Union Catalogue of Manuscripts from the Islamicate World

Persian MS 316 (The John Rylands Research Institute and Library, The University of Manchester)

Persian Manuscripts


Summary of Contents: Author Shīr ʻAlī Khān Lūdī (fl. 1657–90) completed his Mirʼāt al-Khayāl (Mirror of the Imagination) in 1102 AH (1690–91 CE) according to a chronogram in the final line. It comprises an encyclopedia encompassing the lives and works of 136 poets — including fifteen female authors — interspersed with treatises on varied topics such as literature, music, medicine, physics, and ethics. The Mughal Prince Shāh Shuja‘ (d. 1661) emplyed the author's father, 'Alī Amjad Khān (d. 1673–74), in Bengal, which allow his son to study under the poet Faraḥ Ḥusayn Nāẓim (d. ca. 1653–64). The author subsequently found employment with the Mughal nobleman Sayyid Shukrallāh Khān, Fawjdār of Dehli in 1090 AH (1679–80 CE), so this work documents many authors whom he knew personally. While the colophon does not indicate when and where the scribe copied this manuscript, it appears likely finished in India, using British paper handmade in Kent dated 1814 and 1817, hence it must date after then.
Incipit: برگ ۱پ (page 1): ای ز تو بند بر زبان نطق سخن سرای را * فکر تو باعث جنون عقل گره گشای را.
Explicit: صفحه‌ی ۴۶۹ ولی شماره‌ی «۴۶۵» نشان می‌دهد (page 469, but marked '465'): صورت تاریخ اتمامش توان بی‌ضرده دید * گر تامل پرده بردارد زمرآت الخیال.
Colophon: صفحه‌ی ۴۶۹ ولی شماره‌ی «۴۶۵» نشان می‌دهد (page 469, but marked '465'): تمام شد نسخه مرآت الخیال من تصنیف شیر خان لودی.
Language(s): Persian

The explicit contains a clever chronogram explained by scholar and former owner of this manuscript Nathaniel Bland (1803-1865) in his 1848 essay (see p. 142). Bland explains how by 'withdrawing the veil from the mirror of imagigation' the author instructs one to subtract the numerical euqivalent of the word pardah (veil), or 211, from the title of the work that totals 1313, it yields 1102 AH (1690–91 CE) as the as the date of completion. This manuscript appears complete, albeit with variations in comparison to the lithograph edition published by Muḥammad Malik al-Kuttāb Shīrāzī in Bombay (Mumbai) in 1324 AH (1906 CE). For full descriptions of the content, see Rieu and Sachau and Ethé's catalogues.

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: Pages 1–427 comprised of cross-grained European handmade paper with chain lines 23mm and laid lines less than 1mm apart, watermarked with a heraldic design dated 1814; however, pages 428–465 of straight-grained English handmade paper watermarked ‘C Willmott 1817’, made by Charles Willmott (d. 1840) who operated the Sundridge Mill, Kent. Right flyleaf (f. ia) watermarked ‘Balston & Co’ of papermaker William Balston (1759–1849) at Springfield Mill in Maidstone, Kent and the left flyleaf bears what appears to be the opposite portion of the same insignia.
Extent: 469 pages (pp. i + 469 + i)
Dimensions (leaf): 245 × 185 mm.
Dimensions (written): 210 × 110 mm.

Paginated on the upper corners in Hindu-Arabic numerals in black ink. Note that the page numbers begin with the incipit on folio 1b, then stay in sequence until pages 360 to 469, when they revert backwards by four, hence appear marked as ‘356 to 465’.


Catch words on b side of nearly every folio.


Good condition.


1 column throughout. Number of lines varies. Ruled with a misṭarah hand guide.


Pages 1–263 copied in a clear and refined nasta'līq primarily in black with the names of poets, Arabic passages, and chapter headings in the margins written in red.

Pages 264–465 written in comparatively hurried nasta‘līq hand with shikastah ligatures in black with names of poets, Arabic passages, and chapter headings in the margins in red.

Table of Contents: written in Persian in a different hand on both sides of the right flyleaf.
Bookplates: left paste-down, ‘Bibliotheca Lindesiana’ with shelfmark ‘2/F’, and ‘Bland MSS No. 536’, with the name and number crossed out and ‘Persian’ and ‘316’ written aside.


Possibly bound in either India or Britain in a European manner. Sewn on three cords laced into the pasteboards, without a flap and with squares along the edges. European front bead endbands, possibly in white, red, and blue silk threads at head and tail. Half bound, tight-backed, in a European-style, red-brown goatskin leather over pasteboards with predominantly indigo blue Stormont marbled paper sides.

Blind tooled rope designs with a decorative wheel on the boards. Gilt panel bands with a double-line pallete and decorative palette at head and tail. Titled in handle letters ‘TUSKIRREH LODI’.

257 × 200 × 33 mm.

Binding in good condition, but with restricted opening to the gutters.


Origin: Probably completed in India after 1817 CE on the basis of Wilmott's dated watermark.

Provenance and Acquisition

Formerly owned by orientalist William Cureton (1808–1864), then acquired by scholar Nathaniel Bland (1803-1865), London antiquarian bookseller Bernard Quaritch (1819–1899) his oriental manuscripts were sold through in 1866 to Alexander Lindsay, 25th Earl of Crawford (1812–1880).

Purchased by Enriqueta Rylands (1843–1908) in 1901 from James Ludovic Lindsay, 26th Earl of Crawford (1847–1913).

Bequeathed by Enriqueta Rylands (1843–1908) to the John Rylands Library, in 1908.

Record Sources

Bibliographical description based on an index created by Reza Navabpour circa 1993. Identification of provenance based on manuscript catalogue by Michael Kerney, circa 1890s.

Manuscript description completed by James White in 2017.

Record subsequently ammended and enhanced by Jake Benson in 2021 with reference to the volume.


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).


    Nathaniel Bland, 'On the earliest Persian Biography of Poets, by Muhammad Aúfi, and on some other Works of the class called Tazkirat ul Shuârá', Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol. IX. (1848), pp. 140–142, no. V.
    Shīr ʻAlī Khān Lūdī, Taz̲kirah-ʼi Mirʼat al-Khayal. Bombay Muḥammad Malik al-Kuttāb Shīrāzī, 1324 AH (1906–1907 CE).
    Shīr ʻAlī Khān Lūdī, Taz̲kirah-ʼi Mirʼat al-Khayal. Tehran Rawzanah, 1377 AP (1998–1999 CE).
    D. N. Marshall, Mughals in India: A Bibliographical Survey. Vol. 1. Manuscripts (Bombay: Asia Publishing House, 1962), p. 444, no. 1693.
    C. Rieu, Catalogue of the Persian manuscripts in the British Museum, Vol. I (London: British Museum, 1879), pp. 369–371 [British Library Or. 231, Add. 16724, 16725, and 16729].
    E. Sachau and Hermann Ethé, Catalogue of the Persian, Turkish, Hindûstani, and Pushtû manuscripts in the Bodleian Library Vol I. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1889), cols. 207–211, no. 374 [Ouseley Add 2 and Elliott 397].

Funding of Cataloguing

Iran Heritage Foundation

The John Rylands Research Institute

The Soudavar Memorial Foundation


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