Union Catalogue of Manuscripts from the Islamicate World

Persian MS 20 (The John Rylands Research Institute and Library, The University of Manchester)

Persian Manuscripts


Summary of Contents: A nearly complete illustrated copy of the romance of Yūsuf va Zulaykhā, which comprises the second of seven books in the collection entitled Haft Awrang (Seven Thrones) by ‘Abd al-Raḥmān Jāmī (d. 1492), in 957 AH (1550–51 CE). A mystical love story of the Prophet Joseph and Potiphar's wife, the author primarily drew inspiration from the twelfth chapter of the Qur'ān Sūrah Yūsuf and references by prior poets. Copied by an unidentified scribe in the year 924 AH (1518 Julian and CE), in Safavid-era Shiraz at the shrine (astānah) of Hụsām al-Dīn Ibrahīm, the volume contains five small illustrations that exemplify the early 16th century style of that region. The volume also retains its elegant contemporary binding, albeit restored, with full panels depicting an outdoor landscape scene blocked in gold on the exteriors, and finely executed cut leather filigree interior doublures.
Incipit: (beginning) برگ ۱پ (folio 1b): الهی گنچه‌ٔ امید بگشایی * که گلی از روضهٔ جوید نمایی
Explicit: برگ ۱۷۶ر (folio 176a):
Colophon: برگ ۱۷۶ر (folio 176a): تمام شد کتاب شریف مسمی یوسف و زلیخا ز ⟨(؟)⟩ ی افضح الشعرا مولانا نور الدین عبد الرحمن جامی در آستانهٔ حضرت مولانا حسام‌الدین آبرهیم(ابراهیم) علیه الرحمة در سنه ۹۲۴ در شیراز.
Colophon: Completed at the shrine (astānah) of Hụsām al-Dīn Ibrahīm in Shiraz in the year 924 AH (1518 Julian and CE).

For other copies of this work, see Rylands Persian MS 20, 70, 79, 127, 267, 963 and 980, as well as the text within the Haft Awrang (Seven Thrones) in Persian MS 949, and the Kullīyāt (Complete Works), Persian MS 601. For manuscript production at the shrine (āsitānah) of Hụsām al-Dīn Ibrahīm in Shiraz, see Uluç.

Language(s): Persian

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: Textblock of straight and cross-grained, externally sized and polished, ivoury-coloured paper probably handmade in the Safavid Empire with ~9 laid lines per cm and few discernible chain lines (folio 142 exhibits chain lines between 23–28 mm apart).
Extent: 176 folios
Dimensions (leaf): 222 × 133 mm.
Dimensions (written): 133 × 57 mm.
Foliation: Modern pencilled Arabic numerals written on the upper-left corners of the a sides.


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


In fair condition, with moderate water and insect damage and historical repairs throughout.


Written in 2 columns with 12 lines per page. Ruled with a misṭarah hand guide.


Written in clear black nasta‘līq with gold and bluesubheaders.


Illustrations: Five small illustrations, marked by silk tassels at the fore-edge exemplify the commercial Shiraz style that flourished during the early sixteenth century and found widespread appeal throughout much of the Islamic world.

  • Folio 48b:
    Arrival of ‘Azīz of Miṣr (Potiphar of Egypt) at Zulaykhā's tent. A running footman (faced smudged) holds Potiphar's horse, while a young man pays homage before them, before a large tent, against a pale mauve hillside, and under a solid gold sky above. 104 × 63 mm.
  • Between folios 70b and 71a:
    [Possibly Missing]. Robinson suggests that the stains seen here may indicate an illustration once appear at this location, which possibly depicted Yūsuf in the slave market.
  • Folio 107b:
    Yūsuf restrains Zulaykhā from committing suicide. Scene within a chamber decorated with amorous frescoes. Yusūf wears a Safavid-style turban with a tall Qizilbash baton, his head outlined with an aureolin, a flaming halo, rendered in bright colours and gold. 104 × 63 mm. Published: Robinson, p. 157, no. 564.
  • Folio 118a:
    Yūsuf enters Zulaykhā's apartment attended by her maids. The latter, overcome by Yusufs beauty, cut their fingers with their fruit-knives. Zulaykhā wears an early depiction of a golden aigrette. 104 × 32 mm. Published: Robinson, p. 158, no. 565.
  • Folio 148a:
    Yūsuf riding with attendants encounters Zulaykhā as an elderly woman. Preceded by a running footman, another mounted attendant holds a large parasol over Yūsuf's head, since deliberately erased. 104 × 70 mm.
  • Folio 162b:
    Zulaykhā mounrs at Yūsuf's tomb. In this highly symmetrical composition, Yūsuf's turban and folded clothes rest on stools on either side of the rear window. Zulaykha's face appears rubbed out with the features roughly retouched in black. 95 × 63 mm.

Illumination: Small illuminated headpiece on folio 1b, with subsequent section headings in blue and gold on plain background.
25 × 59 mm.

Ruling: Margins ruled in gold throughout, with thin single gold internal lines, vertical columns, and horizontal header dividers outlined with single black lines, surrounded by comaparatively thick gold lines, outlined with single internal and double external black lines, all surrounded by comparatively bold ultramarine blue lines.

