Union Catalogue of Manuscripts from the Islamicate World

Persian MS 285 (The John Rylands Research Institute and Library, The University of Manchester)

Persian Manuscripts


Summary of Contents: This very rare copy of the Masnavī-yi Miṣbāḥ (Couplets of the Light) also known as the Miṣbāḥ al-Rashīdī (Lamp of Rashīdī) after its author, Rashīd al-Dīn Muḥammad Bīdvāzī (fl. late-15th century) Born in the village of Bidavaz near Mashhad in Khurasan, he later became a disciple of Shaykh ‘Abd Allāh Barzishābādī (1387–1467) of the Kubravīyah Sufi order. Inspired by the Masnavī-yi Ma‘navī (Spiritual Couplets) of Jalāl al-Dīn Rumī (1207–1273), the author devotes three sections to the themes of love, dissolution, and longing. He completed this poem in 852 AH (1488–89 CE).
Incipit: برگ ۱پ (folio 1b): ای بنامت کارها را افتتاح * نیست بی امر تو در امری فلاح
Explicit: برگ ۱۹۶پ (folio 196b): سوز و درد آمد قبول درگهت * میگشاید از نیاز ما رهت
Colophon: No colophon.
Language(s): Persian

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: Sized and polished, medium-weight, ivory-coloured paper, with faint laid lines, possibly manufactured in Iran.
Extent: 196 folios (i + 196 + i)
Dimensions (leaf): 205 × 130 mm.
Dimensions (written): 136 × 67 mm.
Foliation: Foliation pencilled in Arabic numerals on the upper-left corners of the a sides by the cataloguer.


Handle with caution. In poor condition. Previously water damaged. Gutters replaced on first 14 folios, with others extensively remargined. The cross-grained paper and tight binding restricts the opening of the gutters, resulting in breaks to the marginal ruling.


Written in 2 columns with 14 lines per page. Ruled with a misṭarah hand guide.


Written in nasta’līq script in black.


Folio 1b bears a finely illuminated headpiece.

Gilt marginal ruling outlined with thin black lines surrounds the text, with green and blue ruling on either side, with vertical narrow, double-ruled lines down the centres that divide the columns.

Marginalia: Many notes in various hands, some hastily inscribed, obliterated, with others comparatively clearly copied, albeit upside-down.
  • The right flyleaf b side (f. ib) ‘No. 7- Misbah Rashidi- The Garden of Rashidi’, unsigned, but likely in the hand of Sir Gore Ouseley as it comports with other inscriptions by him, with an adjacent number ‘102’ written in the top-right corner in pencil.
  • Folio 1a bears illegible scribbles adjacent to the seal impressions.
Sketch Folio 195b bears a crudely drawn stick figure. Bookplates Pasted Catalogue Entry:
  • The right doublure bears a pasted entry from an unidentified sale catalogue: ‘185 Mesbeh Rashidi- The Garden of Rashidi. A very beautiful MS. : it is written in double columns in fine Taalik, a line of gold being drawn around each column, and round the page a triple border of green, gold, and blue; the paper is even and finely polished, and there is an ornamented frontispiece. 8vo, 394 pp. 2l.2s.’
  • The left paste-down, bears the ‘Bibliotheca Lindesiana’ bookplate with shelfmark ‘2/J’.
  • The left flyleaf b side (f. iib) label ‘Bland MSS No. 540’


Bound in medium brown sheepskin leather over pasteboards, with later rebacked spine and board edges hemmed in dark red goatskin leather, and internal doublures of the same leather. The original binding likely once had a flap but then subsequently repaired without it (hence now a Type III binding as per Déroche).

Originally stamped in blind with a central medallion with floral scrollwork and detached pendants with a lotus design, and corners with the same, all stamped on recessed thin leather onlays, all now highly abraded. Rebacked spine panels paletted in gold with a circle-and-dart design with a fine rope tool on either side, and prominent lyres in the centres (the same appears on Persian MS 109). Titled ‘Misbah Reshidi’ on the spine with handle-letters in Latin script.

206 × 130 × 29 mm.

In poor condition, with extensive water damage, resulting in leather shinkage on the exterior that exposes the boards, with subsequent repairs along the spine and board edges delaminating.

Two types of seal impressions:

1: Folios 1a and 62a bear multiple illegible octagonal seal impressions, intaglio-engraved possibly with the name of ‘Alī in black.
26 × 26 mm.

Folios 95a and 98a bear two rectangular, intaglio-engraved seal impressions (the latter only partially) in black with the name of former owner or associate Muḥammad Kāẓim dated 1164 AH (1750–51 CE).
8 × 12 mm.


Origin: Possibly completed in Iran; undated, but before 1164 AH (1750–51 CE) as per the dated seal impressions of former owner or associate Muḥammad Kāẓim.

Provenance and Acquisition

Formerly owned or associated with an individual possibly named ‘Alī, as per seal impressions on folios 1a and 62a, then by one Muḥammad Kāẓim as per his seal impressed on folios 95a and 98a dated 1164 AH (1750–51 CE).

Later likely obtained by Sir Gore Ouseley, as per an unsigned inscription on the right flyleaf b side (f. ib).

Later owned 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 James White in 2018 with reference to the volume.

Physical description amended and record ammended and enhanced by Jake Benson in 2021


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).


    D. DeWeese, "The Eclipse of the Kubravīyah in Central Asia." Iranian Studies, Vol. 21, No. 1/2. (1988), p. 66.
    C. Rieu, Catalogue of the Persian Manuscripts in the British Museum, Vol. II. (London: British Museum, 1879), pp. 640–641.
    E. Sachau and H. Ethé, Catalogue of the Persian, Turkish, Hindûstani, and Pushtû manuscripts in the Bodleian Library Vol I. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1889), p. 784, no. 1268.

Funding of Cataloguing

Iran Heritage Foundation, the John Rylands Research Institute, and the Soudavar Foundation



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