Union Catalogue of Manuscripts from the Islamicate World

Persian MS 23 (The John Rylands Research Institute and Library, The University of Manchester)

Persian Manuscripts


Summary of Contents: A Safavid-era scribe named Muḥammad Amīn bin ‘Abd Allāh completed this manuscript 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. This volume, copied in immaculate nasta‘līq script sprayed with gold, features a lavishly illuminated opening and five delicately rendered illustrations, with the original lacquered binding and leather filigree doublures. However, due to their fragile condition, a restorer reversed the boards so that the exteriors now feature the interiors, with what remains of the original exteriors preserved inside.
Incipit: (beginning) برگ ۱پ (folio 1b): الهی غنجهٔ امید بگشای * گل از روضهٔ جاپید نمای
Explicit: برگ ۱۵۳ر (folio 153a): زبانرا گوشمال خامشی ده * که هست از هرچه گویی خامشی به.
Colophon: برگ ۱۵۳ر (folio 153a): کتبه العبد الفقیر الحقیر محمد امین بن عبد الله فی شهور سنة ۹۵۷
Colophon: Completed by Muḥammad Amīn bin ‘Abd Allāh in 957 AH (1550–51 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.

Language(s): Persian

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: Textblock comprised of thin weight, ivory-coloured, straight and cross-grained, externally sized and polished paper probably handmade in the Safavid Empire with ~10 laid lines per cm and no discernible chain lines.
Extent: 154 folios, 2 flyleaves (ff. ii + 154 + ii).
Dimensions (leaf): 241 × 165 mm.
Dimensions (written): 152 × 76 cm.
Foliation: Foliated in modern pencilled Arabic numerals on the upper-left corners of the a sides, which skip one folio, 28a–28Aa, hence under by one.


Undetermined, but altered during restoration. Catchwords throughout most of the lower-left corners of the b sides.


Handle text with caution. In fair condition, with extensive water and mould damage at the head, and historical repairs throughout. Folios remargined around the illustrations on 19–20 and 104b.


Ruled in 1 and 2 columns with 14 lines per page. Ruled with a misṭarah hand guide.


Written in clear black nasta‘līq with gold subheaders by Muḥammad Amīn bin ‘Abd Allāh.


B. W. Robinson attributes the contemporaneous, mid-sixteenth century Safavid style of five small illustrations to Mashhad prior to the governorship of Prince Ibrāhīm Mīrzā, hence possibly during that of his predecessor, the Qizilbāsh Amīr Shāh Qulī Khān Ustājlū.


  1. Folio 42b:
    ‘Azīz visiting Zulaykhā's camp, in which she peers at him through a tent curtain.
    127 × 76 mm.
    Published: Robinson, Persian Paintings, colour plate IX.
  2. Folio 63b:
    Yūsuf sold into slavery, while Zulaykhā and three attendants watch from a window above.
    146 × 76 mm.
    Published: Robinson, Persian Paintings, p. 245.
  3. Folio 89a:
    Yūsuf tempted by Zulaykhā as two attendants watch from the windows.
    152 × 76 mm.
    Published: Robinson, Persian Paintings, p. 245.
  4. Folio 103b:
    Yūsuf bears a dish of fruit and enters where Zulaykhā sits enthroned surrounded by astonished companions, one of whom faints.
    152 × 76 mm.
    Published: Robinson, Persian Paintings, p. 246.
  5. 133b:
    Yūsuf stands before Zulaykhā in an indoor courtyard, accompanied by two attendants
    165 × 102 mm.
    Published: Robinson, Persian Paintings, p. 246.

Illumination: Folios 1b to 2a feature a delicately illuminated double-page opening consistent with mid-16th-century manuscripts. Additional section headings written in gold on scrollwork grounds, with decorated column dividers and closing colophon on folio 153a.

