Union Catalogue of Manuscripts from the Islamicate World

Persian MS 250 (The John Rylands Research Institute and Library, The University of Manchester)

Persian Manuscripts


Summary of Contents: An incomplete copy of the first book of the Mas̲navī-i Ma‘navī (Spiritual Couplets) by Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī (1207–1273). Part of a six-volume set (Rylands Persian MS 250–255) completed for the eldest son of the Mughal ruler ‘Ālamgīr I, Prince Muḥammad Mu‘aẓẓam Bahādur Shāh, who would later rule as Shāh ‘Ālam Bahādur I (r. 1707–1712). Two scribes named Sirāj al-Dīn ibn Sayyid Bayāzīd Kūrahvī Rūdawlī and ‘Abd al-Karīm ibn Muḥammad Ḥasan completed the individual books in different locations between 1695 to 1699 CE. The former finished this volume in Calcutta (Kolkata) on 11 Jumādá I, '38th regnal year [of ‘Ālamgīr I], (1106 AH, 28 Dec. 1694 CE).
Incipit: (basmala) برگ ۱پ (folio 1b): بشنو از نی چون حکایت میکند * و ز جدأیها شکایت میکند
Explicit: برگ ۶۲ر (folio 62a): با گرد ورا آر و آید نوا * کردتش باشد همیشه ز آن هوا
Colophon: برگ ۶۲ر (folio 62a): تمت دفتر اوّل مثنوی مولوی معنوی حضرت مولانا جلال الدین رومی قدس سره العزیز بعون الواجهی الفیاض و له الحمد ازلاً و ابداً و الصدقه علی خیر الوری ظاهراً و باطناً و علی الیه و صحبه الطیبین الطاهرین صاحب و مالکه آب گوهر بینش و آب جوهر آفرینش تکیه‌گاه مستمدان خواجه عنایت گو کروره نگار گرفت اقتدار ماهر شاهزاده فلک جاه محمد معظم بهادر شاه بخط خوریم الطالبا خاکبار نقرا سراج الدین کورهوی معموله نگر پرگنه رودولی سرکار و صوبه اوده بمقام کلکته عرف قطبایان (؟) بتاریخ یازدهم شهر جمادی الاولی سنه ۳۸ هنگامی که لشکر ظفرای حضرت ظل سجادریزه(؟) میدانست و...
Colophon: Completed by Sirāj al-Dīn ibn Sayyid Bayāzīd Kūrahvī Rūdawlī in Calcutta (Kolkata) in the 11 Jumādá I, '38th regnal year [of the Mughal Emperor ‘Ālamgīr], (1106 AH, 28 Dec. 1694 CE), and dedicated to Prince Muḥammad Mu‘aẓẓam, son of the Mughal Emperor ‘Ālamgīr I, who later succeeded his father as Shāh ‘Ālam Bahādur I (r. 1707–1712).

Micheal Kerney previously misidentified ‘Abd al-Karīm ibn Muḥammad Ḥasan, who completed Books 2 and 4 (Persian MS 251 and 254) as the copyist of the entire set.

For other copies of this work held in the Rylands, see Persian MS 17, 21, 72, 213, 236, 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.

Language(s): Persian

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: Texblock comprised of a mixture of straight and cross-grained, externally sized and polished, cream-coloured paper mixed with folios tinted a golden hue, probably handmade in the Indian subcontinent, with 9 laid lines per cm and no discernible chain lines.
Extent: 62 folios, 9 flyleaves (ff. v + 62 + iv).
Dimensions (leaf): 265 × 158 mm.
Dimensions (written): 206 × 110 mm.
Foliation: Foliation marked at top-right corners of the a sides in pencilled Arabic numerals when catalogued; however, note breaks within the text below under 'foliation'.


Collation altered when rebound, with the first gathering disordered, but originally primarily quaternions thoughout. 6IV(56)1III(62). Catchwords written at the lower-left margin by the gutter on the b sides throughout.


In fair to poor condition with extensive insect damage, historical repairs, especially at the start of the volume. Large rectangular cut-out on folio 1, top, likely to remove the names of former owners Sir Gore Ouseley (1770–1844) and Bengal indigo merchant John Harvey Danby (d. ca. 1830). Leaves missing between folios 1b and 2a and 6b and 7a.


Written in 1 to 2 columns with 19 lines in the centres, primarily couplets, which then proceeds to the top of the three-part margins which contain another 44 hemistichs, or 22 couplets. Ruled with a misṭarah hand guide.


