Union Catalogue of Manuscripts from the Islamicate World

Persian MS 203 (The John Rylands Research Institute and Library, The University of Manchester)

Persian Manuscripts


Summary of Contents: This nineteenth-century work written in ornate Persian prose identifies itself by a misleading title of Qiṣṣah-ʼi Chahār Darvīsh (Tale of the Four Dervishes) ascribed to Amīr Khusraw Dihlavī (fl. ca. 1253–1325) in the colophon. However, it actually appears to be another unidentified, original qiṣṣah fairy tale romance inspired by that work combined with characters and plot elements adapted from the Ḥamzah-nāmah (Story of Amīr Ḥamzah, see Rylands Persian MS 659).
Author: Unknown
Title: Tales of the Genii
Incipit: (basmalla) برگ ۱پ (folio 1b): چمن آرایان حدایق سخندانی و نخل پیرامان ریاض نکته‌دانی که بلبلان هزار داستان و اشتیاق پردازی و عفا دل شیرین بیان طرازی‌اند کلیان رنگارنگ احادیث اسمارواز‌ها ز هنر بسته حکایات و اخبار را بدینگونه در رشتهٔ نظم ترتیب کشیده و حمایل کردن صفحه تسطیر و تکتیب کردانیده‌اند، که دروار السلطنت اقالیم روم و مقر الخلافت آن مرزبوم بادشاهی بود بازار بخت موسوم اموال و نعم و گنج مرثم و خدم از حسنیات سیاق و رقم داشت تخم آرزوی فرزندیکه بعز ازو وارث گنج و گوهر رو بعهد تخت و آنسر گرددور مزرعه دل میکاشت و سعی موفور و کوشش نامحصور مطلب مذکور بعمل می‌آورد. وندر و صدقات و عطایا خیرات بار باب فقر و حاجات نماید کرد شاخ امیدش ثمری نداد و بر نهال امالش کلی رو نگشاد و غم واند بر طبعش طاری شد.
Explicit: برگ ۶۵پ (folio 65a): و هر یک بگام دل خود رسیدند ملک شهپال سر انجام و انباب و جننیان همراه داده هر یک را بارامتمام بملکهای‌شان رسانید و مواد صد آفرین گردید و الله عالم بالصواب [و آخر متن خط کشیده شده است: تمام شد مار من نظام شد هذا الکتاب قصهٔ چهار درویش].
Colophon: No colophon. A later hand, probably Turner Macan, crossed out the final line that identifies it as the Qiṣṣah-ʼi Chahār Darvīsh.
Language(s): Persian

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: Textblock of thin-weight, cross-grained paper, likely handmade in India, lightly sized and polish, but subsequently mould and insect damaged, especially on the opening folios, after which it was repaired throughout, probably when rebound.
Extent: 65 folios (ff. i + 65 + i).
Dimensions (leaf): 222 × 143 mm.
Dimensions (written): 181 × 90 mm.
Foliation: Foliated by the cataloguer with pencil, in Arabic numerals on the upper left corner of the a sides.


Catchwords throughout on lower left corners of the b sides of nearly every folio.


Handle with caution. The initial pages suffer from mould damage.


Single column with 15 lines per page. Ruled with a misṭarah hand guide.


Written in a neat and legible nasta‘līq script in black ink throughout.

Additions: Marginalia: Extensive English and Persian marginal annotations throughout in both pencil and ink, likely in the hand of former owner Turner Macan. Inscriptions:
  • The first right flyleaf a side (f. ia): ‘Tales of the Genii’, also by Turner Macan
  • The final left flyleaf b side (f. iib) inscribed ‘End of List’.
  • Spine mistitled:
    Kissahi Char Derwish’ (Tale of the Four Dervishes).
Bookplates and Sale Label:
  • Left paste-down ‘Bibliotheca Lindesiana’ with shelfmark ‘F/9’, and ‘Bland MSS No. 424’.
  • The left board by the tail of the spine, bears a circular label numbered 439/2, which comports with the lot number for the sale of this volume by in 1838.


Bound in a European style without a flap (Type III binding per Déroche) with a quarter buff-coloured paper spine, European Stormont patterned marbled paper sides, and blue sprinkled edges. Flyleaves of wove paper watermarked ‘J. Whatman 1815, manufactured by the Whatman Paper Mill in Maidstone, Kent, then owned and operated by William Balston (1759–1849) added at beginning and end.

Titled ‘Kissahi Char Derwish’ (Tale of the Four Dervishes) in Latin script in black ink on the spine.

226 × 153 × 13 mm.


Origin: Probably completed in India; in the late 18th-early 19th century CE.

Provenance and Acquisition

Evidently acquired by Persian translator for the British East India Company, Turner Macan (1792–1836). While this volume lacks his signature as found on other volumes that he formerly owned held in the Rylands, the same title, Tales of the Genii, appears in the auction catalogue of his oriental manuscripts that his family sold through Robert Harding Evans (1777–1857) in London on 12 Dec. 1838 (p. 20, lot 439). Since the catalogue lists this volume together with another untitled work of Persian poetry, and the round label on the bears that same number, and the marginalia also comports with Macan's hand in other manuscripts that he formerly owned, this must be the same work and confirms his prior ownership.

Purchased at the sale by London bookseller William Straker (fl. 1831–1856) for 7 shillings.

Probably sold by Straker to 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 2020 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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