Union Catalogue of Manuscripts from the Islamicate World

Persian MS 253 (The John Rylands Research Institute and Library, The University of Manchester)

Persian Manuscripts


Summary of Contents: A complete copy of Book Four 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 other individual books in different locations between 1695 to 1699 CE. While unsigned and undated, the hand of this volume comports with Persian MS 251, completed by the latter in Shāhjahānābād (Delhi) on 7 Sha‘bān, '40th regnal year [of ‘Ālamgīr I]' (1108 AH, 1 Mar. 1697 CE)..
Incipit: (basmallah) برگ ۱پ (folio 1b): * که گذشت از مه به نورت مثنوی ای ضیاء الحق حسام الدین توی
برگ ۵۴پ (folio 54b): ختم کن والله اعلم بالوفاق * آینه چو راست کود بی نقاق
برگ ۵۴پ (folio 54b): * تا که عین آینه‌ات سازد خدا که نما عما(؟) عرش را همچون سما | عرش چه چرخ چه ای ذو لباب * فهم کن و الله اعلم بالصواب | دفتر چهارم شد این ساعت تمام * هم بعون ایزد یحی العظام
Colophon: Unsigned and undated metrical colophon simply declares completion of the volume. The hand comports with the colophon of Persian MS 251, hence probably completed by ‘Abd al-Karīm ibn Muḥammad Ḥasan in Shahjahanabad (Old Delhi) in circa in late 1108 AH (mid-1697 CE).
Language(s): Persian

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.

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: Texblock comprised of a mixture of straight and cross-grained, externally sized and polished, cream-coloured paper, probably handmade in the Indian subcontinent, with 9 laid lines per cm and no discernible chain lines.
Extent: 54 folios, 8 flyleaves (ff. iv + 54 + iv).
Dimensions (leaf): 264 × 158 mm.
Dimensions (written): 204 × 122 mm.
Foliation: Foliation marked at top-right corners of the a sides in pencilled Arabic numerals by the cataloguer.


Primarily quaternions thoughout. 6IV(48)1III(54). Catchwords written at the lower-left margin by the gutter, or lower-left corners on the b sides throughout.


In fair condition, with extensive water and insect damage with many subsequent historical repairs throughout the volume. Small cut-out on folio 1 likely to remove the names of former owners Sir Gore Ouseley (1770–1844) and Bengal indigo merchant John Harvey Danby (d. ca. 1830).


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


Written primarily in nasta‘līq script in black, with subheaders in red, probably by ‘Abd al-Karīm ibn Muḥammad Ḥasan, since the hand of the colophon matches Persian MS 251.

Inscriptions: The third right flyleaf b side (f. iiib) inscribed No. 84 Vol. 4 at top, most probably in the hand of Sir Gore Ouseley (1770–1844), albeit with his signature evidently cut out by a subsequent owner, that nevertheless matches his inscriptions in other manuscripts.
Bookplates: Left doublure, Bibliotheca Lindesiana with shelfmark 2/G, and Bland MSS No. 473.


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, with the one at the head largely abraded.. Rebound with very thin pasteboardsin full, tight-backed smooth goatskin leather, originally maroon-coloured but due to prolonged exposure to moisture now appears a mottled medium-brown, but the original 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 a strip of paper adhered over top to disguise the join. 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, the latter also added as flyleaves to other volumes in the set when restored.

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 none remain. Paper label adhered to spine bears the Arabic letter vāv (و), and the volume number also appears written on the right board exterior, both in gold nasta‘līq. When originally lined up on the shelf, all of the letters would read:

266 × 161 × 16 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 abraded in areas. The moisture caused the interior pasteboards to swell and delaminate internally, which resulted in the boards bulging and buckling, hence they now feel soft and flexible.


Origin: Probably completed by ‘Abd al-Karīm ibn Muḥammad Ḥasan, possibly in Shāhjahānābād (Dehli); circa late-1108–1109 AH (mid-1697–1699 CE), as the hand matches the colophon of Persian MS 251.

Provenance and Acquisition

Previously owned or inspected by Faz̤l Allāh Shāh Muḥammad as per his black oval seal impressions in the first volume of the set, Persian MS 250, 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 above the opening header in other volumes, blackened out by a later owner, but still evident under raking light.

Later obtained by Sir Gore Ouseley (1770–1844) as per his as per his unsigned numbering on the fourth right flyleaf b side (f. ivb), his clipped-off signature at the top-right of folio 1b, further attested by an unsigned pencilled notation declaring his ownership underneath similar numbering in the first volume of the set, Persian MS 250, fifth right flyleaf b side (f. vb), probably by subsequent owner 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.

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.


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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