Union Catalogue of Manuscripts from the Islamicate World

Persian MS 17 (The John Rylands Research Institute and Library, The University of Manchester)

Persian Manuscripts


Summary of Contents: This unsigned and undated copy of the Mas̲navī-i Ma‘navī (Spiritual Couplets) by Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī (1207–1273) opens with a brief Arabic preface and contains six lavishly illuminated carpet page openings indicating the start of each of of the six book bound together within the volume. While undated, the manuscript appears likely completed in India. After suffering extensive water and mould damage, a binder expertly repaired many of the margins; however, the penultimate folio before the conclusion, and possibly others may be missing.
Incipit: (beginning) برگ ۱پ (folio 1b): وما توفیق الا بالله هذا الکتاب المثنوی وهر اصول اصول اصول الدین فی کشف اسرار الوصول والیقین...
Explicit: برگ ۴۳۵ر (folio 435a): سوی دو رخ میرود آن روباب * در عذاب بحر در نار و عذاب.
Colophon: No colophon
Language(s): Persian

For other copies of this work held in the Rylands, see Persian MS 21, 72, 213, 236, 250–255 (Books I–VI), 795, 847, 848, 926, 983 (Book I), and 984, the last being the earliest, completed in 9 Muḥarram 758 AH (2 January 1357 CE), about 85 years after the author first composed it. For critical editions, see Isti‘lāmī and Furūzānfar. For a recent English translation of the first two books based on the former edition, see Williams. For earlier translations, see Arberry, Nicholson, and Whinfield.

Title: Book One
Title: دفتر الاوّل
Title: Daftar-i Avvāl
Title: Book Two
Title: دفتر الثانی
Title: Daftar al-S̲ānī
Title: Book Three
Title: دفتر الثالث
Title: Daftar al-S̲ālis̲
Title: Book Four
Title: دفتر الرابع
Title: Daftar al-Rābi‘
Title: Book Five
Title: دفتر الخامس
Title: Daftar al-Khāmis
Title: Book Six
Title: دفتر السادس
Title: Daftar al-S̲ādis

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: Thin, straight-grained, sized, and polished ivory-coloured paper, with ~ 1.5 mm between laid lines and no discernible chain lines, with extensive repairs to the margins executed in comparatively thin, translucent, white paper both likely handmade in the Indian subcontinent.
Extent: 436 folios, 6 flyleaves (ff. iii + 436 + iii).
Dimensions (leaf): 282 × 160 mm.
Dimensions (written): 229 × 111 mm.
Foliation: Orignally partially paginated in pencilled Arabic numerals on the upper-left corners of the a sides of the initial and then every ten folios. Subsequently completed when catalogued but omitting folio 361Aa, hence under by one.


Undetermined due to extensive repairs and rebinding six separate books into a single volume. Catchwords throughout on the lower left corners of the b sides.


Handle with extreme caution. Corrosive copper verdigris pigment damage to the rulings on the illuminated carpet pages, most of which bear repairs on the reverse sides. Extensive water and mould damage along the tail edge throughout. Many margins replaced with a thin paper with other historical repairs throughout.


Written in 1 and 2 columns with 34 lines per page (17 in the centres, with the remaining 17 written in the surrounding margins, starting at the tops of the pages). ‌The layout resembles works with diagonally-written marginal commentaries; however in this case, the text commences in the centre and then proceeds to the upper margin, then read around the perimeter of the page to the bottom. Ruled with a misṭarah hand guide.


Written primarly in black nasta‘līq with subheaders in red.


Highly refined, fully gilt illuminated pages openings indicate the start of each book (refer to contents above for folios numbers). Marginal ruling throughout defining the centres and margins of the pages with with a pair of painted gold lines surrounding the centres, divided by two central thinner lines for the couplets, all outlined with single black lines, with double black lines on the exterior sides of the central and outer rulings, bounded by a single line in ultramarine blue.

Marginalia: Occasional notes in black nasta‘līq script with shikastah ligatures.
  • Right pastedown bears notes by prior owners in two hands. At top it describes the illuminated pages, while in the centre, another hand—likely that of former owner Nathaniel Bland (1803-1865) attempts to count up the total number of lines.
  • The third flyleaf b side (iiib) bears a number and title which, albeit unsigned, comports with others inscriptions of manuscripts formerly owned by Sir Gore Ouseley: ‘Nº. 2 Methnavi’
Bookplates: The left pastedown: ‘Bibliotheca Lindesiana’ with shelfmark ‘F/41’, ‘Bland MSS No. 27’ with a pencilled note ‘p. 183 Macan(?)’.


Likely rebound for Sir Gore Ouseley, as the spine decoration comports with other volumes that he formerly owned.

Resewn on 5 recessed cords, laced into the pasteboard. Edges trimmed and coloured with red earth. Decorative European-style front-bead endbands sewn in tan and white silk threads. Rebound hollow-backed, probably in London, in half British tan coloured calfskin leather with gray-coloured wove papersides.

Spine decorated with a fully gilt, 'run-up' back, panels palletted with quadruple fillet lines, with rows of foliate scrollwork vines at top and bottom and arabesque flourishes in the central three. Interlaced foliate arc-and-darts at head and tail. Triple fillet lines and diagonal dots with solid lines on either side frame the spine panels. The raised bands and headcaps feature the same thick-and-thin diagonals. Titled ‘METHNAVI’.

289 × 167 × 59 mm.

Handle with caution. Binding in fair condition, with abrasion to the spine, headcaps, joints, and edges, with bumped corners. While the hollow back opens comfortably at the head, it remains closed at the tail, which restricts the opening.


Origin: Probably completed in the Indian subcontinent; undated, but but probably 18th century CE.

Provenance and Acquisition

Probably formerly owned by Sir Gore Ouseley (1770–1844) as per both his unsigned inscription on the third flyleaf b side (iiib) and rebinding consistent with other volumes that he formerly owned.

Subsequently acquired by scholar Nathaniel Bland (1803–1865), after whose death London bookseller Bernard Quaritch (1819–1899) sold his oriental manuscripts to Alexander Lindsay, 25th Earl of Crawford (1812–1880) in 1866 .

Purchased by Enriqueta Rylands (1843–1908) in 1901 from James Ludovic Lindsay, 26th Earl of Crawford (1847–1913).

Bequeathed by Enriqueta Rylands (1843–1908) in 1908 to the John Rylands Library.

Record Sources

Bibliographical description based on an index created by Reza Navabpour circa 1993, derived from a manuscript catalogue by Michael Kerney, circa 1890s and his Bibliotheca Lindesiana, Hand-list of Oriental Manuscripts: Arabic, Persian, Turkish, 1898.

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.

Digital Images

Manchester Digital Collections (full digital facsimile).


Funding of Cataloguing

Iran Heritage Foundation

The John Rylands Research Institute


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