Union Catalogue of Manuscripts from the Islamicate World

Persian MS 979 (The John Rylands Research Institute and Library, The University of Manchester)

Persian Manuscripts


Summary of Contents: A complete, illustrated copy of the Būstān (Fragrant Orchard) by Saʻdī Shīrazī (ca. 1213–1292), one of the most revered works by this preeminent Persian Ṣūfī poet, which he composed in 655 AH (1257 CE). Together with his Gulistān (Rose Garden), both the literary style and structure of the work profoundly influenced subsequent writers. The work opens with an introduction in which the author praises God and his patrons, the Salghurd-era rulers of Fars province from their capital at Shiraz, Saʿd I (Saʿd ibn Zangī, r. 1198–1226), his son Abū Bakr ibn Saʿd ibn Zangī (r. 1226–1260), and grandson Muḥammad bin Abū Bakr ibn Saʿd ibn Zangī (fl 13th c.). The text comprises ten chapters on topics such as ethics, government, love, contentment, humility, repentance, and other subjects, embellished throughout with anecdotes and tales from the author's life and travels. The volume features four vivid four of which feature vivid illustrations, but regrettably, the scribe neither signed nor dated this manuscript. However, the script style, layout, and decoration suggests that artists in Greater Iran completed this manuscript in the 15th century.
Title: Būstān
Explicit: برگ ۸۶ر (folio 86a): خدایا زعفوم مکن ناامید * بضاعت نیاوردم الا امید.
Colophon: No colophon.

In Wickens' analysis, the poet completed the work between Shawwāl and 29 Ẕu-al-Ḥijjah 655 AH (13 Oct.–20 Dec. 1257 CE), probably on 30 Ẕū-al-Qaʿdah (21 Nov. 1257 CE). See Wickens' Encyclopædia Iranica entry and his English translation.

Language(s): Persian
1. Folio 1b
Title: Introduction
Incipit: (basmala) برگ ۱پ (folio 1b): بنام خداوند جان آفرین * حکیم سخن در زبان آفرین.
2. Folio 6a
Title: بباب اول در در تدبیر ملک و رای
Title: Chapter 1: On the Wisdom of Ruling
3. Folio 18b
Title: باب دوم در احسان
Title: Chapter 2: On Philanthropy and Gratitude to Almighty God.
4. Folio 30b
Title: باب سوم در عشق
Title: Chapter 3: On Love.
5. Folio 39a
Title: باب چهارم در تواضع
Title: Chapter 4: On Humility.
6. Folio 50b
Title: باب پنجم در رضا
Title: Chapter 5: On Satisfaction.
7. Folio 50b
Title: باب ششم در قناعت
Title: Chapter 6: On Contentment.
8. Folio 55a
Title: باب ششم در قناعت
Title: Chapter 7: On Contentment.
9. Folio 69b
Title: باب هشتم در شکر و عافیت
Title: Chapter 8: On Thankfulness and Blessings.
10. Folio 75b
Title: باب نهم در توبه
Title: Chapter 9: On Repentence.

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: Textblock of various types of tinted paper, possibly handmade in the Greater Iran, with ~8 laid lines per cm and no discernible chain lines.
Extent: 86 folios, 2 flyleaves (ff. i + 86 + i).
Dimensions (leaf): 255 × 170 mm.


Undetermined. Catchwords throughout most of the lower-left corners of the b sides.


Handle text with caution. In very poor condition, with water, insect, and mould damage and historical repairs throughout.


Written in 3 columns with 20 lines per page, two horizontal along with a third margin at the fore-edge written at oblique angles. Ruled with a misṭarah hand guide.


Written in clear black nasta‘līq with white subheaders.


Illustrations: Four illustrations depict various scenes:

  • 1: A Discussion on Chivalry.
    گفتار در جوانمردی.
  • 2: Folio 36a: Anecdote.
    This scene depicts a story of the head of a village and his son, who encounter the king on their journey, and a lesson that father attempts to teach to his son regarding ability, position, and power, for which his son criticises him.
  • 3: Folio 58a: Anecdote.
    This scene portrays the story of a cat that leaves the house of its owner, a poor old lady, to seek for food in the palace of the king. When attacked by the courtiers, the cat realizes that he led of life of content in the old lady’s house, so he regrets his departure.
  • 4: Folio 82a: Anecdote.
    The story of Yūsuf and Zulaykhā.

Bookplates: The final right flyleaf b side (f. iib): Owens College, ‘Bequeathed by Samuel Robinson, of Wilmslow, 1884’.
Left pastedown: ‘Samuel Robinson, Blackbrook Cottage, Wilmslow’.


Origin: Location unknown; however, the layout and stylistic features suggest potential completion in Greater Iran; undated, but possibly completed in the 15th century.

Provenance and Acquisition

Subsequently acquired by 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 1975 after it merged with the University of Manchester.

Record Sources

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

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


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.


    A. F. L. Beeston, Catalogue of the Persian, Turkish, Hindûstânî, and Pushtû Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, Part III (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1954), p. 31, no. 2584 [Bodl. Ms. Whinfield 44].
    E. G. Browne, Literary History of Persia, Vol. II (London: T. F. Unwin, 1906), pp. 225–254.
    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. 656, no. 1117/4 [BL IO Islamic 876, &c.].
    T. W. Haig, and J. H.Kramers, 'Saʿdī', Encyclopaedia of Islam 1st ed., Vol. IV (Leiden: Brill 1936), p. 1345.
    P. Losensky, 'Saʿdī', Encyclopædia Iranica Online (2000).
    D. N. Marshall, Mughals in India: A Bibliographical Survey. Vol. 1. Manuscripts (Bombay: Asia Publishing House, 1962), p. 424, no. 1609(i).
    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. 266–268, pls 7–8.
    C. Rieu, Catalogue of the Persian manuscripts in the British Museum, Vol. II (London: British Museum1881), p. 597 [BL Add. 24944/7].
    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. 525, no. 681 [Bodl. Ouseley Add. 39 (work 15)].
    G. M. Wickens, 'Būstān', Encyclopædia Iranica, Vol. IV, Fasc. 6 (1990), pp. 573–574.
    Sa‘dī, Morals Pointed and Tales Adorned: The Būstān of Saʻdī. Translated by G. M. Wickens. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1974.

Funding of Cataloguing

The John Rylands Research Institute and Library


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