Union Catalogue of Manuscripts from the Islamicate World

Persian MS 977–978 (The John Rylands Research Institute and Library, The University of Manchester)

Persian Manuscripts

An early Mughal illustrated Shāhnāmah in two volumes.

Contents

Summary of Contents: These two volumes comprise an incomplete and unfinished illustrated Shāhnāmah (Book of Kings), by Abū al-Qāsim Manṣūr Firdawsī (fl. ca. 940–1020). It opens with a shortened redaction of the Baysunghur preface, followed by the poem proper, of which Abū Manṣūr Daqīqī (d. ca. 980) commenced a thousand lines, but after his death, Firdawsī completed the work shortly before the year 1000 CE. He drew upon a number of pre-Islamic Pahlavi middle Persian sources, principally the now-lost Khwadāynāmag (Book of Lords) that recounted the ancient rulers of Persian until the Sassanian period, as well as Iranian mythology and folklore. Originally constructed as a large single manuscript a subsequent owner later divided into two, both volumes features fourteen paintings in an early commercial Mughal style by three different painters, with many blank spaces intended for illustrations left incomplete. In the colophon at the end of the second volume, Shihāb Kātib states that he completed this manuscript after Friday prayers on 15 Muḥarram 1006 AH (28 Aug. 1597 CE).

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: Textblock comprised of thin-weight, straight-grained, henna-dyed, externally sized and polished paper, probably manufactured in the Mughal Empire, with ~11 laid lines per cm and no discernible chain lines.
Extent: 2 volumes.
Foliation: Modern inked Arabic folio numbers inscribed on the bottom-left corners of the b sides throughout, followed in this record. Two folios missing between Vol. 1, 67b and 68a, as noted by an insert initialled ‘C. M.’. Note that in his published catalogue, Rafiee-Rad includes the initial endpapers in his folio count, hence over by two.

Collation

Undetermined, but possible quaternions throughout both volumes. Catchwords inscribed on the bottom-left corners of the b sides throughout both volumes, albeit many trimmed off when rebound.

Condition

Handle text with caution. In fair condition, with many tears, occasional breaks in the marginal ruling, some margins or gutters replaced, along with many other historical repairs throughout.

Layout

Preface written in 1 column, with the poem proper in 4, with 23 lines per page. Ruled with a misṭarah hand guide.

Hand(s)

Written in black nasta'līq in with subheaders in gold, blue, and red, by Shihāb Kātib.

A second comparatively hasty shikastah-nasta‘līq hand apparently completed many of the red subheaders

Binding

Probably split and rebound as two European-style volumes in Britain in the early-mid-19th century for former owner with the initials ‘C. M.’

History

Origin: Completed by Shihāb Kātib (Shihāb the scribe), probably in the Mughal Empire; 15 Muḥarram 1006 AH (28 August 1597 CE).
Note that Rafiee-Rad misinterprets praise of the work in the colophon and its author ‘Mīrzā Abū al-Qāsim’, as the patron who commisioned the volume.

Provenance and Acquisition

Formerly owned by one Amān Allāh as per his dated seal impression on folio 14a in the first volume.

The circumstances under which this volume arrived in Britain remain unclear, an individual who initialled several folios ‘C. M.’ obtained the manuscript, who appears probably responsible for the division and rebinding of the manuscript into two volumes, but whose exact identity remains unclear.

Thereafter acquired Manchester merchant and scholar Samuel Robinson (1794–1884) of Wilmslow, the author of Persian Poetry for English Readers (1883), who donated it to Owens College (the original institution that evolved into the of The University of Manchester today).

Transferred to the John Rylands Library in circa 1975 after it merged with the University of Manchester.

