The earliest known figure in Azerbaijani literature was Hasanoghlu or Pur Hasan Asfaraini, who composed a divan consisting of Persian and Turkic ghazals. In Persian ghazals he used his pen-name, while his Turkic ghazals were composed under his own name of Hasanoghlu.
Classical literature in Azerbaijani was formed in 14th century based on the various dialect Early Middle Ages dialects of Tabriz and Shirvan. Among the poets of this period were Gazi Burhanaddin, Haqiqi (pen-name of Jahan-shah Qara Qoyunlu), and Habibi. The end of 14th century was also the period of starting literary activity of Imadaddin Nesimi, one of the greatest Turkic Hurufi mystical poets of the late 14th and early 15th centuries and one of the most prominent early Divan masters in Turkic literary history, who also composed poetry in Persia and Arabic. The Divan and Ghazal styles were further developed by poets Qasim al-Anvar, Fuzuli and Khatai (pen-name of Safavid Shah Ismail I). The acclaimed Book of Dede Korkut consists of two manuscripts copied in the 16th century, was not written earlier than the 15th century. It is a collection of 12 stories reflecting the oral tradition of Oghuz nomads. The 16th century poet, Muhammed Fuzuli produced his timeless philosophical and lyrical Qazals in Arabic, Persian, and Azeri. Benefiting immensely from the fine literary traditions of his environment, and building upon the legacy of his predecessors, Fizuli was destined to become the leading literary figure of his society. His major works include The Divan of Ghazals and The Qasidas. In the same century, Azerbaijani literature further flourished with the development of Ashik (Azerbaijani: Aşıq) poetic genre of bards. During the same period, under the pen-name of Khatāī (Arabic: خطائی for sinner) Shah Ismail I wrote about 1400 verses in Azeri, which were later published as his Divan. A unique literary style known as qoshma (Azerbaijani: qoşma for improvization) was introduced in this period, and developed by Shah Ismail and later by his son and successor, Shah Tahmasp I.In the span of the 17th and 18th centuries, Fizuli’s unique genres as well Ashik poetry were taken up by prominent poets and writers such as Qovsi of Tabriz, Shah Abbas Sani, Agha Mesih Shirvani, Nishat, Molla Vali Vidadi, Molla Panah Vagif, Amani, Zafar and others. Along with Turks, Turkmens and Uzbeks, Azeris also celebrate the Epic of Koroglu (from Azerbaijani: kor oğlu for blind man’s son), a legendary folk hero. Several documented versions of Koroglu epic remain at the Institute for Manuscripts of the National Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan.Modern literature in Azerbaijan is based on the Shirvani dialect mainly, while in Iran it is based on the Tabrizi one.
The first newspaper in Azerbaijani, Akinchi was published in 1875. In mid-19th century, it was taught in the schools of Baku, Ganja, Shaki, Tbilisi, and Yerevan. Since 1845, it has also been taught in the University of Saint Petersburg in Russia.