Union Catalogue of Manuscripts from the Islamicate World

Persian MS 181 (The John Rylands Research Institute and Library, The University of Manchester)

Persian Manuscripts


Summary of Contents: The third volume of the Rawz̤at al-Ṣafā (Garden of Purity), a general history from the creation of the world to the time of the author. Later combined with other disparate volumes, Persian MS 179, 180, and 182, as an incomplete set.

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: Primarily thin-weight, cross-grained, butter-coloured paper probably handmade in India, sized and polished with ~10 laid lines per cm and no discernible chain lines.
Extent: 373 folios (ff. iii + 370 + vi)
Dimensions (leaf): 277 × 164 mm.
Dimensions (written): 206 × 98 mm.
Foliation: Hindu-Arabic numerals on the upper-left corners of the a sides; however, after folio 168, the numbers jump to 179, then repeats the number 279 on folios 179 and 180hence off by nine thereafter.

Foliated in pencilled Arabic numerals on the upper-left corners of the a sides when catalogued, followed for this record.


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


Text block in excellent condition; however, beware of fold-outs on folios 13, 64, and 348.


Written in 1 columns with 17 lines per page. Ruled with a misṭarah hand guide.


Written in a very clear nasta‘līq in black with subheaders in red.

Additions: Table of Contents: Folios first to third left flyleaves, b sides (ff. ivb to vib), written in the same hand that foliated the volume in Hindu-Arabic numerals; however, given the discrepancies from folio 168 onwards, it contains errors.
Marginalia: Notes written in the margins in at least two hands, in both black and red.
Bookplates: The left pastedown: ‘Archibald Swinton, Esq.’ and ‘Bibliotheca Lindesiana’ bookplates, the latter with the shelf mark ‘1/A’, and ‘Bland MSS No. 402’.


Evidently rebound as a set for former owner Archibald Swinton after his return to Britain in 1766. Uniformly bound with Persian MS 180; however, 182 comports with Persian MS 802, while 179 appears to be an unrelated, separate addition.

Abbreviated resewing on six cords, laced into pasteboard, edges trimmed and marbled with a loose serpentine pattern drawn over a stone design in yellow, green, black, and red. Decorative front-bead decorative endbands sewn in red and yellow silk threads. Covered in full, bright green calfskin leather, tight-backed and tight-jointed, with 'Old Dutch' patterned marbled endpapers.

Spine fully gilt, with Swinton's arms blocked on gold on skiver leather labels applied to the top panel. Gilt floriate chain borders on the board perimeters, with floral sprig corners, and board edges tooled with a leaf-and-dart roll.

287 × 182 × 45 mm.

Handle with caution. Exterior and board edges, and joints abraded, with losses to the headcaps. Deteriorated green silk ribbon bookmark between 185b to 186a. Boxed


Swinton's arms blocked in gold on a skiver leather label adhered to the upper panel of the spine, features a boar tethered to an oak tree:

23 × 20 mm.


Origin: Probably India; undated, but probably mid-18th century.

Provenance and Acquisition

Acquired by Captain Archibald Swinton (1731–1804), who served in the East India Company from 1752 to 1766, initially as a surgeon then later as an interpreter and emissary for Lord Robert Clive (1725–1774), the first Governor of the Bengal Presidency. After amassing a significant collection of manuscripts and works of art, he returned to Britain where he evidently commissioned the rebinding of rebinding of other disparate volumes together with this one as a set, as evinced by his bookplate and arms blocked in gold on the uppermost spine panel.

After his death, James Christie Jr (1773–1831) sold Swinton's collection in London on 6 June 1810, where antiquarian dealer Thomas Gwennap (d. 1850) purchased it for £1-11s-6d.

Probably purchased from Gwennap by Persian scholar Nathaniel Bland (1803–1865), after whose death London antiquarian dealer 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, and in consultation with Christie's archivist Lynda McLeod, regarding Swinton's sale.


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.


Funding of Cataloguing

Iran Heritage Foundation

The John Rylands Research Institute


Comment on this record

Please fill out your details.

How are we using your feedback? See our privacy policy.

See the Availability section of this record for information on viewing the item in a reading room.