Union Catalogue of Manuscripts from the Islamicate World

Persian MS 343 (The John Rylands Research Institute and Library, The University of Manchester)

Persian Manuscripts


Summary of Contents: A nearly complete, illustrated copy of the Nuzhat al-Asfār (Promenade of Travels) by an enigmatic author named Muḥammad Samarqandī, which he dedicated to the Ottoman ruler Sulṭān Meḥmed II (b. 1432 r. 1444–1446; 1451–1481). Comprised of 17 chapters, the author drew inspiration from fables such as Kalīlah va Dimnah to compose this vivid prose narrative featuring a dispute between mankind and animals. Regrettably unsigned and undated, the circumstances of this manuscript's completion remain unclear, but it may date to circa 1600 CE, and no other copies of this work appear to survive.
Incipit: برگ ۱پ (folio 1b): حمدی که مرکب تیزکام وهم سالهای نامعدود بسرحد ابتداء آن نرسد
Explicit: برگ ۷۷پ (folio 77b): غافل میروی وهیچ اندیشه نیز ترا دامن گیر نمیشود
Colophon: No colophon.

The author dedicates his text to ‘Sulṭān Muḥammad Iskandar al-ThānīʿUthmānī’, meaning the Ottoman ruler Sulṭān Meḥmed II (b. 1432 r. 1444–1446; 1451–1481).

Language(s): Persian
1. 3b
Title: Chapter One: The reason for the dispute between the animals and mankind.
2. 17a
Title: Chapter Two: King Pīrāst Seeks counsel with his vizier.
3. 19b
Title: Chapter Three: The beasts seek counsel and send ambassadors to the kings of the animal.
4. 20b
Title: Chapter Four: An ambassador reaches the lion and seeks help.
5. 23b
Title: Chapter Five: On the qualities of the proposed ambassador.
6. 24b
Title: Chapter Six: The Ambassador of the Beasts reaches the birds.
7. 26a
Title: Chapter Seven: The Ambassador of the Beasts reaches the bees.
8. 26b
Title: Chapter Eight: The Ambassador of the Beasts reaches the simurgh.
9. 29a
Title: Chapter Nine: The Ambassador of the Beasts reaches the dragon.
10. 31b
Title: Chapter Ten: The Ambassador of the Beasts reaches the serpent.
11. 32a
Title: Chapter Eleven: the cricket’s sermon.

Note that the conclusion of Chapter 11 and commencement of Chapter 12 appear missing between folios 34b and 35a.

13. 39b
Title: Chapter Thirteen: The King of the Jinn sits in judgement on the third day.
14. 40a
Title: Chapter Fourteen: Concerning the multitude of human kings.
15. 41a
Title: Chapter Fifteen: The address of Yaʿsūb, Amīr of the Bees.
16. 43b
Title: Chapter Sixteen: On why the jinn obey their kings with such deference.
17. 58a
Title: Chapter Seventeen: The King of the Fairies sits in judgement on the fourth day.

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: Thick, polished laid paper.
Extent: 78 folios, 2 flyleaves (ff. i + 78 + i).
Dimensions (leaf): 235 × 160 mm.
Dimensions (written): 161 × 110 mm.
Foliation: Unfoliated


Primarily quaternions througout. 9IV(72)1III(78). Catchwords on the lower-left sides throughout.


Handle text with caution. In fair condition, with historical repairs, particularly at the beginning.


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


Copied in black naskh with red subheaders.


Illustrations: Depictions of the various characters throughout.

Inscriptions: Folio 1a:
  • Top: at left, ‘Nº 21.’
  • Middle: pencilled note: ‘Bought at Sacender’s saleroom.’
    ‘نزهة الاسفار by محمد سمرقندی for سلطان محمد عثمانی’
Bookplates: The left pastedown: ‘Bibliotheca Lindesiana’ with pencilled shelfmark ‘F/6’, and ‘Bland MSS No. 563’, with the name and number crossed out and ‘Persian’ and ‘343’ written aside.


Probably restored and rebound for former owner Alexander Lindsay before 1880. The volume retains earlier unsupported sewing at two stations, with the edges trimmed and chevron endbands twined in possibly faded golden yellow and white silk threads at head and tail. Later wove endpapers, likely made in Europe, added when restored. Recovered in medium-brown goatskin leather on the spine and hemmed along the edges of the boards, with the original sides remounted on the exteriors.

The original sides bear blind central scalloped mandorlas featuring floral scrollwork designs, with thick-and-thin blind fillet lines along the outer margins with added triangles at the corners. Subsequently blind-tooled after restoration with mitred single fillets on the added leather.

243 × 177 × 40 mm.

Handle binding with caution. Boards yawning with the remounted exterior panels worn and cracked.

Two types of black, intaglio-carved seal impressions.

1: Folios 1b, 3a, 76b, and 77b bear oval seal impressions in three oblique naskh lines, unruled, with of the name of a former owner or associate named Muḥammad, which possibly reads:
 ‘صاحبه کرت(؟) الدین محمد’
10 × 19 mm.

2: Folio 77b bears a circular seal impression in three stacked nasta‘līq lines, double-ruled, of the name of a former owner or associate named ‘Us̱mān which possibly reads:
 ‘حسبی الله وحده وکفی عثمان’
14 mm. diam.


Origin: Possibly completed in Greater Iran; undated, but probably 16th century.

Provenance and Acquisition

Subsequently acquired by scholar Nathaniel Bland (1803–1865) for his library at Randalls Park, Leatherhead. After his 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 James White with reference to the volume in 2018.

Record subsequently corrected, augmented, and enhanced by Jake Benson in 2022 with reference to the manuscript.


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. II, Pt. 3 (London: Luzac & Co., 1977), p. 444, no. 774 (11).

Funding of Cataloguing

Iran Heritage Foundation

The Soudavar Memorial Foundation

John Rylands Research Institute


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