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Investigation and Analysis of Obaid Zakani's Book of Mice and Cats by Comparative Method

Wrote by Neda Paykazadi, 2016

Ubayd Zākāni’s The Mice and the Cat is one of the most popular tales in the Persian language. Written as a satirical qasida, it has been illustrated by numerous artists for adults and children alike. The present comparative study looks at the works of Seyyed Hossein Zeyd Latifi, better known as Seyyed Arab, and Mahmoud Javadipour, two artists from different periods who have illustrated the tale. As part of this analysis, the study also examines the printing techniques common in each period—namely lithography and three-color offset printing—as well as the factors that influenced the style of each artist.

Keywords: The Mice and the Cat; Ubayd Zakani; Illustration; Lithography; Seyyed Arab; Mahmoud Javadipour


The arrival and spread of the printing press in Iran represented an intellectual movement working to promote literacy and reading among the general Iranian public in the 19th century. The printing press industry profoundly influenced the culture at the time. The change started with the popularity of movable type printing;3 however, the technique was shortly replaced by lithography, because the former did not allow printing of images, which Iranian artists, who traditionally complemented all manuscripts with imagery, found limiting.

In this period, illustration found its way into the print media, which meant it had to be accessible and appealing to the general reader. At the time, the art form was understood as painting done on the basis of a literary, religious, scientific, or other text. The tools used by illustrators varied by period, depending on the techniques common in their day. Until about the late 1920s, readers were not classified by Iranian publishers into age groups, and fiction was uniformly illustrated for adults. The Seyyed Arab-illustrated version of The Mice and the Cat was originally published in this period, though the exact publication date remains unknown. On the other hand, the version illustrated by Mahmoud Javadipour has a specific audience and falls into the children’s literature category.

The study looks at the art of illustration during the period between the publication of the two books, explores the tools popular in each period, and discusses the differences in the approach of the illustrators, as well as the sociocultural influences on the art form. To do so, the study compares several illustrated scenes from each book. Before these, however, the article takes a brief look at the story of Ubayd Zakani’s The Mice and the Cat and at lithography as a way to print text and images together. Three-color offset printing, an illustration technique used by Mahmoud Javadipour, will also be briefly explored as part of the analysis of his works.

Investigation and Analysis of Obaid Zakani's Book of Mice and Cats by Comparative Method B
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