Union Catalogue of Manuscripts from the Islamicate World

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

Persian Manuscripts


Summary of Contents: This nineteenth century volume written in ornate Persian prose is incorrectly identified on the spine as Qiṣṣah-ʼi Chahār Darvīsh (Tale of the Four Dervishes), spuriously ascribed to Amīr Khusraw Dihlavī (fl. ca. 1253–1325), on the basis of the colophon. However, another hand on the first flyleaf, likely that of prior owner Nathaniel Bland (1803–1865), identified as another (unidentified) work titled ‘Tales of the Genii’.
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 گردیدو الله عالم بالصواب [و آخر متن خط کشیده شده است: تمام شد مار من نظام شد هذا الکتاب قصهٔ چهار درویش].
Language(s): Persian

Physical Description

Form: codex

The textblock is of cross-grained Indian handmade paper with a light size and polish, but subsequently mould and insect damaged, especially on the opening folios, after which it was repaired throughout, probably when rebound.

Flyleaves of wove paper watermarked J Whatman dated 1816.

Extent: 65 folios (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.


While the binding is sound, the initial pages were mould damaged and require careful handing.


Single column with 15 lines per page.


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

Notes in black ink — possibly Bland's hand — and in pencil.

  • Inscription: folio ia, ‘Tales of the Genii’
  • Inscription: spine,Kissahi Char Derwish’ (Tale of the Four Dervishes).
  • Marginalia: extensive English and Persian marginal annotations in both pencil and ink, likely in the hand of Nathaniel Bland.
  • Bookplates: back paste-down, Bibliotheca Lindesiana with shelfmark ‘F/9’, and ‘Bland MSS No. 424’.
  • Bottom spine edge of left board Circular label with unidentified shelf mark: ‘439/2’.


Quarter paper binding (Type III binding per Déroche, without flap) with buff-coloured paper spine and European Stormont patterned marbled paper sides, and blue sprinkled edges. Titled ‘Kissahi Char Derwish’ (Tale of the Four Dervishes) in Latin script in black ink on the spine. 226 × 153 × 13 mm.


Origin: Possibly India; ca. late 18th-early 19th century CE

Provenance and Acquisition

Formerly part of the collection of the Persian scholar Nathaniel Bland (1803–1865), after whose death his oriental manuscripts were sold through Bernard Quaritch (1819–1899) in 1866 to Alexander Lindsay, 25th Earl of Crawford (1812–1880).

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. Emended and enhanced by Jake Benson in 2020 with reference to the manuscript.


The manuscript is available for consultation by any accredited reader, see Becoming a Reader for details. Please contact uml.special-collections@manchester.ac.uk for further information on the availability of this manuscript.

Funding of Cataloguing

Iran Heritage Foundation and The John Rylands Research Institute


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