Union Catalogue of Manuscripts from the Islamicate World

Persian MS 21 (The John Rylands Research Institute and Library, The University of Manchester)

Persian Manuscripts


Summary of Contents: This copy of the Mas̲navī-i Ma‘navī (Spiritual Couplets) by Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī (1207–1273) opens with a brief Arabic preface and contains six lavishly illuminated carpet page openings that indicate the start of each of book within the volume. A scribe named Bāyazīd completed this manuscript between 1043 and 1044 AH (1633–35 CE) in ‘Sar-i Hind’ (Frontier of India), possibly the town of Sirhind-Fategarh, Punjab.
Title: Mas̲navī
Title: مثنوی
Incipit: (beginning) برگ ۱پ (folio 1b): هذا كتاب المثنوي ، وهو أصول أصول أصول ،الدين في كشف أسرار الوصول واليقين وهو فقه الله الأكبر ، و شرع الله الأزهر، وبرهان الله الأطهر يشرق اشراقا آنور من الإصباح ، مثل نوره كمشكاة فيها مصباح وهو جنان الجنان والعيون و الأغصان وعند أصحاب المقامات والكرامات
Colophon: انجامه‌ی دفتر سیوم، برگ ۱۷۹ر (Colophon of Book Three, folio 179a): تمت دفتر سیوم از مثنوی معنوی روز پنجشنبه جمادی الثانی سنه ۱۰۴۳ والحمد علی نعماته والشکر علی آلایته والصلاوة علی نبیه و سلام علی ولیه وسلم تسلیما کثیرا کثیرا.
Colophon: انجامه‌ی دفتر پنجم، برگ ۲۹۹ر (Colophon to Book Five, folio 299a): تمت دفتر پنجم از مثنوی معنوی از مقابله و کتابت روز دوشنبه دوازدهم شهر رمضان المباری سنه ۱۰۴۴ والحمد علی نعماته والشکر علی آلایته والصلاوة علی نبیه و سلام علی ولیه وسلم تسلیما کثیرا کثیرا.
Explicit: برگ ۳۷۴ر (folio 374a): و الحق که آنجا بقلم آورده بیان واقعست.
Colophon: برگ ۳۷۴ر (folio 374a): وصلی علی سیدنا محمدٍ وآله الطیّبین و عتره الطاهرین الهادئین المهدئین واائمه المعصومین و سلم تسلیما کثیرا کاتب العبد فقیر حقیرین بایزید ساکن سر هند عفی عنهما.
Colophon: ‌Three colophons: Book Three, completed on Thursday in Jumādá I 1043 (either 10, 17, 24 Nov., or 1 Dec. 1633 CE); Book Five, completed 12 Ramazān 1044 (1 March 1635 CE), and Book Six, undated but signed by the scribe Bāyazīd in ‘Sar-i Hind’ (Frontier of India), possibly the town of Sirhind-Fategarh, Punjab.
Language(s): Persian

For other copies of this work held in the Rylands, see Persian MS 17, 72, 213, 236, 250–255 (Books I–VI), 795, 847, 848, 926, 983 (Book I), and 984, the last being the earliest, completed in 9 Muḥarram 758 AH (2 January 1357 CE), about 85 years after the author first composed it. For critical editions, see Isti‘lāmī and Furūzānfar. For a recent English translation of the first two books based on the former edition, see Williams. For earlier translations, see Arberry, Nicholson, and Whinfield.

Title: Preface
Title: Book One
Title: دفتر الاوّل
Title: Daftar-i Avval
Title: Tale of Contents to Volume Two
Title: Book Two
Title: دفتر دوّم
Title: Daftar-i Duvvum
Title: Table of Contents for Volume Three
Title: Book Three
Title: دفتر سیوم
Title: Daftar-i Sīyūm
Title: Book Four
Title: دفتر چهادم
Title: Daftar-i Chahārum
Title: Table of Contents to Book Five
Title: Book Five
Title: دفتر پنجم
Title: Daftar-i Panjum
Title: Table of Contents to Book Six
Title: Book Six
Title: دفتر شیشم
Title: Daftar-i S̲ādis

