, the valuable sources of information enumerated above, have not been overlooked. To Mr. Morier's truly interesting narratives of his two journeys, and the recent costly publication of Sir Robert Ker Porter, he professes to owe particular obligations. A correct portraiture of costume and character is given in the engravings, some of which are executed from original designs by Persian artists.