Union Catalogue of Manuscripts from the Islamicate World

Persian MS 317 (The John Rylands Library, The University of Manchester)

Persian Manuscripts


Summary of Contents: Tuḥfah-ʼi Sāmī (Gift of Sām), composed by Prince Sām Mīrzā (1517–1567), a younger half-brother of the Safavid Persian ruler Shāh Tahmāsp I (r. 1524–1576). Likely first completed in the early 1550s, this copy appears to be one the earliest known, completed in 977 AH (1570 CE) just eleven years after the author's execution, together with most of his family members, on the orders of the Shah. He divides the work into seven sections containing over 700 entries recounting the lives of political, literary, religious, and cultural figures. Since it includes accounts of contemporaries that the author knew personally, it makes it an invaluable resource on early Safavid Iran. The author's literary style influenced subsequent writers, and many historians, anthologists, and biographers extensively cite and quote him.

The text appears complete, albeit significantly differs from printed editions.

Incipit: لله الحمد قبل كل كلام بصفات الجلال والاكرام
Explicit: این نوشتم تا بر آید روزگار من نمانم خط بماند یادگار
Colophon: Folio 150a: Completed on 22 Ramaz̤ān 977 AH (10 March 1570 CE). Likely the third earliest copy in the United Kingdom, after two others in the British Library, Add. 24,362, dated 969 AH (1561 CE) and Or. 3490, dated 976 AH (1569 CE) as described in Charles Rieu's catalogue.
Language(s): Persian, with some English and one page of Arabic.

In 1798, French orientalist Silvestre de Sacy (1758–1838) highlighted the importance of the text, delineated the individuals mentioned, and translated key passages.Ḥasan Vaḥīd Dastgirdī (1881–1942) published the first complete edition in Iran in 1936, and Theodore Beers recently conducted a detailed analysis of the work for his doctoral dissertation in 2020.

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: Copied on polished, cream-coloured cross-grained handmade paper. Many historical repairs.
Extent: 150 folios (ff. i + 150 + i)
Dimensions (leaf): 235 × 135 mm.
Dimensions (written): 155 × 80 mm.
Foliation: Foliated in Hindu-Arabic numerals in the upper-right corners in black ink.


Collation undetermined due to condition. Catchwords throughout on the lower-left corners of the b sides.


Poor condition. Insect damage and extensive historical repairs throughout, especially in the gutters. Text block was oversewn by machine, in many cases by the edge of the gutter margin, so the opening of the folios is highly restricted. Folio 150 extensively repaired, and a conspicuous rectangle by the colophon surrounded by smudges likely where the seal of a former owner was impressed but then cut out and repaired.


1 and 2 columns. 16 lines of text per page.


Copied in black ink in a neat nasta'liq hand, with the names of poets, poetic forms, and Arabic passages marked in red.

Unrelated Arabic text on folio 150b copied in vowelled naskh script.

  • Signed on the right paste-down and on the first right flyleaf a side (f. ia) by former owner ‘W. Chatfield’, possibly William Chatfield (1815-1902). and also by ‘S. H. Lewin’, (Samuel Hawtayne Lewin) in 1823.
  • The first right flyleaf a side (f. ia) also bears a French description ‘"Histoire des poetes ecrite en Persan par Sam Mirza fils de Schah Ismael Safi premier roi de Perse de la dynastie des Sofis. Voy. le notice par S. de Sacy (Not. et Extraits des MSS du roi t.IV p. 273)."’
  • Folio 1a bears several Persian library notations, one in red ink, partly obliterated, stating that the manuscript entered the library of Nawāb Ṣāḥib ʿAlī Khān Bahādur in 1187 AH (1773 CE), adjacent to two illegible impressions of the same oval seal.
  • Folio 150b features an abraded, unrelated Arabic text in on a Shi'ite religious topic.
  • The left doublure bears the ‘Bibliotheca Lindesiana’ bookplate with shelf mark ‘2/G’, and ‘Bland MSS No. 537’.


Textblock trimmed, resewn, and rebound in the late 18th to early 19th century in European-style full brown spattered calfskin leather over pasteboards. Textblock subsequently stitched by sewing machine and added buckram cloth guards and spine rebacked in brown goatskin leather with boards reattached with internal modern brown buckram cloth hinges.

Single gilt fillet lines tooled on the margins of the boards, while the edges bear gilt diagonal lines.

245 × 155 × 34 mm.

handle with caution. In poor condition. Boxed.

Accompanying Material

The volume contains loose folded sheets in English listing the poets, in the hand former owner Nathaniel Bland (1803–1865), held in a polyester folder inside the left board, as well as another note between folios 104b–105a.


Origin: Possibly Northern India; completed 22 Ramaz̤ān 977 AH (10 March 1570 CE)>.

Provenance and Acquisition

The manuscript entered the library of one Nawwāb Ṣāḥib ‘Alī Khān Bahādur in 1187 AH (1773 CE) as per an inscription on folio 1a.

Subsequently acquired by an unknown owner, who described the volume in French on the first right flyleaf a side (f. ia).

Subsequently acquired by one ‘W. Chatfield’, possibly William Chatfield (1815-1902), and Samuel Hawtayne Lewin (1795–1840) in 1823.

Later acquired by the Persian scholar Nathaniel Bland (1803–1865), after whose death London bookseller 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 then conisely published as Bibliotheca Lindesiana, Hand-list of Oriental Manuscripts: Arabic, Persian, Turkish, 1898.

Revised and expanded by James White in 2018 with reference to the manuscript.

Further amended and enhanced by Jake Benson in 2021, also with reference to the manuscript, and in consultation with Dr. Theodore Beers, Freie Universität Berlin.


The manuscript is available for consultation by any accredited reader, see Becoming a Reader for details. Please contact uml.special-collections@manchester.ac.uk for further information on the availability of this manuscript.


Funding of Cataloguing

Iran Heritage Foundation and The John Rylands Research Institute

The Soudavar Foundation


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