Union Catalogue of Manuscripts from the Islamicate World

King's Pote 186 (King's College Library, King's College Cambridge)

Pote Collection


Summary of Contents: 1 copy of Dīvān Hilālī.

Note concerning author: Hilālī was a protégé of Mīr ʿAlī Shīr Navāʾī, who was put to death on account of his Shīʿa beliefs by the Uzbek ʿUbayd.

Language(s): Persian

Colophon details: Date: 938 / 1531-2 Scribe: Mīr ʿAlī al-Kātib al-Sulṭānī مير على الكاتب السلطانى .

Colophon further notes: In 938, the scribe was in exile in Bukhara, in the service of the Shaybanid khan, ʿUbayd Allāh. The manuscript was copied during the poet’s lifetime if one accepts the date 939 as the year he was executed on the order of the same ʿUbayd Allāh (however, some sources record that as 936). Transcription: كتبه العبد المذنب الفقير مير على الكاتب السلطاني غفر الله ذنوبه على طريق التسويد في شهور سنة ۹۳۸ . It would appear the manuscript is missing its first folio. There is no title and the opening two verses on the first extant page are verses 6-7 from the end of a ghazal rhyming in alif.

Note concerning manuscript: This album is a masterpiece and an important text. This is quite possibly the earliest manuscript of an important poet's Divan, the only manuscript dating to his lifetime. The calligraphy is in the hand of a famous scribe who is also known to have to been responsible for the creation of albums. The codex was once part of the Mughal royal library, bearing the seal of Shah Jahan. For more on Mīr ʿAlī’s albums and Shāhjahān’s enthusiasm for them, see S.C. Welch, The Emperor’s Album: Images of Mughal India (1987). For the values assigned to 7 of the 12 other manuscripts written by Mīr ʿAlī known to have been in the Mughal library, see footnote 56 on p. 272 of J. Seyller, "The Inspection and Valuation of Manuscripts in the Imperial Mughal Library", Artibus Asiae, Vol. 57 (1997).

Note concerning work: Information on the poet and editions of his Divan can be found at: Encyclopedia Iranica. The Bankipore (Khuda Bakhsh) catalogue vol. 2, pp.123-4, has more. See also Rieu II, pp.655-6 (BL Add 7783), which mentions the King's copy. An edition of the poet's Divan is available at: https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.286798.


Catalogue of the Persian manuscripts in the British Museum (3 vols.) C. Rieu 1879-1883 p.655b [BL Add 7783]
Catalogue of Persian manuscripts in the library of the India Office (2 vols.) H. Ethé 1903-37 col.782, no. 1423 [BL IO Islamic 1198]
Mughals in India: a bibliographical survey. Vol. 1. Manuscripts D.N. Marshall 1962 p.187

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: Calligraphic album format: written in landscape, bound along the longer side. F.1r: the first page of indian paper (teal with gold floral patterns). F.1v: gold paper with gold decorations (flowers and birds). The central panels are remargined (on their side; the bottom of the calligraphic panel is now located on the left side) with thick indian paper of different colours with illuminations and charming decorative paintings of flora and fauna.
Extent: 65 folios (63 with calligraphic text).
Dimensions (leaf): 33 × 20.5 cm.
Dimensions (written): 18.6 (17.6) × 10.5 (9.7) cm.
Foliation: Neither foliated nor paginated.


F.3: the outer margin is coming away from the original folio (which shows clearly how the outer rulings were added on the new margins). F.30: similarly damaged at the gutter margin.


7 lines per page.

The central panels are ruled in gold green and gold. The borders of central panels (and inner frame of outer margin) are ruled in gold, lapis, green, gold with a gold outer.


Script: nastaʿlīq. Quality: Beautiful calligraphic nastaʿlīq. . Scribe: Mīr ʿAlī al-Kātib al-Sulṭānī مير على الكاتب السلطانى.


F.2r: the first calligraphic panel is highly illuminated. The margins of the central panels are decorated with Safavid-style floral bands – probably added later. There is intratextual illumination on the first and last page. Some of the verses (4 verses per zigzag) are written diagonally on zigzag panels; others are horizontal (3 panels; 1 verse per panel). The outer margins, a variety of coloured papers, are decorated with paintings of animals, trees and flowers in many colours, or with flower and bird patterns in gold. The animals on some margins are very similar to those on the lacquer binding.


7 blank flyleaves at the start; the 8th has an erased square seal with handwritten “Divan Hilali” (in Persian). F.1r: an inspection note (in an Indian hand, year 7) and a seal of ʿAbd al-Ḥaqq Amānat Khān (in the time of Shah Jahan. 1042) - very likely the calligrapher who designed the calligraphy on the Taj Mahal, whose seals and inspection notes appear in manuscripts in the Mughal royal library, and who died in 1054-55/1644-45, see http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/amanat-khan-sirazi-abd-al-haqq. An earlier seal of the same ʿAbd al-Ḥaqq (year 1) is reproduced here: http://www.cbl.ie/islamicseals/View-Seals/178.aspx. There are 2 other seals on f.1r, including Polier’s (1181), and numerous inspection notes. Final folio: inspection note (6 Rabīʿ II, year 7) and another note describing the manuscript (with the total number of folios in siyāq ). End flyleaf: seal of Polier (1181); a smudged seal alongside an inspection note 19th Rabīʿ I, year 34 (i.e. 1070/1659 for Shah Jahan): a total of 66 folios on Daulat-ābādī paper in the hand of Mīr ʿAlī, dusted with gold, ruled, colourful margins, gold drawings in the margins, worm-damaged; the binding is lacquer with gold drawings.


Lacquer binding on papier-mâché with a European style spine. Decorations: Fabulous and naturalistic animals: a rampant simurgh, dragons, a fox, a deer. The upper doublure is orange and gold with a black-bordered turanj and two or more pendants (black, red); corner pieces have black borders. It is decorated with naturalistic animals: lions, a deer, a fox, a rabbit, an antelope, also flowers. The back and front doublures are identical. The spine is embossed: "THE DEWAN OF HALILI". Condition: Worm damage. The binding is loose in some places; quires are falling away. Dimensions: 33 × 20.5 × 4 cm. Unboxed. Polier's number: unknown.


Origin: 938 AH; 1531-2 CE

Provenance and Acquisition

The "Pote Collection" arrived in England from India in 1790 and was divided between the Colleges of Eton and King's, Cambridge, with the first half alphabetically going to King's. Both halves of the collection are now housed in Cambridge University Library on permanent loan. Most if not all of the manuscripts had previously been owned by Colonel Antoine-Louis Henri Polier (1741–1795).

Gift of Edward Ephraim Pote (d.1832) in 1788.

Record Sources


All manuscripts of the Pote Collection are on permanent loan at Cambridge University Library. Entry to read in the Library is permitted only on presentation of a valid reader's card for admissions procedures consult Cambridge University Library. Contact near_eastern@lib.cam.ac.uk for further information on the availability of this manuscript

Funding of Cataloguing

King's College Cambridge



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