Union Catalogue of Manuscripts from the Islamicate World

Persian MS 253 (The John Rylands 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), the fourth of a six-volume set together with Persian MS 250, 251, 252, 254, and 255. While a scribe named Sirāj al-Dīn ibn Bāyāzīd Kūrahvī Rūdawlī completed other volumes in Calcutta, the scribe did not complete a colophon for this volume. However, the hand comports with that of ‘Abd al-Karīm ibn Muḥammad Ḥasan who completed Persian MS 251 Since the set bears dedications to Prince Muḥammad Mu‘aẓẓam Bahādur Shāh, son of the Mughal Emperor ‘Ālamgīr I, who later succeeded him as Shāh ‘Ālam Bahādur I (r. 1707–1712), it may be commissioned by him..
Scribe: ‘Abd al-Karīm ibn Muḥammad Ḥasan عبد الکریم ابن محمد حسن
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, but probably completed by ‘Abd al-Karīm ibn Muḥammad Ḥasan in Shahjahanabad (Old Delhi) in circa 7 Sha‘bān, 40th regnal year (of the Mughal Emperor ‘Ālamgīr, hence 1108 AH, 1 Mar. 1697 CE), since the hand comports with the colophon of Persian MS 251. Note that Micheal Kerney mistakenly identified this scribe as completing the entire set; however, he only completed two volumes of the set.

Note fifth-to-last and final lines in the explicit within the central panel do not appear in standard editions, while the third-to-last line typically closes the volume. The scribe also added two additional lines before his unsigned and undated colophon closing the volume.

Language(s): Persian

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: Texblock comprised of cream-coloured paper, probably handmade in India, with 9 laid lines per cm and no discernible chain lines.
Extent: 54 folios (ff. iv + 54 + iv)
Dimensions (leaf): 264 × 158 mm.
Dimensions (written): 204 × 122 mm.

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 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, in a two-part format starting with 19 lines in the centre, then proceeding around the margins, hence 64 lines total.


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.


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. Retains the original flyleaves of thin-weight, cream-coloured, flocked paper probably handmade in India, with ~8 laid lines per cm and few discernible chain lines. Hinges of ivoury-coloured, medium-weight, sturdy paper, also probably handmade in India, the same stock as the later flyleaves added to the other volumes in the set. Paper label adhered to spine bears the Arabic letter vāv (و), with the volume number written in Persian on the right board exterior in gold ink in nasta‘līq script.

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 of the onlays remain.

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 in Shahjahanabad (Old Delhi), India; in about 40th year of the Mughal Emperor ‘Ālamgīr's reign, hence circa 1108–1109 AH, 1697–1698 CE), very likely by ‘Abd al-Karīm ibn Muḥammad Ḥasan as the hand matches the colophon of Persian MS 251.

Provenance and Acquisition

Previously owned by one Faz̤l Allāh Shāh Muḥammad as per his seal impression in Persian MS 250, folio 1a, the first volume of the set.

Probably acquired in India, by indigo merchant Jonathan Harvey Danby (1767–1830), of Honiton, Devon, who constructed a large factory in Shikarpur, Nadia District in what is now West Bengal in circa 1790 to 1795 (this firm later evolved into Messrs. Robert Watson & Co., (this firm later evolved into Messrs. Robert Watson & Co., the preeminent Victorian-era subcontinental dyeworks), as per his name imprinted at the top of folio 1b, albeit blacked out by a later owner.

Later obtained by Sir Gore Ouseley (1770–1844) as per an unsigned inscription identifying his hand on folio the fifth right flyleaf b side (f. vb) of Persian MS 250.

Subsequently 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.


The manuscript is available for consultation by any accredited reader, see Becoming a Reader for details. Please contact uml.special-collections@manchester.ac.uk for further information on the availability of this manuscript.

Funding of Cataloguing

Iran Heritage Foundation and The John Rylands Research Institute


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