Union Catalogue of Manuscripts from the Islamicate World

Persian MS 340 (The John Rylands Research Institute and Library, The University of Manchester)

Persian Manuscripts


Summary of Contents: A complete copy of the Sirr-i-Akbar, Tarjumah-'i Upnakhat (The Greatest Secret translated from the Upanishads), also known as the Sirr-i Asrār (Secret of Secrets), by Prince Dārā Shikūh (1615–1659), eldest son and intended successor of the Mughal ruler Shāhjahān I (b. 1592–1666 r. 1628–58), but then ultimately defeated and executed by his younger brother ‘Awrangzīb, whom would later rule as ‘Alāmgīr I (b. 1618, r. 1658–1707). A Persian translation of fifty Sanskrit Upanishads of the Four Vedas, Dārā completed the work with the help of Hindu pandits in Benares (Varanasi) over the course of six months and finished it on 26 Ramaz̤ān 1067 AH (8 Jul. 1657 CE). A scribe named Ḥāfiẓ Muḥammad ‘Azīm copied this manuscript from one collated by the Anand Rām Mukhliṣ (ca. 1699–1571) held in the royal library of the Nawwāb in Lucknow, at the behest of British orientalist, linguist, and the first translator of Upanishads into a Western language from Sanskrit, Sir William Jones (d. 1794). While undated, Jones notes that he received it on 3 May 1785, probably in Calcutta.
Patron, Former owner, Inscriber and Glossator: Sir William Jones, 1746–1794
Rubric: برگ ۱پ (folio 1b): ربی یسر و تمام بالخیر
Incipit: (beginning) برگ ۱پ (folio 1b): حمد ذاتی را که لفظه بای بسم الله در جمیع سماوی از اسرار قدم او والم ذلک الکتاب که در قران محید است اشاره باسم اعظماوست و جمیع ملایکهو کتب سماوی و انبا و اولیا مندرج درین اسمست و صلی الله علیه و سلام علی خیر خلقه محمد و آله واصحابه اجمعین. ما بعد چون فقیر بی اندوه محمد دارا شكوه در سنه یکهزار و پنجاه و یک هجری که بکشمیر...
Explicit: برگ ۳۲۶ر (folio 329a): ...بهستی خقیقی رسده رستگار جاودید کردند
Colophon: برگ ۳۲۶ر (folio 329a): تمت الکتاب بعون الملک العزیز الوهاب فی علم التوحید و التصوّف المسمی سر اکبر بید احقر الاضعف العباد الراجی الی رحمت الله الکریم حافظ محمد عظیم فی بلدة لکنو علی سبیل التعجیل و العجلة. تمام شد
Colophon: Completed by Ḥāfiẓ Muḥammad ‘Aẓīm in Lucknow.
Language(s): Persian

While the scribe does not indicate the exact date of completion, a note by the colophon in Jones' hand states that he received it as Critical edition published by Chand and Na'īnī published in Iran in 1957 and reprinted in 1961. Translated into Latin by Antuqueil Duperron in 1801–1802. as analyses of the text, see Chand, Hasrat, D’Onofrio, and Gandhi. For two copies of a chronicle composed by the same author that recounts the lives of various saints and holy men, see Rylands Persian MS 164 and 193.

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: Textblock of straight and cross-grained, externally sized and polished, ivoury-coloured paper probably handmade in the Indian subcontinent, with ~8 laid lines per cm and no discernible chain lines.
Extent: 329 folios, 18 flyleaves (ff. ix + 329 + ix).
Dimensions (leaf): 223 × 192 mm.
Dimensions (written): 174 × 114 mm.
Foliation: Pencilled Arabic numerals added to the upper-left corners of the a sides when catalogued.


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


Text in good condition.


Written in 1 column with 15 lines per page. Ruled with a misṭarah hand guide.


Copied in clear black nasta‘līq script with red subheaders by Ḥāfiẓ Muḥammad ‘Azīm.

