Union Catalogue of Manuscripts from the Islamicate World

RSPA 28 (Oriental Manuscripts, British Library)

India Office Library

Jones Collection

Royal Society Arabic and Persian


1 copy of Yūsuf va Zulaykhā by Abū al-Qāsin Firdawsī

Language(s): Persian

Incipit: بنام خداوند بالا پست *** که هستی از ویافت هر کس که هست
Explicit: نویسنده را ای خدای عزیز *** بسیام مرز با ما در وباب میز

The final folio (f209r) is damaged to such an extent (through lamination and ink staining) that the final 3 lines of poetry are almost totally illegible. The explicit given in this record is the final line on f208v.

This manuscript copy of the text varies considerably from all other extant copies. Of the first twenty-three lines, only two can be found in the modern edition of the text.

The text's authorship is a matter of considerable uncertainty. Firdawsī has traditionally been assumed as the author; however, according to the Encyclopaedia Iranica entry "Joseph i. in Persian Literature", modern scholarship has disproven this claim and suggested the author is a poet either named Shamsī or Amānī who composed the poem for his patron Shams al-Dīn Tughān shāh ibn Alp Arslan Saljuqī after having been freed by the prince from prison.

On f1v there is a gold and blue illuminated headpiece.

Four miniatures on f22v, f25r, f40v and f54r. Some spaces for miniatures which have not been drawn (e.g. f111r).

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: Thin light cream woven paper.
Extent: ff.iii+205+iv
Dimensions (leaf): 200 × 130 mm.
Dimensions (written): 150 × 80 mm.

European numerals in blue crayon.


Generally fine. Extensive damage to start and end of textblock.



Relatively neat nastaʿlīq



On f0r and f1r there is annotation which has been heavily crossed out with a black ink pen. This bears the (just visible) name of John Shore and a title page note (f0r) which says "Yusuf u Zulaykha Auctor Firdusi Tusi". On f1r, Jones has written the title of the work underneath the Persian red-ink title page.


Standard India Office binding with wine-coloured marbled endpapers.

Accompanying Material


Origin: 1500 - 1600 CE ; India

Provenance and Acquisition

RSPA 1-118 were presented to the Royal Society in January 1792 by Sir William and Lady Jones. This manuscript was presented by Lady Jones.

The Royal Society's collection of 280 Persian and Arabic, and 86 Sanskrit manuscripts were transferred to the India Office Library in 1876.

The dating of this manuscript is highly uncertain. Dennison Ross and Brown have said that it can probably be dated to before 1000AH (1591-2AD) but there is no clear codicological reason for this dating. According to them, this is possibly the oldest known copy of the work.


India Office Library

Record Sources

Manuscript description based on E. Denison Ross and E. G. Browne, Catalogue of two collections of Persian and Arabic manuscripts preserved in the India Office Library (London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1902), p. 21-3 no. XXXVIII


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Funding of Cataloguing



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