Union Catalogue of Manuscripts from the Islamicate World

Or 16558 (Oriental Manuscripts, British Library)

Oriental Manuscripts

Description of Iran, translated from articles in The Times


1 copy of Suʾālāt-i Īrān

A Persian translation of a British visitor’s informative account of his travels and enquiries in Iran, in ten sections (faṣl). While the author’s name is not mentioned, the translator is named as Mīrzā Muḥammad Shākir.

The author left London in September 1889 and travelled to Paris, Istanbul, Tbilisi, the Caspian, Ashgabat, Qūchān, Mashhad, and Tehran. Apart from the travel chapters, there are others devoted to Mashhad; to politics and commerce in Khurāsān; and to Sīstān. The introduction explains the reasons for writing the book, which were also published in The Times. The renewed warmth in relations between Britain and Iran following Nāṣir al-Dīn Shah’s visit to Europe provided opportunities for commerce and better mutual knowledge and understanding; it was therefore important to write a book with up to date information about Iran and its people.

The writer describes the regions visited, geography, history, agriculture, holy places, daily life, social and economic conditions, British relations with Iran and India, and the geopolitical situation of Iran. The work is methodically arranged. There is a comprehensive and illuminated table of contents on f. 1v-9v, with reference to the original pagination of the text. In addition, numerous western travellers who wrote on Iran are named in a list on f. 26v-40r.

The subjects of the chapters (faṣls) are as follows: 1) (ff. 11v-46r, pp. 1-[70]). Faṣl-i avval: Īrān va su’ālāt-i ān: dībācha: Part 1, introduction outlining the scope of the book. 2) (ff.47v-89v, pp. 73-157). Dar bayān-i ṭuruq va vasāyiṭ-i ‘ubūr az ānhā: routes and the means of travelling them. 3) (ff. 90r-100r, pp. 158-178). Dar bayān-i sharḥ-i musāfarat az Landan tā ‘Ishq-ābād: description of the journey from London to Ashgabat. 4) (ff. 100v-117r, pp. 179-212). Ma varā’ Baḥr al-Khazār: beyond the Caspian Sea. 5) (ff. 117v-145v, pp. 213-267). Dar bayān-i āmadan az ‘Ishq-ābād ba Qūchān: the journey from Ashgabat to Qūchān. 6) (ff. 146r-178v, pp. 268-335). Faṣl-i shishum: Az Qūchān ta Qalāt-i Nādirī: Part 6, from Qūchān to Qalāt-i Nādirī. 7) (ff. 178v-205r, pp. 335-388). Faṣl-i haftum: Mashhad: Part 7: Mashhad. 8) (ff. 205v-249v, pp. 389-477). Faṣl-i hashtum: Dar bayān-i vaż‘-i pulitīk va tijārat-i Khurāsān: Part 8, the political and commercial situation in Khurāsān. 9) (ff. 250r-273r, pp. 478-524). Faṣl-i nuhum: Dar bayān-i Sīstān: Part 9, description of Sīstān. 10) (ff. 273v-326r, pp. 525-630). Faṣl-i dahum: az Mashhad ilà Tihrān: Part 10, from Mashhad to Tehran.

Begins: Su’ālāt-i Īrān / Faṣl-i avval / Dībācha / Maṭālibī ki mushāhada mīshavad va qābil-i mulāḥaẓa shud vaż‘-i darbarast va dīvānkhāna-’i shāhzāda-gān va ḥukkām va ṣuḥbat-i ānhā makhṣūṣan bā sufarā’ va Dīvankhāna-’i ‘Adliyya va vaż‘-i ḥukūmat va vaż‘-i ‘ulamā

Ends: Va az Nayshābūr az samt-i shimāl-i gharbī ma‘ādin-i fīrūza āmada va az ānjā dar imtidād-i junūb-i gharbī vārid-i shūrāb va za‘farānī mīshavand

Colophons, f. 326v and 327r. Translation completed on 1 Rajab 1311/9 January 1894. Copied by ‘Alī Akbar ibn ‘Ālījāh Mīrzā ‘Abd Allāh.

Good nasta‘līq. 14 lines. Text frames: black and gold. Fine illuminated heading for second text, in gold, blue, green, and black, 47v. Illuminated headings for each chapter of first text, in black and red, inscribed in panels with floral motifs. Good off-white paper, heavily sized. Substantial repairs to f. 167-170. Original pagination: 638 pp., 633-638 being blank except for the ruled text frames. 330 folios. 22 x 14 cm. Black leather binding, with gilt ornamentation, all in European style. Notes and seal impression of Ḥusayn Qulī Ṣadr al-Salṭana, 1337/1918-19.

Purchased from Bonhams (10 April 2008, lot 47).

Language(s): Persian

Physical Description

Form: codex
Extent: 330 ff.
Dimensions (leaf): 220 × 140 mm.
Dimensions (written):



Origin: 1 Rajab 1311 AH; 9 January 1894 CE ; Iran

Record Sources

Based on unpublished description in M.I. Waley, Catalogue of Persian Manuscripts acquired 2000-2014.


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