Persian MS 977

Contents

Summary of Contents: The first of two volumes of the Shāhnāmah, incomplete, with seven illustrations by three different painters.
1b
Author: Anonynous
Incipit: (basmala) برگ‌های ۱پ-۲پ (folios 1b–2b): اففتاح سخن آن به که کنند اهل کمال به ثنای ملک الملک خدای منعال مالک الملکی که در تدبیر ملک و ملکوت و ترتیب عوالم لاهوت و ناسوت بوزیر [برگ ۲ر]و مشیر نصیر و ظهیر محتاج و مفقر نگشت پادشاهی و سلطنت او را سلم ست که ملک سرمد او از سقیص زوال و نکبت تحویل و اشقال مصون و مامونست و حشمت و عظمش [برگ ۲پ]از ندلیتانقضا و نهایت انقطاع و اشها معرا و مبرا ...
Explicit: برگ‌های ۱۳ر-۱۳پ (folios 13a–13b): شبی در برت گر بر آسودمی * سر فخر بر آسمان سودمی | قلم در کف تير بشکستمی * کلاه از سر مهر بربسودمی | به قدر از نهم چرخ چرخ بگذشتمی * به پي ،فرق کيوان بفرسودمی | قلم در کف تير بشکستمی * کلاه از سر مهر بربسودمی | به قدر از نهم چرخ چرخ بگذشتمی * به پي ،فرق کيوان بفرسودمی | به بيچارگان رحمت آوردمی * به درماندگان بر ،ببخشودمی.
Language(s): Persian
Incipit: (basmalla) برگ ۱۴پ (folio 14b): افتتاح سخن بنام خداوند جان و فرد * کزین بر تر اندیشه بر نگذرد
Explicit: برگ ٢٧۳پ (folio 273b): که که گرد آمدن زود باشید بهم * مباشید زین رفتن من دژم.
Language(s): Persian

Physical Description

Form: codex
Extent: 272 folios 3 flyleaves (ff. ii + 272 + i) .
Dimensions (leaf): 272 × 170 mm.
Dimensions (written): 218 × 123 mm.

Decoration


Illumination: Opening double folios 1b and 2a.

Folio 14b bears an illuminated header at the start of the poem proper.
112 × 118 mm.

Illustrations: Seven scenes rendered by three different painters, a comparatively immature hand (Painter A), a more accomplished commercial one (Painter B), as well as a comparatively refined and talented artist (Painter C):

  • 1: Folio 23a: The story of Zahhāk and Kāveh, the Blacksmith. Painter A.
    داستان ضحاک با کاوه آهنگر.
    70 × 85 mm.
  • 2: Folio 28b, The sons of Faridūn go to the the King of Yemen's palace. Painter C.
    رفتن پسران فریدون بنزد سرو شاه یمن.
    67 × 88 mm.
  • 3: Folio 37b: The ambush of Tūr, who dies at Manūchihr's hands. Painter B.
    شبحون کردن تور و کشته شدن او بر دست منوچهر.
    124 × 120 mm.
  • 4: Folio 57a: Rūdābah cries out in pain while she gives birth to Rustam, which Zāl seeks to alleive as the Sīmurgh arrives. Painter A.
    فریاد کردن رودابه از درد زه و چاره ساختن زال و آمدن سیمرغ و تولد شدن رستم.
    75 × 118 mm.
    Rafiee-Rad, pl. 6.
  • 5: Folio 102a: The beginning of the tale of Siyāvash. Painter C.
    آغاز داستان سیاوش.
    67 × 118 mm. -->
  • 6: Folio 219b: Bīzhan battles, defeats, and kills Hūmān. Painter C.
    آغاز داستان سیاوش.
    78 × 118 mm.
  • 7: Folio 266b: The death of Garsīvaz and Afrāsīyāb die at Kay Khusraw's hands. Painter B.
    آغاز داستان سیاوش.
    60 × 117 mm.

Blank spaces: Numerous blank areas intended for illustrations but left unfinished appear throughout.

Ruling: Margins ruled in wide single gold lines outlined with thin single black lines throughout. Folios 14b to 15a at the start of the poem bear three vertical wide gilt column separators decorated with chain lines and geometric designs.

Additions:
Inscriptions:
  • Folio 1a: signed by former owner ‘Samuel Robinson, Blackbrook Cottage, Wilmslow, 1857’.
  • Folio 14a bears a partially trimmed purchase note that reads
    ‘بتاریخ ۲۵...از مراد... بقیمت’
    (‘On the date of the 25th...from Murād... for the price of...’).
Bookplates: The Left pastedown: Owens College, ‘Bequeathed by Samuel Robinson, of Wilmslow, 1884’, with class mark ‘OR F40 I’ and ‘Prog 39155’
Left pastedown: ‘Samuel Robinson, Blackbrook Cottage, Wilmslow’.

