Union Catalogue of Manuscripts from the Islamicate World

Persian MS 190 (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 a various number of naẓar (observations). The author, who scholars identify as Mīr Ẕū al-Fiqār ‘Alī al-Ḥusaynī (ca. 1615–70), pen-named Mubad Shāh, 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 scribe named Ẕū al-Fiqār ‘Alī completed this volume on on ‘Wednesday, 22 Safar’, but he regrettably omits the year and also misattributes authorship to one Mullā Muḥammad Amīn.
Author and Dubious author: Fānī, Muḥsin, d. 1671 or 2
Title: Dabistān
Rubric: رب یسر و تمام بالخیر
Incipit: (basmalla) برگ ۱پ (folio 1b): ای نام تو سر دفتر اطفال دبستان * یاد تو ببالغ نظران شمع شبستان
Explicit: برگ ۲۵۶پ (folio 265b):
Colophon: برگ ۲۵۶پ (folio 265b): بتاریخ بیست و دویم شهر صفر المظفر بروز چهارشنبه بوقت عصر بدستخط ذوالفقار علی صورت اتمام پذیرفت…. نسخه دبستان مذاهب من تصنیف ملا محمد امین
Colophon: Completed by Ẕū al-Fiqār ‘Alī on ‘Wednesday, 22 Safar’, but he regrettably omits the year. Reza Navabpour suggests this name may be a mistaken spelling of the author's, although here the scribe misattributes authorship to one Mullā Muḥammad Amīn.

For other copies of this work, see Rylands Persian MS 75 and 189. Regarding the attribution of authorship for this work to Mīr Ẕū al-Fiqār ‘Alī al-Ḥusaynī Ardistānī, see Mojtabāʾī and Barzegar.

Language(s): Persian

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: Textblock of cross-grained, externally sized and polished, ivory-coloured paper, probably handmade in the Indian subcontinent with ~8 laid lines per cm and few discernible chain lines.
Extent: 267 folios, 3 flyleaves (ff. ii + 267 + i).
Dimensions (leaf): 376 × 223 mm.
Dimensions (written): 275 × 155 mm.
Foliation: Modern Arabic numerals pencilled on the upper-right corners of the a sides throughout, inclusive of the final flyleaves, and which repeat folios 211a , hence thereafter under by one.


Primarily quaternions throughout. 33IV(263)1I(265). Catchwords written diagonally on the lower-left corners of the b sides throughout.


In generally good condition, with a large scarfed tear across the centrefold on folios 12 and 13, and other historical repairs.


Written in 1 column with 15 lines per page. Ruled with a misṭarah hand guide.


Written in bold black subcontinental style nasta‘līq with red subheaders and markings by Ẕū al-Fiqār ‘Alī.


Ruling: Margins ruled in gold, outlined with thin single interior and double exterior black lines, surrounded by single vermillion interior and exterior dark blue single lines, and a further single lines of the latter along the perimeters of the pages.

  • The first right flyleaf b side (f. ib) bears bookseller's notes and a price of ‘£10.0.0.’.
  • The second right flyleaf b side (f. iib) bears the number and title ‘Nº 103 Dabistan’, which albeit unsigned comports with the hand of Sir Gore Ouseley .
  • A subsequent owner attempted to clip off Sir Gore Ouseley's autograph on the top-right corner of folio 1b, but part of it remains.
Bookplates: The left pastedown: ‘Bibliotheca Lindesiana’ with pencilled shelfmark ‘I/A’, and ‘Bland MSS No. 411’.


Covered in a hybrid British-Indian style in the Indian subcontinent, possibly in Calcutta (Kolkata) for former owner Sir Gore Ouseley.

Sewn at two stations, unsupported, with sewn endpapers of similar stock as the text, edges trimmed, with chevron endbands twined in pink and green silk threads over round cores at head and tail. Covered in full, highly polished dark brown goatskin leather, over pasteboards and tight-backed on the spine, with squares at head and tail (albeit the fore-edge protrudes), defined joints, but without a flap (Type III binding per Déroche). Board interiors lined with maroon goatskin leather, with their excess widths put down as hinges on the first and last flyleaves in order to connect the textblock to the cover.

Boards decorated with recessed central mandorlas, pendants, and corners paper onlays blocked in gold with large floral designs featuring octafoil blossoms and seratted leaves, with smaller quatrfoils in the pendants.Central decoration connected by a single vertical line ruled in ochre, with double lines of the same connecting the cornerpieces and again along the board perimeters. Spine subsequently fully gilt by a British binder for Sir Gore Ouseley, in keeping with other volumes that he had similarly rebacked, albeit in this case left untitled. Divided into six panels by thick single fillets, with thin rope, circle-and-dart, and single fillet lines, and large arabesque quatrefoils in the centress.

382 × 231 × 45 mm.

Handle binding with caution. In fair condition with the exteriors scuffed, abraded, and insect damaged.


Origin: Completed by Ẕū-al-Fiqār ‘Alī, probably in the Indian subcontinent; on ‘Wednesday 22nd Safar’, but he omits the year; however, it probably dates to the 18th century CE.

Provenance and Acquisition

Formerly owned by Sir Gore Ouseley (1770–1844), which while unsigned, the inscription on folio 1a comports with his hand and numbering as found on other volumes from his library.

Subsequently listed for sale by London firm of Howell and Stewart in their 1827–1828 catalogues.

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 catalogue by Michael Kerney, circa 1890s, concisely published as 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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Digital Images

Manchester Digital Collections (full digital facsimile)


Funding of Cataloguing

Iran Heritage Foundation

The John Rylands Research Institute


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