Marginalia: Occasional notes in the margins in various hands.
  • The right flyleaf b side (f. ib) bears the numbers ‘264’, ‘278’, and ‘Sy 284’ with a note underneath the last indicating that it pertains to de Sacy's catalogue.
  • Folio 1a, lined during restoration, bears the title pencilled in Latin script, and at bottom the number ‘56’ written upside-down. An earlier Ottoman tamga signature emblem appears underneath the repair paper, adjacent to an ownership note, which await analysis.
  • Folio 176b bears the number ‘Sy 284’ pertaining to de Sacy's catalogue.
  • The left flyleaf b side (f. iib) bears the French word ‘nuef’ (new) written upside-down
  • The Left pastedown: ‘Bland MSS No. 30’, with the name and number crossed out and ‘Persian’ and ‘20’ written aside.
  • The left flyleaf b side (f. iib) bears ‘Bibliotheca Lindesiana’ with pencilled shelfmark ‘f/10’


Near-contemporary original binding from the Safavid Empire in the early 16th to early 17th centuries CE.

Sewn on two unsupported stations. Edges trimmed and endbands twined in white and green silk threads at head and tail. Interior doublures and leather hinges likely attached the binding to the textblock, since altered during restoration. Polished red goatskin leather binding, and interior doublures of the same. Flyleaves of orange-tinted paper flecked with silver, now tarnished.

Blocked with fully gilt panels from the same die on both the right and left boards, which feature an outdoor landscape scene that depict a dragon, phoenix, hares, birds and beasts, with fish and ducks swimming in a stream at the bottom, with rectangles and surrounding cartouche borders bearing floriate scrollwork designs on a punched background, with the flowers likely hand-coloured but now rubbed. Interior doublures feature recessed medallions, pendants and corner-pieces inset with black leather filigree adhered over ultramarine blue grounds, the latter now smudged exposing the paper underneath. Tail edge inscribed with the title in naskh script.

223 × 137 × 25 mm.

Binding in fair but stable condition. Some exterior wear, and damage to the interior filigree, and tears and folds in the flyleaves. Spine and fore-edge subsequently rebacked with maroon goatskin leather. Boxed.


Origin: Completed by an unnamed scribe at the shrine (astānah) of Hụsām al-Dīn Ibrahīm in Shiraz, Iran; 924 AH (1518 Julian and CE).

Provenance and Acquisition

Evidence of a subsequent unidentified Ottoman owner's signature-emblem (tamga) appears underneath the paper lining folio 1a awaits analysis.

Subsequently acquired by French orientalist scholar Antoine-Isaac Silvestre de Sacy (1758–1838), as per his catalogue number inscribed on the flyleaves.

After de Sacy's death, presumably inherited by his son Samuel Ustazade Silvestre de Sacy (d. 1879), who sold many of his father's oriental manuscripts through Parisian booksellers Romain Merlin (1793–1871) and Grangeret de la Grange, (1790-1859) on 1843 (no. 284), where an individual named 'Moore' purchased it.

Thereafter acquired 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 and his Bibliotheca Lindesiana, Hand-list of Oriental Manuscripts: Arabic, Persian, Turkish, 1898.

Codicological description derived from B. W. Robinson, Persian Paintings in the John Rylands Library: A Descriptive Catalogue.

Record augmented and enhanced by Jake Benson in 2023 with reference to the volume.


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.

Custodial History

Exhibited in Gilded Word and Radiant Image, sponsored by the Altajir Trust.


    A. F. L. Beeston, Catalogue of the Persian, Turkish, Hindûstânî, and Pushtû Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, Part III (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1954), p.36 no. 2619 [Bodleian Ms. Whinfield 12] .
    H. Ethé, Catalogue of Persian manuscripts in the library of the India Office, Vol. 1 (London: Printed for the India Office by H. Hart, 1903), col. 746, no. 1300/6 [British Library IO Islamic 800].
    M. Kerney, Bibliotheca Lindesiana. Handlist of Oriental Manuscripts, Arabic, Persian, Turkish. ([Aberdeen]: Privately printed, 1898), p. 234, no. 20.
    R. Merlin and G. de la Grange, Bibliothèque de M. le Baron Silvestre de Sacy, Vol. III, [Appendice] 'Manuscrits' (Paris: Imprimerie Royale, 1842), p. 48, no. 284.
    C. Rieu, Catalogue of the Persian manuscripts in the British Museum, Vol. II (London: British Museum, 1881), p. 645 [British Library Add. 7770/3].
    B. W. Robinson, Persian Paintings in the John Rylands Library: A Descriptive Catalogue (London: Sotheby Parke Bennet, 1980), pp. 155–158, nos. 562–566 [Rylands Persian MS 20] and pp. 242–243, nos. 681–685 [Rylands Persian MS 23].
    E. Sachau and H. Ethé, Catalogue of the Persian, Turkish, Hindûstani, and Pushtû manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, Vol. I (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1889), col.618, no. 897 [Bodleian MS Ouseley 290/5].
    L. Uluç, 'A Group of Artists Associated with the "Āsitāna" of Huṣām al-Dīn Ibrāhīm,” Artibus Asiae Pearls from Water, Rubies from Stone Studies in Islamic Art in Honor of Priscilla Soucek, Part II. Vol. 67, No. 1 (2007): p. 114, no. 3.

Funding of Cataloguing

Iran Heritage Foundation

The John Rylands Research Institute and Library

The Persian Heritage Foundation


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