Inscriptions: Folio 1a bears the title written in naskh at top, with two undated Ottoman-era Arabic nasta‘līq inscriptions, one underneath the title by a former owner named Valī al-Dīn al-Ḥajj Aḥmad Pāshāzādah, underneath his seal impression (No. 1), and another by his son Muḥammad Sa‘d al-Dīn al-Ḥajj Aḥmad Pāshāzādah ibn Valī al-Dīn:
  1. ‘استصحبه العبد المذنب الفقیر
      ولی الدین مهر(؟) الحاج احمد
    غفر لهما ’
  2. ‘استصحبه العبد المذنب الفقیر
      محمد سعد الدین الحاج احمد پاشا
      زاده ابن ولی
    لهما ’
  1. The right doublure: ‘M. Silvestre de Sacy’ inscribed ‘282’
  2. The final left flyleaf b side (f. ivb): ‘Bibliotheca Lindesiana’ with the shelfmark ‘F/5’
  3. The left doublure: ‘Bland MSS 33’, with the name and number crossed out and ‘Persian’ and ‘23’ written aside.


Probably contemporary Safavid-era binding, with the boards subsequently reversed when restored, probably for former owner Silvestre de Sacy given that his bookplate appears on interior. Spine rebacked in medium-brown goatskin leather over the pasteboards. Edges hemmed in maroon goatskin leather with internal hinges of the same. The flap remains intact, albeit reverse with added hinges applied to the interior (formerly exterior) side to reshape them in the opposite direction. Endleaves of beige-coloured, heavy-weight, cross-grained, heavily flocked and toothy European wove paper (probably artists' drawing paper) added when restored. Blue and white silk chevron twined endbands at head and tail.

Originally, the exterior featured lacquered black lacquered covers feature finely painted gold medallions, pendants, corner pieces and arabesque scroll work, which due to their friable condition, a restorer reversed during rebinding to better protect them, hence they now appear as internal doublures. The original red leather doublures now appear on the exterior, painted with gold floral scrolls and decorated with cut leather filigree medallions, pendants, and cornerpieces overlaid on green and blue grounds, framed by surrounding strips and squares of green and yellow silk satin, overlaid with black and brown leather filigree, with areas now damaged or missing.

192 × 129 × 18 mm.

Handle binding with caution, in fair condition, with abrasion to the exterior. Stiff opening due to restoration. Boxed.

Folio 1a bears two black seal impressions, both intaglio-carved in nasta‘līq script.

1: An octagonal seal impression in four stacked nasta‘līq lines, triple-ruled, with the name of former owner Valī al-Dīn, above his inscription. 12 × 13 mm.

2: A rectanglular, partly legible seal impression in two stacked nasta‘līq lines, double-ruled. 12 × 22 mm.


Origin: Completed by Muḥammad Amīn bin ‘Abd Allāh in the Safavid Empire; 957 AH (1550–51 CE).

Provenance and Acquisition

Previously owned by two likely Ottoman-era individuals named Valī al-Dīn al-Ḥajj Aḥmad Pāshāzādah and his son Muḥammad Sa‘d al-Dīn al-Ḥajj Aḥmad Pāshāzādah ibn Valī al-Dīn as per their undated inscriptions and the former's seal impression on folio 1a.

Subsequently acquired by French orientalist Antoine-Isaac Silvestre de Sacy (1758–1838), as per his incription on his bookplate on folio 1a.

After his 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, (see Bibliothèque, Vol. III, Pt. 2 Manuscrits, no. 282), where an individual named 'Moore' purchased it.

Thereafter acquired by scholar Nathaniel Bland (1803–1865), who then either brought or sent it to 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.

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 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.

Custodial History

Exhibited in Gilded Word and Radiant Image at the John Rylands Library, sponsored by Altajir Trust, 9 Sept. to 21 Dec. 1992.


    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. 282.
    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].

Funding of Cataloguing

Iran Heritage Foundation

The John Rylands Research Institute

The Persian Heritage Foundation


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