Marginalia: Copious notes throughout in the hand of Sir William Jones.
  • The first right flyleaf a side (f. ia) signed:
    ‘S. H. Lewin, 1831
    Bot at the sale of
    Lady Jones's books’ by former owner Samuel Hawtayne Lewin, who adds:
    ‘Sir W.m Jones mentions this MS. in Works 8.vo Ed.n Vol. 13 p. 366
    and gives Extracts—’.
  • Folio 329a, by the colophon, bears three dated notes in Sir William Jones's hand:
    ‘Negligently Ccollated amd corrected by Rájá Anandrám,
    a learned Pandit, agent for the Minster
    of the Vazeír 'Asafuddaulah, at Lac'hnaú,
    whence it was sent by Col. Polier,
    and recevied by me at Ra∫sapaágla,
    3 May

    A second note underneath adds: ‘Góverdhana informs me that He
    Po∫se∫es the Sanscrĭt Original
    of Ten of this work, called Upanishads
    21 Dec. 1786
    adding ‘So do I
    and more 1793
    In miniscule pencile, Samuel Hawtayne Lewin adds:
    ‘See Sir W. Jones Works
    Vol. 13th 8.vop. 366’.
Bookplates: The left pastedown: ‘Bibliotheca Lindesiana’ with pencilled shelfmark ‘1/H’, and ‘Bland MSS No. 560’ with the name and number crossed out and ‘Persian’ and ‘340’ written aside.


Probably rebound in Britain, possibly for subsequent owner Samuel Hawtayne Lewin.

Sewn on three raise cords, with endpapers of British-made laid paper with ~8 laid lines per cm and ~28 mm between chain lines, applied over the right flyleaves that commence the volume, but added as a folio surrrounding the left flyleaves, evidently to reattach them after becoming loose. Laced into pasteboards, edges trimmed and coloured bright yellow, with single-core decorative front-bead endbands sewn at head and tail. Boards covered in full reverse calfskin leather.

Twisted impressions by the spine bands reflect the binder tying up the volume in a lying press, not hand-tooling. The second panel down bears the title ‘UPANISHAD’ paletted in gold.

232 × 204 × 50 mm.

Handle binding with caution. In fair, but stable condition, with abrasion to the exterior, bumped lower corners, and broken tailcap.


Origin: Completed for Sir William Jones in Lucknow; undated, but before 3 May 1785 CE, when Jones, in a note by the colophon on 329a, states that he received the volume from his friend Antoine Polier (1741–1795).

Provenance and Acquisition

After Jones death, his wife Lady Anna Maria Jones (1748–1829) inherited the volume, then after her death, the London firm of R. H. Evans (1778–1857) sold it on 20 May 1831 (lot 436), to bookseller John George Cochrane (1781–1852), who likely acted as an agent on behalf of Chancery Court Clerk and Royal Asiatic Society member Samuel Hawtayne Lewin (1795–1840), for whom he evidently also obtained other ex-Jones volumes (e.g. Rylands Persian MS 187 and 240; see Lawrence, 'Building a Library', pp. 34, 70, Appendix 3).

After Lewin's death, his family evidently sold his manuscripts, largely then obtained by scholar Nathaniel Bland (1803–1865) for his library at Randalls Park, Leatherhead.

After Bland's death, London bookseller Bernard Quaritch (1819–1899) sold his oriental manuscripts to Alexander Lindsay, 25th Earl of Crawford (1812–1880) in June, 1866, paid in two instalments of £450 and £400, and then 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.

Record Sources

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

Manuscript description by Jake Benson in 2023 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.


Funding of Cataloguing

Iran Heritage Foundation

The John Rylands Research Institute

The Persian Heritage Foundation



Comment on this record

Please fill out your details.

How are we using your feedback? See our privacy policy.

See the Availability section of this record for information on viewing the item in a reading room.