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: Written on thin-weight, cross-grained, ivory-coloured, externally sized and polished paper, probably handmade in the Indian subcontinent, with ~11 laid lines per cm and few discernible chain lines.
Extent: 374 folios, 10 flyleaves (ff. v + 374 + v).
Dimensions (leaf): 291 × 172 mm.
Dimensions (written): 223 × 115 mm.
Foliation: Foliated in red Hindu-Arabic numerals on the upper-left corners of the a sides, mostly trimmed off when rebound
Foliation: Pencilled Arabic numerals added to the top-left corners of the a sides when catalogued.


Appears to combine six separate booklets into a single volume when rebound. Collation undetermined, but primarily quaternions. Some catchwords present at the lower left corners of the b sides, mostly trimmed when rebound.


In fair but stable condition, with water damage, ink smears (espceially folios 230a and b sides), mould, and extensive repairs to the outer margins and gutters.


Written in 1 to 4 columns with 11 to 21 lines per page, with extensive 3-part marginal commentary surrounding the central text. Ruled with a misṭarah hand guide.


Primarily written in black nasta‘līq with red subheaders by Bāyazīd, who possibly likely also wrote a majority of the marginal commentaries.

Inscriptions:Folios 55a, 110a, 180a, and 300a bear partially obliterated notes signed by former owner ‘Alī Akbar al-Ḥusaynī with his name, title, and volume number legible in most:
سلطان علی موسی رضا (عه)
بتوفیق الله تعالی کمترین مخلوقات علی اکبر الحسینی
جلد [شماره] مثنوی مولوی حضرت امام الانسان والجن. ’
The obliterated portions evidenly reflect his Shī'ī sentiments, as they invoke the Eighth Imam, ʿAlī al-Riz̤ā ibn Mūsá, (ca. 768–818) and proclaims the author as ‘the Imām of Humankind and Jinn’, which suggests that a subsquent Sunnī owner objected to them.
The final flyleaf a side (f. xa): ‘Masnavi’ by an unidentified hand.
Bookplates: The left doublure: ‘Bibliotheca Lindesiana’ with shelf mark ‘F/4’ and ‘Bland MSS Nº 31’, with the name and number crossed out and ‘Persian’ and ‘21’ written aside.


Probably rebound in its present form in circa 1800 in the Indian subcontinent

Resewn all-along on a single flat support with cotton thread. Edges trimmed, and chevron endbands twined in blue-green, probably indigo-dyed silk and metallic, possibly impure gold-wrapped threads over round cores at head and tail. Bound in full goatskin leather over pasteboards, without a flap (type III per Déroche et al), with squares at the edges, headcaps, and two silver clasps subsequently added to the fore-edge.

Two inset panels blocked four times with the same die in gold, with painted blue ground, surrounded by extensive marginal ruling in gold and white. Interiors lined with the same maroon goatskin leather, decorated with both single and double marginal ruling in gold ink. Spine bears floral trellis-work painted in gold.

297 × 177 × 50 mm.

Handle binding with caution. In fair but stable condition, with abrasion to edges, tight sewing, and restricted opening to the gutter margins. Boxed.


Folio 1a bears a small oval seal impressed in black with the slogan ‘Allāhu Akbar’ in naskh script, possibly a namesake seal of prior owner ‘Alī Akbar al-Ḥusaynī, who also signed the initial folios in each book.
8 × 11 mm.


Origin: Completed by Bāyazīd, in ‘Sar-i Hind’ (Frontier of India), possibly Sirhind-Fategarh, Punjab; ; between 1043 to 1045 AH (1633–35 CE).

Provenance and Acquisition

Later owned by one ‘Alī Akbar al-Ḥusaynī, as per his signatures at the start of most books and what appears to his namesake seal impression on folio 1a. An unidentified, evidently Sunnī subsequent owner crossed out portions of his inscriptions that reflect his Shī'ī sympathies.

While the circumstances under which this volume arrived in Britain, scholar Nathaniel Bland (1803–1865) susequently acquired the volume. After his 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 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.


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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