Union Catalogue of Manuscripts from the Islamicate World

Persian MS 308 (The John Rylands Research Institute and Library, The University of Manchester)

Persian Manuscripts


Summary of Contents: This extremely rare, nearly complete volume entitled Lubāb al-Albāb (Kernels of the Intellects) by Sadīd al-Dīn Muḥammad ʻAwfī (fl. 1228) comprises the earliest-known anthology of Persian poetry. He composed it in two parts with twelve sections in which he compiles biolgraphical accounts of many early poets and contemporaries authors, together with selections of their works, unrecorded in other sources. The author apparently commenced the work at the request of the Ghurid-era governor of Multan, Nāṣir al-Dīn Qabāchah (fl. 1203–1228) and completed it in 618 AH (1221–22 CE).
Colophon: No colophon

A disruption in the text occurs between 323 to 324, since the catchword at the bottom of the former does not match the beginning of the latter. The missing pages must have included one with a subheader indicating the start of Chapter 10. Page 323 concludes with poems by Muḥsin Qazvīnī, mentioned towards the end of Chapter 9 in another incomplete volume of the work (Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Sprenger 318, see Sprenger and Pertsch catalogues), but then omits entries for Ibn Aḥmad Badrī Ghaznavī and Bihrūz Ṭa'irī at the end of the chapter as related in the other manuscript. Page 324 commences with lines by an unidentified poet, followed by Abū Naṣr Aḥmad bin Ibrāhīm al-Ṭāliqānī (omitted in Sprenger 318), then Amīr al-Shu‘arā’ Abū Abdullāh Muḥammad bin ‘Abd al-Malik Mu‘izzī, followed by Ḥakīm Sharaf al-Zamān Abū al-Maḥāsin Azraqī Haravī (fl. 11th c.) on page 336, the order of which comports with the other manuscript, so this volume does contains most of Chapter 10. Former owner John Bardoe Elliott (1785–1863) describes the rarity and value of this manuscript in his notes on the flyleaves. He then gave it to scholar Nathaniel Bland, who references this volume and provides a detailed overview of the work and its importance in his seminal essay, while E. G. Browne and M. Qazvini published a critical edition of the work based upon this manuscript in 1903–06.

Language(s): Persian
Pages 1–265
Title: نصف اول
Title: Part I
Incipit: (basmalla) صفحه‌ی ۱ (page 1): در توحید که از صدف معرفتش جوهریان فصاحت کردندی حاصل اعتراف آن بودی که...
Explicit: صفحه‌ی ۲۶۵ (page 265): تم النصف الأول من الكتاب بعون الله وتوفيقه
Pages 1-10
Title: Preface
Pages 10-16
Title: Chapter 1
Pages 16-19
Title: Chapter 2
Pages 19-21
Title: Chapter 3
Pages 21–24
Title: Chapter 4
Pages 24–65
Title: Chapter 5
Pages 65–157
Title: Chapter 6
Pages 157–266
Title: Chapter 7
Pages 265-609
Title: نصف دوم
Title: Part II
Incipit: (beginning) صفحه‌ی ۲۶۵ (page 265): رب یسیر وتم بالخیر، شکر و سپاس و حمد بی قیاس
Explicit: صفحه‌ی ۶۰۹ (page 609): ز خلق بر تو ثنا باد وز فلک احسانت ز بخت بر تو دعا باد وز ملک آمین رب العالمین
Pages 265-292
Title: Chapter 8
Pages 292-323
Title: Chapter 9
Pages 324–503
Title: [Chapter 10]
Pages 503–597
Title: Chapter 11
Pages 597–609
Title: Chapter 11

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: Central text and margins comprised of medium-weight brown, heavily flocked paper possibly handmade in India, inset within later margins of comparatively thin, cross-grained, bright ivory-coloured laid paper, also likely manufactured in the Indian subcontinent when restored.
Extent: 612 pages (306 folios, ff. iv + 304 + v)
Dimensions (leaf): 250 × 155 mm.
The dimensions of the written text varies throughout.

Paginated in Arabic numerals, omitting pages 0 to 1 (f. 1a–b) then starting on page 2 then on every other page on the upper-left corners of the attached margins, only repeating page 511 three times, so off by 3.


Remargined and resewn as primarily quarternions throughout, including the flyleaves.


Handle with caution. In fair condition. Extensive insect damage and historical repairs in a acomparatively dark paper to the original folios throughout. The restored margins also suffer from occasional insect damage.


Written in 1 to 2 columns with 19 lines per page. Ruled with a misṭarah hand guide.


Written in nasta'liq script in black, with some chapter titles, names of poets, and Arabic text in red.

Pages 274 to 287, 324 to 325, and 398 to 413 copied in a second, comparatively thin and angular nasta'liq hand.


Illuminated headpiece on page 1.

Table of Contents: listed on the first through fourth right flyleaves (ff. ia–iva) (commencing with the fourth), in the hand of former owner John Bardoe Elliott.
Marginalia: Marginalia in the hands of the two scribes and a third hand on almost every page.
  • The left flyleaf a side (f.ia) signed ‘J.B. Elliott’ at the conclusion of his table of contents.
  • Page 619: ‘Read at Patna June 1825 J.B.E.’
  • The the final right flyleaf b side (f.ixb) bears another description signed ‘J.B. Elliott’.
Bookplates: The left paste-down: ‘Bibliotheca Lindesiana’ with shelf mark 2/G, ‘Bland MSS No. 528’ with the name and number crossed out and ‘Persian’ and ‘308’ written aside, and ‘J. B. Elliott, Fortiter et Recte’.


Probably restored, remargined, and rebound in a hybrid British-Indian style in the Indian subcontinent in the early nineteenth century. Single-flexible resewing on four raised cords, edges trimmed, with twined chevron endbands worked in red silk and silver threads. Recovered in full red goatskin leather, without a flap (type III binding per Déroche). Endpapers bear a Britannia watermark on the left paste-down, and countermarked ‘Ruse and Turners 1818’ then owned and operated by partners Joseph Ruse, Richard Turner, and Thomas Turner at the Upper Tovil Mill, Maidstone, Kent

Boards blocked with a scalloped central mandorlas, detached pendants, and corners in blind.

260 × 149 × 50 mm.

Binding in good condition, although the spine appears concave, resulting from extensive use.

Accompanying Material

Notes on ivory-coloured European laid paper inserted between pages 239–240, then blue laid paper between 457 and 458 and 555 and 556, possibly in the hand of Bland or Browne.


Origin: Possibly India; undated, but likely completed between circa 1500 and 1700.

Provenance and Acquisition

Acquired by East India Company magistrate John Bardoe Elliott (1785–1863) who primarily lived in Patna where he retired and passed away. Apparently one of two volumes that he sent before 1847 to the scholar Nathaniel Bland (1803-1865), as reported in his essay.

After Bland's 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 concisely published as Bibliotheca Lindesiana, Hand-list of Oriental Manuscripts: Arabic, Persian, Turkish in 1898.

Revised and expanded by James White with reference to the manuscript 2017.

Manuscript description subsequently amended and enhanced by Jake Benson in 2022 with reference to the volume in hand.


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, and the Soudavar Foundation


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