Union Catalogue of Manuscripts from the Islamicate World

Persian MS 189 (The John Rylands Research Institute and Library, The University of Manchester)

Persian Manuscripts


Summary of Contents: This nearly complete copy Dābistān-i Maẕāhib (School of Doctrines) presents an encyclopedia of comparative religion recounting various creeds, ideologies, and philosophies found in Asia, divided into twelve ta‘līm (teachings) and subdivided into various naẓar (observations). The author, pen-named Mubad Shāh, whom scholars identify as Mīr Ẕū al-Fiqār ‘Alī al-Ḥusaynī (ca. 1615–70), lived during the reign of the Mughal ruler ‘Ālamgīr I (r. 1658–1707) and apparently followed an Indian branch of an Iranian Ishrāqī illuminationist sect founded by Zoroastrian high priest Āẕar Kayvān (ca. 1529–1618). He not only travelled throughout the northern Indian subcontinent, but also to Mashhad in Iran. As a result, he became thoroughly acquainted with a great number of religious and scientific Parsi, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim personalities and their doctrines. A Hindu Brahmin named Kāshī Nath completed this manuscriptp on the 15 Ramaz̤ān 1210 AH (24 Mar. 1796 CE) in city of Sialkot, Punjab .
Author and Dubious author: Fānī, Muḥsin, d. 1671 or 2
Title: Dabistān
Incipit: (basmalla) برگ ۱ر (folio 1a): ای نام تو سر دفتر اطفال دبستان * یاد ببالغ نظران شمع شبستان.
Explicit: برگ ٢٨۶ر (folio 286a): غرض نقشی‌ست کز ما ياد ماند * که هستی را نمی بینم بقائی.
Colophon: برگ ٢٨۶ر (folio 286a): تم تم تمام شد صورت اختسام یافت. نسخه دبستان مذاهب بخط بنده کاشی ناتهہ قوم بر همن متوطن ملک پنجاب بلده سیالکوت تحریر پذیرفت پانزدهم شهر رمضان المبارک سنهتم. ۱۲۱۰ هجری .
Colophon: Completed by Kāshī Nath, a Hindu Brahmin from Sialkot, Punjab, on 15 Ramaz̤ān 1210 AH (24 Mar. 1796 CE).
Language(s): Persian

A note on the margins of folio:
‘محسن فانی گوید...’
(‘Muḥsin Fānī says...’) refers to authorship of those verses, not the entire work. Former owner Samuel Hawtayne Lewin, cites an addendum by Sir W. Ouseley (Travels, Vol. III, p. 564) who attributes the work to Mūbad Shāh and identifies Muhsin Fani as only the ‘poet quoted at the beginning’, on the basis of this manuscript, then in the possession of former owner Jonathan Duncan, a position accepted by current scholars. For another illustrated copy of this work also formerly owned by Duncan, see Rylands Persian MS 75 and 190. Regarding the attribution of authorship for this work to Mīr Ẕū al-Fiqār ‘Alī al-Ḥusaynī Ardistānī, see Mojtabāʾī and Barzegar.

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: Text primarily of medium-weight, ivory-coloured, cross-grained, externally sized and polished paper, possibly handmade in the Punjab, with 8 laid lines per cm and few discernible chain lines. Subsequently restored with missing folios 191a–192b replaced by comparatively thin, ivory-coloured, cross-grained paper, likely handmade in the Indian subcontinent, with ~10 laid lines per cm and few discernible chain lines.
Extent: 287 folios, 5 flyleaves (ff. iii + 287 + ii).
Dimensions (leaf): 248 × 157 mm.
Dimensions (written): 190 × 90 mm.
Foliation: Partially foliated on folios 1a to 183a in minute red Hindu-Arabic numerals on the upper-left corners of the a sides, with 128a repeated, hence under by one thereafter.
Foliation: Foliated in pencilled Arabic numeral on the upper-left corners of the a sides from folios 184a to 195a.
Foliation: Pencilled Hindu-Arabic numerals correctly resume on 200a, then every ten folios thereafter, as well as the final folio.


Undetermined due to tight, recessed resewing, but possibly primarily quaternions throughout. Catchwords on the lower-left corners of the b sides throughout..


Handle text with caution. Extensive insect damage throughout.


Written in 1 column with 19 lines per page. Ruled with a misṭarah hand guide. Folio 192b left blank, while folio 182b features blank spaces intended for copying Arabic passages, but left incomplete.


Copied in stylized black nasta‘līq with shikastah ligatures by Kāshī Nath.

Replaced folios 191a–192a copied in a hasty black naskh by another hand.

  • The third right flyleaf a side (f. iiia):
    Inscribed by Governor Jonathan Duncan, albeit unsigned:
    This book is quite incorrectly written
    Also signed by former owner Samuel Hawtayne Lewin:
    From Governor Duncan's Library
    then underneath Duncan's comment above:
    particularly in the Arabic quotations
    then he continues continues:
    N. Remarks on the Dabistán in the Bombay Transactions, vol. 2 p. 364 by William Erskine
  • The third right flyleaf b side (f. iiib) also inscribed by Lewin, who cites Sir William Ouseley attribution of this work to Mūbid Shāh, and Muḥsin Fānī as only ‘the poet quoted at the beginning’ rather than the author.
Bookplates: ‘Bibilotheca Lindesiana’ shelf mark ‘2/E’, and ‘Bland MSS No. 410’, with the name and number crossed out and ‘Persian’ and ‘189’ written aside.


Probably rebound in a hybrid British-Indian style in the Bombay Presidency for former owner Jonathan Duncan (1756–1811), since the style comports with others he formerly owned.

Resewn on five recessed cord supports, probably frayed out and put down under the lifted doublures. Covered in full maroon goatskin leather over pasteboards, tightbacked, with defined joints, sqaures along the edges, but without a flap (Type III binding per Déroche). Spine bears three raised bands.

Boards decorated with recessed paper onlays for the central scalloped mandorlas, detached pendants, and cornerpieces. Board margins stained black. Thin single-rule lines connect the central decoration, with thin double lines connecting the corners, and thick and thin lines surrounding the perimeters of the boards, all in yellow.

266 × 168 × 45 mm.

Binding in fair but stable condition, with the opening to the gutter margins restricted and white salts (spew) on the exterior due to prolonged exposure to moisture.


Origin: Completed by Kāshī Nath, possibly in Sialkot, Punjab; 15 Ramaz̤ān 1210 AH (24 Mar. 1796 CE).

Provenance and Acquisition

Subsequently acquired by Jonathan Duncan (1756–1811), who governed the Bombay Presidency for 16 years from 1795 until his death.

After Duncan's death, his surviving family inherited then sold his library through the London firm of Samuel Leigh Sotheby (1805–1861) where one of the Six Clerks of the Court of Chancery and Royal Asiatic Society Fellow Samuel Hawtayne Lewin (1795–1840) acquired it for 10 shillings and sixpence, then signed folio 1a.

After Lewin's death, his family inherited then apparently sold his manuscripts, with many subsequently acquired by by scholar Nathaniel Bland (1803–1865) for his library at Randalls Park, Leatherhead.

After Bland's death, London bookseller Bernard Quaritch (1819–1899) sold his oriental manuscripts to Alexander Lindsay, 25th Earl of Crawford (1812–1880) in June, 1866, paid in two instalments of £450 and £400, and then moved to Bibliotheca Lindesiana at Haigh Hall, Wigan.

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 handlist 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.


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Funding of Cataloguing

Iran Heritage Foundation

The John Rylands Research Institute


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