Union Catalogue of Manuscripts from the Islamicate World

Persian MS 314 (The John Rylands Library, The University of Manchester)

Persian Manuscripts


Summary of Contents: This incomplete, initial portion of the Ka‘bah-i ‘Irfān (The Ka‘bah of Gnosis), chronicles the lives and works of medieval Persian poets until the 14th century, but then abruptly stops with Yūsuf bin Naṣr al-Kātib. However, the original, complete work likley comprised three full volumes concerning later poets. Former owner British orientalist and emmisary Sir Gore Ouseley probably acquired it in India together with others now held in the Rylands collections.
Rubric: برگ ۱پ (folio 1b): دیباچه این نسخه موسم کعبه عرفاتن که انتخاب عرفاتست مبنی بر سه رکن حنان و منان و دیان در ذکر شعرا از متقدمین و متوسطین و متاخرین.
Incipit: (basmala) برگ ۱پ (folio 1b): و من دخله کان آمنا در کعبه عرفان عرفاتست ستایش و نیایش سزای سپاس بیقیاس و حمد بیحد و عدد احدیست واحد که ارکان جود و حجر الاسود حریم وجودش بمثابه عرش عظیم بیمثال و مناظر کلام قدیم بی زوال منشا عرفان ادم در کعبه عرفات بل منشی.
Colophon: برگ ۴ر (folio 4a): چهارشنبه شمراز هجریه * سیوم ماه ربیه الثانی ۱۰۳۶.
Rubric: برگ ۹پ (folio 9b): رکن اول از نسخه‌‌‌ کعبهٔ ‌عرفات موسوسم سخبان در ذکر قدما.
Incipit: عرصه حرف الف عرفه غوث الاغواث محیطی بس طابی شیخ ابو یزید بسطامی...
Explicit: برگ ۲۳۳ر (folio 233a): کنار مردم دیده در ز روی همچو بستانش * نگردد وهم را پیدا نشانی است از دهان او.

Note that what appears to be a colophon at the end of the introduction on 4a, Wednesday, 3 Rabī‘ II 1036 AH (22 Dec. 1626 CE), indicates the date of inception by the author, not completion of this manuscript. The hand of the volume closely comports with another copy held in the Malek Library and Museum (no. 1393.04.05324/000) formerly held in the Mughal royal library.

Language(s): Persian

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: Textblock of two types of cross-grained, ivoury-coloured paper probably handmade in the Indian subcontinent, one of comparatively thin weight, with ~10 laid lines per cm, the other of medium-weight and ~8 laid lines per cm, and neither with discernible chain lines.
Extent: Undertermined folios, 1 flyleaves (ff. i + 267).
Dimensions (leaf): 246 × 140 mm.
Dimensions (written): 175 × 70 mm.
Foliation: Foliated in pencilled Arabic numerals on the upper-right corners of the a sides throughout when catalogued, including the final flyleaf.


Undetermined, but probably quaternions throughout. Catchwords throughout most of the lower-left corners of the b sides.


In fair condition, with moderate water and insect damage and historical repairs throughout.


Written in 1 to 2 columns with 21 lines per page. Ruled with a misṭarah hand guide.


Written in clear black nasta‘līq with subheaders in red.


Illumination: Folios 1b bears elements of a recylced header pasted together as a pastiche, while 4b also bears an applied scalloped domed headpiece with gilt palmette foliate scrollwork on an ultramarine ground and an uninscribed central cartouche, and vertical radiating lines, also possibly recycled from another volume.

Ruling: vertical column and horizontal section dividers and external margins ruled in gold outlined with thin internal single and external double black lines, and surrounded by another single blue line.

Table of Contents: Names of poets listed on folios 4b to 8a Inscriptions:
  • right flyleaf b side (f. ib) bears the title in Persian, possibly in the hand of
  • Folio 1a bears a price of ‘25 Rs’ at top, and a tughra with the name of ‘Ṣāliḥ’ dated 1209 AH (the same also found on Persian MS 94).
Bookplates: Left doublure: ‘Bibliotheca Lindesiana’ with pencilled shelfmark ‘2/H’, and ‘Bland MSS No. 534’ with the name and number crossed out and ‘Persian’ and ‘314’ written aside.


Likely rebound in the Indian subcontinent in the late 18th to early 19th century. Resewn at two stations, unsupported. Edges trimmed, and twined chevron endbands worked in pink and green silk threads at head and tail. Covered in partial dark reddish-brown goatskin leather over pasteboards in two pieces that overlap on the spine. Board interiors lined with a brighter maroon goatskin leather doublures.

Board decorated with central vertical rectangle repeatedly blocked in gold upon separate pieces of tan goatskin leather, inset within the centres repeat panels

247 × 148 × 41 mm.

Handle with caution. Binding in fair condition, with coints cracking, and external abrasion.


Origin: Probably completed in the Indian subcontinent after Wednesday, 3 Rabī‘ II 1036 AH (22 Dec. 1626 CE).

Provenance and Acquisition

Formerly owned by one Ṣāliḥ, as per his dated notation on folio 1a.

Evidently acquired in the Indian subcontinent by British orientalist and emissary Sir Gore Ouseley, who signed folio 1b above the illuminated headpiece.

Subsequently acquired by scholar Nathaniel Bland (1803–1865) for his library at Tracy Park, Leatherhead, after whose death, London bookseller Bernard Quaritch (1819–1899) sold his oriental manuscripts to Alexander Lindsay, 25th Earl of Crawford (1812–1880) in 1866, and moved to Bibliotheca Lindesiana at Haigh Hall, Wigan.

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, Manchester.

Record Sources

Bibliographical description based on an index created by Reza Navabpour circa 1993, derived from a manuscript catalogue by Michael Kerney, circa 1890s, concisely published as Bibliotheca Lindesiana, Hand-list of Oriental Manuscripts: Arabic, Persian, Turkish, 1898.

Manuscript description by Jake Benson in 2022 with reference to the volume in hand, and in consultation with Shahla Farghadani, University of Michigan, regarding the identification of the work in comparison with related manuscripts.


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.


    C. A. Storey, Persian Literature: A Bio-bibliographical Survey, Vol. 1 Pt. 2 (London: Luzac & Co., 1953), pp. 761–762.

Funding of Cataloguing

Iran Heritage Foundation and The John Rylands Research Institute


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