Binding

Resewn on four raised cords, laced into pastebaords, with heavy-weight wove paper added as endpapers at the beginning. Edges trimmed and gilt. Covered in a full diced Russia calfskin leather. Spine subsequently relined, machine-made headbands added at head and tail, then rebacked in chieftain goatskin leather, with cross-grained, buff-coloured, machine-made laid paper likely also added at the beginning and end.

Board margins bear wide gilt decorative rolls featuring alternating floral and palmette designs, outlined on the interior with a single fillet with decorative scallop and the exterior with thick-and-thin fillet lines. Inner margins blind tooled with wide bold reflecting Greek meanders, with narrow scrollwork rolls outlining the interior, and floriate corner motifs. Raised bands on the rebacked spine palleted with two parallel fillets with perpendicular floral motifs, and thick-and-thin palletes on either side. Titled in the second, third, and fourth panels
‘Shahnameh’
‘Firdausi’
‘Vol. I’.

285 × 182 × 40 mm.

Handle binding with condition. In fair but stable condition, with abrasion to the exteriors and board edges, exposed or bumped corners.

Seal(s):
Folio 14b bears two black oval seal impressions from the same matrix, one illegible, intaglio-carved in two nasta‘līq lines, double-ruled, probably a namesake seal that invokes a pious slogan but infers the name of a former owner or associate named Amān Allāh dated 1092 AH (1681–82 CE):

‘ في امان الله ’
14 × 14 mm.

Persian MS 978

Contents

The second of two volumes of the Shāhnāmah, with seven illustrations by Painter B.

Incipit: (basmalla) برگ ۱۴۴ر (folio 244a): بزان مهتران گفت ازین کوهسار * همهٔ باز گردید بی شهریار...
Explicit: برگ ۴۴۱ر (folio 441a): هزاران هزاران درود و هزاران سلام * ز ما بر محمد علیه سلام.
Colophon: برگ ۴۴۱ر (folio 441a): ...توفیق ربانی و تائید سبحانی صورت اتمام و تکمیل یافت کاتب همایون خطاب شاهنامه بحسب الفروموده‌‌‌‌ٔمیرزا ابو القاسم بیگ تمام شد ⟨...⟩ شاد(؟) استار الانام پ اسنار ادباب الکلام حکیم فردوسی طوسی الله در قایله و کمال فضایله بخانه‌ٔ شکسته بسته اقل عباد الله واخوجهم شهاب کاتب وقاه الله تعالی عن الکدورة و الشین بحرمت محمد سید الکونین الثقلین والفریقین في شهر الله تعالی وتبارک بتاریخ پانزدهم محرم الحرام بعد از نماز جمع صورت تحریر بافت سنه هزار و شیش.
Colophon: Completed by Shihāb Kātib (Shihāb the scribe) on 15 Muḥarram 1006 AH (28 Aug. 1597 CE).
Language(s): Persian

Physical Description

Form: codex
Extent: 298 folios, 7 flyleaves (ff. iii + 298 + iv).
Dimensions (leaf): 272 × 170 mm.
Dimensions (written): 206 × 108 mm.
Foliation: Note that prior records and published catalogues employ disparate new numbers that commence at folio 1 for this second volume, albeit the numbers marked continue from the first one, the latter used in this record.

Decoration


Illumination: illuminated header at the start of the story of Kāmūs Kashānī (compare with Persian MS 977, folio 14b).
112 × 118 mm.

Illustrations: Seven scenes, all probably rendered by 'Painter B' (compare with Persian MS 977). Note that the folio numbers given here reflects the volume as marked, which continue from the first volume:

  • 1: Gushtāspbattles and kills a wolf .
    جنگ کردن گشتاسب با گرگ و کشته شدن گرگ بدست گشتاسب.
    67 × 117 mm.
  • 2: Gushtāsp battles and kills a dragon.
    رزم گشتاسب با اژدها وکشته شدن اژدها بدست گشتاسب.
    67 × 117 mm. Numbered ‘87’ (should be 77) at bottom-right
  • 3: Rustam's first labour: the killing of wolves.
    گفتار اندر خان اول و کشته شدن گرگان.
    75 × 117 mm.
  • 4: Isfandiyār kills the simurgh.
    گفتار اندر خان پتجم.
    72 × 82 mm. While the scene appears in relation to Rustam's fifth labour, the iconography here closely comports with images of Isfandiyār in his chariot.
  • 5: Rustam's fourth labour: the killing of the witch.
    گفتار اندر خان چهارم و کشته شدن زن جادو.
    72 × 82 mm. Numbered ‘80’ at bottom-right
  • 6: The death of Isfandiyār at Rustam's hands.
    آغاز داستان سیاوش.
    67 × 117 mm.
  • 7: Rustam falls into a well at the hunting grounds in Kabul.
    اوفتادن رستم بچاه بشکارگاه کابل.
    67 117

Blank spaces: Numerous blank areas intended for illustrations but left unfinished appear throughout.

Ruling: Margins ruled in wide single gold lines outlined with thin single black lines throughout.

Additions:
Inscriptions:
  • The third right flyleaf a side (f. iiia): signed by former owner ‘Samuel Robinson, Blackbrook Cottage, 1857’.
  • Folio 16a bears a partially trimmed purchase note that reads
    ‘از مراد... بقیمت’
    (‘From Murād... for the price of...’).
Bookplates: The final right flyleaf b side (f. ivb): Owens College, ‘Bequeathed by Samuel Robinson, of Wilmslow, 1884’.
Left pastedown: ‘Samuel Robinson, Blackbrook Cottage, Wilmslow’.

Binding

Probably rebound in Britain the mid-19th century.

Covered in full leather over pasteboards.

Board exteriors blocked in gold

285 × 181 × 42 mm.

Binding in good condition.

Additional Information

Record Sources

Bibliographical description derived from Siavash Rafiee-Rad, 'Persian Manuscripts in Samuel Robinson’s Collection in The John Rylands Library' (2017), and the Cambridge Shahnama Project.

Manuscript description by Jake Benson in 2022 with reference to the volume in hand.

Availability

To book an in-person or online appointment to consult the manuscript, visit Using the Special Collections Reading Rooms. For any other enquiries please email uml.special-collections@manchester.ac.uk.

Custodial History

Persian MS 977 exhibited in The Shahnameh: A Persian Cultural Emblem and a Timeless Masterpiece at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge in 2010, under former class mark ‘OR F40 Q VOL 1’.

Bibliography

    See a record for these manuscript on the Shahnama Project, Cambridge Digital Library website.
    Jaakko Hämeen-Anttila, Khwadāynāmag: The Middle Persian Book of Kings Leiden: Brill 2018.
    A. F. L. Beeston, Catalogue of the Persian, Turkish, Hindûstânî, and Pushtû Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, Part III (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1954), p. 21, no. 2537 [Bodl. Ms. Pers. D. 44].
    François du Blois, Persian Literature a Bio-Bibliographical Survey : Poetry of the Pre-Mongol Period, Vol. V, 2nd ed. (London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2004), pp. 94–96 no. 52 [Daqīqī]; 110–138, no. 58 [Firdawsī].
    H. Ethé, Catalogue of Persian Manuscripts in the Library of the India Office, Vol. I (Oxford: Printed for the India Office by H. Hart, 1903), col. 546, no. 860 [BL IO Islamic 2118].
    D. N. Marshall, Mughals in India: A Bibliographical Survey. Vol. 1. Manuscripts (Bombay: Asia Publishing House, 1962), p. 147, no. 472.
    S. Rafiee-Rad, 'Persian Manuscripts in Samuel Robinson’s Collection in The John Rylands Library', Manuscripta: A Journal for Manuscript Research, Vol. 61, No. 2 (2017): pp. 262–266, pl. 6.
    C. Rieu, Catalogue of the Persian manuscripts in the British Museum, Vol. II (London: British Museum, 1881), p. 533 [BL Add. 21103, &c.].
    E. Sachau and H. Ethé, Catalogue of the Persian, Turkish, Hindûstani, and Pushtû manuscripts in the Bodleian Library Vol I. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1889), col. 450, no. 493 [Bodl. Elliot 325, &c.]

Funding of Cataloguing

The John Rylands Research Institute and Library

The Soudavar Memorial Foundation


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