Written primarily in black nasta‘līq with red subheaders by Sirāj al-Dīn ibn Bayāzīd Kūrahvī Rūdawlī.

Colophon on folio62a written in shikastah by the same scribe.

  • The fifth right flyleaf b side (f. vb) numbered No. 84 Vol. 1 at top, followed by a description of the work as The celebrated Poem composed by Molovi Jelal-uddin Rumi emphatically styled "Masnavi" or "the Poem". most probably in the hand of Sir Gore Ouseley, an attribution further attested by an unsigned pencilled notation, probably by Samuel Hawtayne Lewin, as it comports with other inscriptions in his hand found in other Rylands volumes (e.g. Persian MS 287, folio 1a, top.
  • Folio 1b, top, also bears what remains of Ouseley's clipped autograph, which despite alteration, match his intact signatures found in other Rylands manuscripts (e.g. Persian MS 147, folio 1b, top).
  • The upper right cover bears Indian sīyāq numerals that indicate a price of 60 Rupees for the entire six-volume set.
Bookplates: The left doublure: ‘Bibliotheca Lindesiana’ with shelfmark ‘2/G’, and ‘Bland MSS No. 470’.


Textblock repaired and resewn after suffering significant water and insect damage, at two unsupported stations. Edges trimmed and coloured yellow. Twined chevron endbands worked at head and tail in silver and possibly indigo silk threads. Rebound with very thin pasteboardsin full, tight-backed smooth goatskin leather. Due to prolonged exposure to moisture, the exterior now appears a mottled medium-brown, but the original maroon hue remains evident on the turn-ins. Internal doublures of the same goatskin leather, with the excess width put down as hinges attached to the first and last flyleaves, with strips of paper adhered vertically the joins. Earlier flyleaves of thin-weight, cream-coloured, heavily flocked handmade paper, and a comparatively bright, ivory-coloured, medium-weight, sturdy paper, added when restored, both probably handmade in the Indian subcontinent with ~8 laid lines per cm and few discernible chain lines.

Boards uniformly decorated together with the other volumes as a set, with recessed gilt paper onlays for the central scalloped mandorlas and detached pendants, but only the latter remains on the left board exterior. Two single gold ruled lines drawing vertically and horizontally across the centres of both boards, with a wide rule with single lines on either side surrounding the perimeters, also in gold, with the wider one repeatedly stamped with insular dots.

264 × 161 × 19 mm.

Handle with caution. In fair condition, with extensive staining, after exposure to prolonged moisture, especially at the spine and tail edge. Upper grain layer delaminated in areas. Insect damage to the upper headcap left the endband exposed the endband. The moisture caused the interior pasteboards to swell and delaminate internally, which resulted in the boards bulging, hence they now feel soft and flexible, with the right doublure separating at the fore-edge. Boxed.

Folios 1a and 8b bear black oval seal impressions, intaglio-carved in nasta‘līq script in two stacked lines, single-ruled, with the name of a former owner or associate, Faz̤l Allāh Shāh Muḥammad, and what may be a regnal year 6 underneath.

8 × 13 mm.


Origin: Completed by Sirāj al-Dīn ibn Bayāzīd Kūrahvī Rūdawlī in Calcutta (Kolkata); 11 Jumādá I, '38th regnal year [of ‘Ālamgīr I], (1106 AH, 28 Dec. 1694 CE).

Provenance and Acquisition

Previously owned or inspected by Faz̤l Allāh Shāh Muḥammad as per his seal impressions on folios 1a and 8b.

Subsequently acquired by indigo merchant Jonathan Harvey Danby (1767–1830), of Honiton, Devon, who constructed a large factory in Shikarpur, Nadia District (now in West
 Bengal) in circa 1790 to 1795 (this firm later evolved into Messrs. Robert Watson & Co., the preeminent Victorian-era subcontinental dyeworks), as per his name imprinted in relief-cut type at the top of folio 1b, albeit blackened out by a later owner, but nevertheless still evident under raking light.

Later obtained by Sir Gore Ouseley (1770–1844) as per what remains of his clipped-off signature on 1b, top—right, and an unsigned inscription identifying his prior ownership on folio the fifth right flyleaf b side (f. vb), likely in the hand of subsequent owner Samuel Hawtayne Lewin (1795–1840), as it comports with his hand as found in other Rylands volumes (e.g. Persian MS 287, folio 1a, top.

Evidently sold by Lewin's family after his death, then acquired by 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 2021 with reference to the volume, in consultation with Prof Mahmood Alam (English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad) regarding the colophon and scribe.


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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