Union Catalogue of Manuscripts from the Islamicate World

Persian MS 236 (The John Rylands Research Institute and Library, The University of Manchester)

Persian Manuscripts


Summary of Contents: This nearly complete, unsigned, and undated copy of the Mas̲navī-i Ma‘navī (Spiritual Couplets) by Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī (1207–1273) contains all six books but omits all preceding prefaces. An anonymous scribe originally wrote all 30,265 couplets over the centres of pages previously masked off and finely sprayed with gold ink (ghubār), to which illuminators then added the surrounding gold marginal ruling illuminated headers at the start of each book. Extensive repairs and blank pages between each book suggest the scribe likely originally completed six separate volumes that a subsequent owner had restored and rebound together as one volume.
Incipit: (beginning) برگ ۱پ (folio 1b): بشنو از نی چون حکایت میکند * و ز جدأیها شکایت میکند.
Explicit: برگ ۳۸۱ر (folio 381a): با گرد ورا آر و آید نوا * کردتش باشد همیشه ز آن هوا.
Colophon: برگ ۳۸۱ر (folio 381a): تمت الکتاب بعون ملک الوهاب حضرت مثنوی مولوی رومی علیه [ا]لرحمه.
Colophon: Colophons unsigned and undated in all six books.

The text extends beyond the usual ending with additional verses posthumously appended by Rūmī's son Sulṭān Valad.

Language(s): Persian

For other copies of this work held in the Rylands, see Persian MS 17, 21, 72, 213, 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: Book One
Title: دفتر الاوّل
Title: Daftar-i Avvāl
Title: Book Two
Title: دفتر دوّم
Title: Daftar-i Duvvūm
Title: Book Three
Title: دفتر سیوم
Title: Daftar-i Sīyūm
Title: Book Four
Title: دفتر چهادم
Title: Daftar-i Chahārum
Title: Book Five
Title: دفتر پنجم
Title: Daftar-i Panjum
Title: Book Six
Title: دفتر شیشم
Title: Daftar-i Shīshum

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: Written on a combination of straight and cross-grained, thin-weight, ivory-coloured, paper, externally sized, and polished, likely handmade in the Indian subcontinent, with ~1 mm. between laid lines and few discirnible chain lines.
Extent: 380 folios, 4 flyleaves (ff. ii + 380 + ii).
Dimensions (leaf): 250 × 162 mm.
Dimensions (written): 180 × 92 mm.
Foliation: Foliated in pencilled Arabic numerals on the upper-left corners of the a sides when catalogued, omitting folio 173 so over by one. Former owner Adam Clarke (ca. 1762–1832) evidently miscounted 756 pages, inscribed upon folio 381b.


Primarily quaternions throughout, with occasional binions and triternions indicating they probably originally comprised separate volumes. Some folios tipped together in the gutters when repaired and rebound. 8IV(64)1IV+1(74)3IV(114)1II(119)6IV(268)1IV+1(277)1IV(185)1IV+1(294)1IV+1(304)1III(310)3IV-1(342)1II(346)2IV(370)1II(374)1IV-1(381)Catchwords present at the lower-left corners of the b sides.


Handle with caution. In fair condition, with extensive cut-outs and infills on the margins repairs to inner quires in the gutters. Extensive mould/damp damage at the end throughout.


Written in 1 to 4 columns with 19 lines per page. Ruled with a misṭarah hand guide.


Primarily written in black nasta‘līq script with red subheaders.


Illumination:The start of each book on folios 1b, 65b, 120b, 195b, 246b, bear illuminated headers.

The centres of all pages finely sprayed with gold (ghubār) with the surrounding margins masked off.

Ruling: Marginal and columnar ruling thoughout in gold outlined in thin black single and double lines, with outer margin outlined in thick black.

  • The first right flyleaf a side (f. ia) bears a price of ‘£7-17-6’ on the upper-right corner, then ‘Nº 7’ probably in the hand of former owner Adam Clarke, together with a Persian and English inscriptions underneath also in his hand:

    ‘ سی هزار دو صد و شست و پنج بیت است. در این کتاب مثنوی جلالالدین رومي ’

    (‘There are three thousand two hundred and sixty five verses in this book of the Mas̱navī of Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī.’)

    ‘30265 Couplets.’

  • Folio1a bears a description of the volume, signed underneath, by former owner Joseph Warton, dated 1780, and also signed by Adam Clarke underneath, dated 1807.
  • Folio 381a bears an obliterated ownership note below the colophon; however, another indicating someone purchased it on ‘18 Rajab’, albeit without a year, remains, written upside-down at lower-right:

    In Persian: ‘ روز هیجده ماه رجب امر حساب اتباع شد. ’

  • Folio 381b also probably inscribed by Adam Clarke on separate pieces of paper, then the margins double-ruled in red:

    At top-right, in red ink that matched the double-ruled lines: ‘Pages 756’

    In Persian: ‘ سی هزار دو صد و شست و پنج بیت است. ’

    (‘There are three thousand two hundred and sixty five verses.’)

    Underneath: ‘30265 Beits.’

  • Various numbers appear on the first left flyleaf a side (f. iiia), that pertain to various sales (the last one, later crossed out, corresponds to J.B.B. Clarke's catalogue entry pasted at the top-left corner):

    ‘DD 130’


    Nº 120

Bookplates and Pasted Items:
  • The first right flyleaf a side (f. ia) bears the pasted entry from J.B.B. Clarke's catalogue, and ‘Bland MSS No. 457’.
  • The left pastedown: ‘Bibliotheca Lindesiana’ bookplates, with the shelf mark ‘1/A’.


Unsupported resewing at two stations. Twined chevron endbands in indigo silk and silver-wrapped threads, the latter now tarnished. Covered in full black goatskin leather over pastebaords, with the board interiors lined with dark maroon red goatskin leather doublures.

Boards bears onlays of entral mandorlas, detached pendants, and cornerpieces blocked in gold. Single vertical rules lines connect the central onlays, while double-lines connect the corners and surround the perimeters, all in gold, with similar single and double rulings on the interior doublures.

252 × 169 × 52 mm.

Handle binding with caution. Exterior leather extensively deteriorated and friable, onlay decoration delaminating and breaking, and joints cracking. Headband missing and tailband broken. Boxed.


Folio 381a, to the left of the colophon, bears an obliterated, partial rectangular seal impression, single ruled.

Accompanying Material

A glassine envelope contains a separated cornerpiece gilt paper onlay retreived from within the text when catalogued.


Origin: Possibly completed in the Indian subcontinent; undated, but probably 18th century CE.

Provenance and Acquisition

Formerly owned by English theologian and literary critic Rev. Joseph Warton (1722–1800) in 1780, as per his signed description of the volume on folio 1a.

Later acquired in 1806 by Methodist theologian Rev. Adam Clarke (ca. 1762–1832), as per his inscription on folio 1a. After Clarke's death, his son Joseph Butterworth Bulmer Clarke, (ca. 1797–1854) inherited the volume and described it a catalogue of his manuscript library published in 1835 (no. 120), then offered it for sale through the London firm of Sotheby & Son on 20 June 1836 when bookseller Thomas Thorpe (1791–1851) purchased it for £4-5-0 (p. 80, no. 566).

Presumably purchased from Thorpe by scholar Nathaniel Bland (1803-1865), after whose death London antiquarian dealer Bernard Quaritch (1819–1899) sold his library 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.

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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