Remembering Iradj Bagherzade: Celebrated Publisher, Founder of IB Tauris 

By Kayhan Life Staff

Iradj Bagherzade, a leading international publisher of books on Middle East politics and history, passed away at his home in London on January 8. He was 80.

Relatives, friends and peers gathered at his London home over the weekend to remember the man known to all as ‘Iradj,’ and express their condolences to his wife Shahnaz and to their children, Tara and Nezam.

“We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of IB Tauris’s founder, Iradj Bagherzade,” IB Tauris wrote in a post on Twitter. “Chairman for 35 years, he oversaw thousands of books, and transformed the landscape of Middle East and Islamic Studies publishing. His quick wit, intelligence and kindness will be much missed.”

Born in Vienna and educated at Oxford University, Mr. Bagherzade began his publishing career at Time-Life Books. He worked for the company in New York, Amsterdam, London, and finally Tehran, where he was tasked with starting a local publishing venture. The mission was cut short by the Revolution, and in 1980, Mr. Bagherzade and his future wife Shahnaz left Iran. They married the following year, and settled in London.

Mr. Bagherzade soon set up a publishing house of his own – and one with a singular vision. In 1983, he established IB Tauris in London, initially working out of a single-room office on Henrietta Street in Covent Garden (where other publishers had their premises). The room had previously served as a location for the filming of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1972 thriller “Frenzy”: specifically, the sinister scene in which actor Barry Foster strangles two women (including a prostitute).

IB Tauris went on to become a world leader in Middle Eastern studies, publishing more than 200 books a year, many of which would otherwise never have seen the light of day. In 2018, IB Tauris was sold to Bloomsbury, publishers of the Harry Potter books. At the time of the purchase, IB Tauris had 4,000 titles in its catalogue.

In the three-and-a-half decades that he spent running IB Tauris, Mr. Bagherzade released many significant books.

One notable release was the diary of Asadollah Alam, Iran’s onetime prime minister and court minister, which was translated from Persian and titled “The Shah and I: The Confidential Diary of Iran’s Royal Court, 1969-1977.” They offered a rare glimpse into the inner workings of the imperial court during the final decade of the Shah’s reign.

Another major release was “Taliban” by Ahmed Rashid, a definitive history of the Taliban, which IB Tauris published in 2000 – a year before the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan. Following the invasion and the Taliban’s defeat, the book became a global bestseller, and is now a key reference book.

Mr. Bagherzade’s focus as a publisher extended well beyond the Middle East, international affairs and global politics. He had a keen interest in culture, as reflected in IB Tauris’s highly eclectic non-fiction list, with whole sections dedicated to topics such as film studies, world cinema, visual arts, classics and religion.

In a column for the trade publication BookBrunch, Mr. Bagherzade recalled how, when he first founded IB Tauris, the name drew perplexity. People would ask: “‘IB Tauris — how do you spell that? Are you something to do with bulls? Or astrology?’”

“So who are we?” Mr. Bagherzade wrote in the column. “If we were being immodest, we’d say we are the only major university press without a university.”

“But if you don’t like that conceit, then we’re one of the plucky bunch of English-language independents who, in Britain and America, have flourished while the bigger competition has been doing its corporate thing,” he added.

Tributes to Mr. Bagherzade have been streaming in, praising his considerable influence on the world of publishing, but also his elegance, his playful sense of humor and his generosity.

“Iradj was both a pillar and an ornament of the Iranian community in Britain and also far beyond these shores,” said Robert Hillenbrand, Emeritus Professor of Islamic Art at the Universities of St. Andrew and Edinburgh in Scotland. “His lasting monument to Iranian studies will be the many hundreds of books he published under the IB Tauris imprint. Cumulatively, they bear silent witness to the breadth and depth of his cultural sympathies, so lightly worn. His vision, his indefatigable energy, his dry humor and his endlessly engaging personality will be sorely missed.”

Richard Tapper, Emeritus Professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, and an author published by Mr. Bagherzade, remembered him as “a hugely positive influence on my work,” and “always supportive, encouraging and helpful with perceptive suggestions.”

Dr. Farhad Daftary, Director Emeritus of the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London, described Mr. Bagherzade as “an extraordinary man” with whom he was close friends for almost half a century. Dr. Daftary recalled that IB Tauris “became the chief channel for the publications of the Institute of Ismaili Studies.”

“I shall never forget our weekly walks in Regent’s Park during the recent pandemic years, when we exchanged our knowledge on English and Persian histories,” Dr. Daftary recalled.

“The Iranian community in London has lost a distinguished member,” he concluded. “I shall sorely miss him for the rest of my own days.”

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