Union Catalogue of Manuscripts from the Islamicate World

Persian MS 255 (The John Rylands Research Institute and Library, The University of Manchester)

Persian Manuscripts


Summary of Contents: A complete copy of Book Six 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. The latter finished this volume in Kabul on Friday, 2 Ṣafar in the 43rd regnal year [of ‘Ālamgīr I] (1111 AH, 3 Jul. 1699 CE).
Incipit: (basmallah) برگ ۱پ (folio 1b): مجلد ششم لدفترهای مثنوی و تبیان معنوی که مصباح ظلام و هم و شبهت و خیالت و شک و  زیبت باشد و این مصباح را با حسن حیوانی ادراک نتوان کرد.
Explicit: برگ ۴۰ر (folio 40a): در دل من آن سخن زان میمنه‌ست * رانک از در جناب دل روزنه‌ست
Colophon: برگ ۴۰ر-۴۰پ (folio 40a–40b): تمت الکتاب بعون الملک الوهاب علی یدی العبد الضعیف المحتاج الی رحمه ربه غفران خوریم الطلبا سراج الدین ابن سید بایزید کورهوی معموله پرگنه ردولی سرکار و صوبه اوده بجهته یادگاری مشفقی مکرمی منبع فیض و حمایت میان خواجه عنایت گردیده محل بادشاهزاده عالم و عالمیان بهادر شاه در عمل صوبه داری بلده کابل سمت اختتام یافت.تمت الکتاب بعون الملک الوهاب علی یدی العبد الضعیف المحتاج الی رحمه ربه غفران خویدم الطلبا سراج الدین ابن سید بایزید کورهوی معموله پرگنه ردولی سرکار و صوبه اوده بجهته یادگاری مشفقی مکرمی منبع فیض و حمایت میان خواجه عنایت گردیده محل بادشاهزاده عالم و عالمیان بهادر شاه در عمل صوبه داری بلده کابل سمت اختتام یافت. [۴۰پ] و دیم من صفر فی یوم الجمعه سنه جلوس ۴۳ حمداً الله و مصلیاً علی نبیه محمد و آله الطیبین الطاهرین رحمة الله لمن نطر فیه و لمن قراء منه ولمن دعا لکاتبه بالرحمة و الغفران و الصلوة علی نبیه محمد و اله اجمعین برحمتک یا ارحم الراحمین. قد تم کتابتي بعون الوهاب * امید که باشد همگی صدق صورت * ور سهو و خطای نشده باشد واقع * رب اغفر لي إنك انت التواب.
Colophon: Completed by Sirāj al-Dīn ibn Bāyāzīd Kūrahvī Rūdawlī, in Kabul on Friday, 2 Ṣafar in the 43rd regnal year [of ‘Ālamgīr I] (1111 AH, 03 Jul. 1699 CE).

The volume opens with a brief ornate rhyming prose dedicated to an unnamed ḥākim (governor); however the colophon explicitly identifies him as a Prince Muḥammad Mu‘aẓẓam Bahādur Shāh, son of the Mughal Emperor ‘Ālamgīr I, who later succeeded his father as Shāh ‘Ālam Bahādur I (r. 1707–1712). The poem itself commences in the top margin, immediately after a basmalla in red. The text of the book ends at the top of the lower margin of folio 40a, followed by the colophon that continues on to 40b.

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, paper mixed with folios tinted a salmon pink hue, probably handmade in the Indian subcontinent, with 9 laid lines per cm and no discernible chain lines.
Extent: 40 folios, 7 flyleaves (ff. iv + 40 + iii).
Dimensions (leaf): 260 × 154 mm.
Dimensions (written): 203 × 112 mm.
Foliation: Foliation marked at top-right corners of the a sides in pencilled Arabic numerals by the cataloguer.


Primarily quaternions thoughout. 1IV-1(7)4IV(40). Catchwords written at the lower-left margin by the gutter, or lower-left corners on the b sides throughout.


In fair condition, with water and insect damage, and many subsequent historical repairs throughout the volume. Small, jagged rectangular cut-out from the upper corner of folio 1, likely to remove the names of former owner Sir Gore Ouseley (1770–1844), with two impressions of the name of another former owner, Bengal indigo merchant John Harvey Danby (d. ca. 1830), blacked out in the header of 1b.


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 black nasta‘līq swith red subheaders by Sīrāj al-Dīn bin Sayyid Bāyāzīd Kūrahvī.

  • The fourth right flyleaf b side (f. ivb) numbered No. 84 Vol. 6 at top, most probably in the hand of Sir Gore Ouseley (1770–1844), that despite a subsequent owner cutting out his signature, nevertheless matches his inscriptions in other manuscripts.
  • Folio 1 also bears the transliterated title and volume number in Ouseley's hand, with a neatly copied summary of the contents in nasta‘'līq miniscule.
Bookplates: The left doublure: Bibliotheca Lindesiana with shelfmark 2/G, and Bland MSS No. 474.


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 left board and 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 and 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 originally uniformly decorated together with the other volumes in the set, with recessed gilt paper onlays for the central scalloped mandorlas and detached pendants; however, none remain. Remnants of a paper label adhered to spine, with the volume number written in Persian on the right board exterior in gold ink in nasta‘līq script.

262 × 159 × 16 mm.

Handle with caution. Very tight opening, only to about 45º. In fair condition, with extensive staining after exposure to prolonged moisture, especially at the spine and tail edges. Upper grain layer abraded in areas. The moisture caused the interior pasteboards to swell and delaminate internally, and forced the boards to bulge and buckle, with the doublure of the left board separating on the fore-edge.


Origin: Completed by Sirāj al-Dīn ibn Bāyāzīd Kūrahvī Rūdawlī in Kabul; Friday, 2 Ṣafar in the 42nd year of the Mughal Emperor ‘Ālamgīr's reign, hence 1109 AH (14 Aug. 1697 CE).

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 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 his unsigned numbering on the fourth right flyleaf b side (f. ivb) and what remains of his clipped-off signature on 1b, top—right, which despite alteration, match his intact signatures found in other Rylands manuscripts (e.g. Persian MS 147, folio 1b, top), 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 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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