Union Catalogue of Manuscripts from the Islamicate World

Persian MS 37 (The John Rylands Research Institute and Library, The University of Manchester)

Persian Manuscripts


Summary of Contents: This Persian translation of the ʻAjā’ib al-Makhlūqāt va Gharāʼib al-Mawjūdāt (Wonders of Creation and Oddities of Existence), Qazvīnī's famous medieval Arabic cosmography, contains 405 illustrations that depict a wide range of curious, animated, and amusing subjects. While incomplete, images in the volume closely comport with another completed in 845 AH (1441 CE) in Muzaffarid-era Shiraz, now held in the British Library (Add. 23564), so this manuscript also likely dates to that time, hence the earliest of five copies of this work held in the Rylands.
Author and Translator: Anonymous
Incipit: (basmalla) برگ ۳پ (Folio 3a): الفاظ سید بشر علیه الصلاة و السلم آمده است که اربا الاشیاب کماهی اشاره بدین معنیست و هرچند که فکر درین معنی بیشتر کنند یقین و تحقیف بیشتر حاصل شود.
Explicit: برگ ۲۹۷پ (Folio 297b): اگر پوست یربوع را بگاه بیا کنند و درخانه بیآویزند موشان همه‌‌‌‌‌‌‌ٔ از آن بگریزند، بعراد با زیت...
Colophon: No colophon
Language(s): Persian

For other copies of this work held in the Rylands, see Persian MS 1, 2, 3, 4, and 374.

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: The original paper appears of a combination of unevenly formed, thin buff-coloured heavily flocked and bright cream-coloured cross-grained papers, probably handmade in Greater Iran with ~8 laid lines per cm and no discernible chain lines. Extensively remargined and repaired with two types of European papers, a thin-eight ivory-coloured sheets partially watermarked with a crest and sunburst and words ….TAN ~ 125 H. GAE, possibly GAETANO(?) and another comparatively heavily flocked stock with 7 laid lines per cm and 24 mm between chain lines.
Extent: 299 folios, inclusive of the flyleaves (ff. 299).
Dimensions (leaf): 248 × 160 mm.
Dimensions (written): 182 × 110 mm.
Foliation: Modern pencilled Arabic numeral on the upper-left corners of the a sides, inclusive of the endpapers.


Undetermined, but likely originally primarily quaternions throughout, subsequently altered when repaired. Catchwords throughout on the lower-left corners of the b sides.


Handle with caution. In fair condition, with losses infilled, the original folios remargined or repaired in the gutters and other areas throughout.


Written in 1 column with 21 lines to the page. Ruled with a miṣṭārah hand guide.


Written in black naskh with subheaders in red, blue, and gold.


The volume contains 405 illustrations, a majority of the small, early 15th century style of Muzaffarid-era Shiraz. Another similar, complete manuscript held in the British Library (Add. 23564), contains 453 images. This volume likely contained another 21 illustrations on folios now missing folios at the beginning and end of this volume, as well as another 11 or so that adorned the replaced folios 49 to 56. Considered together, when first completed the volume potentially contained 436 illlustrations totalled.

Illustrations: For a complete description, see Robinson, pp. 1–69, nos. 1–404.

Ruling: Margins and images ruled in gold, outlined in black, surrounded by a single blue line.

Bookplates: The Left pastedown: Bibliotheca Lindesiana with shelfmark F/5, Bland MSS No. 47 with the name and number crossed out and Persian and 37 written aside.


Probably restored and rebound in 19th-century Iran in a mīnāyī (enamelled) binding.

Unsupported resewing at two stations, edges trimmed and twined chevron endbands in pale green and pink silk threads worked at head and tail. Right flyleaves of highly polished European papers, possibly watermarked CP 1811, with 9 laid lines and 24 chain lines per cm added when restored. Pastedowns of hand-painted ochre sheets prepared using European paper substrates. Pasteboards covered in a 'two-piece' Qajar-era binding, in heavily-grained black goatskin leather that overlaps on the spine, with headcaps trimmed off, without squares and a flap (Type III binding per Déroche).

Recessed decorations features blocked central scalloped mandorlas with flanking medallions, and surrounding margins in gold, with bear brightly hand-painted flowers and foliage, known as mīnāyī (enamelled) due to the shiny appearance of the paint. For another example of this style held in the Rylands, see Persian MS 854, and Mihan, as well as Bayānī and Ardakānī.

251 × 172 × 52 mm.

Handle binding with caution. In fair condition, with extensive abrasion to the exterior decoration, page openings restricted to the gutter margins, and a pronounced concave spine.


Origin: Probably completed in Shiraz; undated, but probably circa 1440 due to comparable features found in another dated volume held in the British Library (Add. 23564).

Provenance and Acquisition

Formerly part of the collection of the Persian scholar Nathaniel Bland (1803-1865) purchased it and brought it to his library at his home, Randalls Park, in Leatherhead, Surrey.

After Bland's death, London antiquarian 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 in 1908 to the John Rylands Library.

Record Sources

Bibliographical description based upon B. W. Robinson, Persian Paintings in the John Rylands Library: A Descriptive Catalogue and an index by Reza Navabpour circa 1993, derived in turn from a manuscript catalogue by Michael Kerney, circa 1890s concisely published as Bibliotheca Lindesiana, Hand-list of Oriental Manuscripts: Arabic, Persian, Turkish in 1898.

Manuscript description by Jake Benson in 2022 with reference to the volume in hand, and in consultation with Dr. Vivek Gupta, Jesus College, University of Cambridge.


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.

Custodial History

Exhibited in Gilded Word and Radiant Image, sponsored by Altajir Trust, 9 Sept. to 21 Dec. 1992.

Digital Images

Manchester Digital Collections (full digital facsimile).


    I. Afshār, ʿAǰāʾeb al-Maḵlūqāt: ii Persian Works, Encyclopædia Iranica Vol. I, Fasc. 7 (1985), pp. 696–699.
    M. Bayānī, and Ḥ. M. Ardakānī, Kitābshināsī-yi Kitāb'hā-yi Khaṭṭī. ([Tehran]: [Dānishgāh-i Tihrān], 1353 SH [1974 CE]), p. 39.
    A. F. L. Beeston, Catalogue of the Persian, Turkish, Hindûstânî, and Pushtû Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, Part III (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1954), p. 15 no. 2506 [Bodl. Ms. Pers. d. 61].
    P. Berlekamp, Wonder, Image, and Cosmos in Medieval Islam. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011.
    C. Brockelmann, Geschichte der Arabischen Literatur (1892–1902) GAL I.478; GAL Supp. I. 878.
    C. Brockelmann, Brockelmann in English: The History of the Arabic Written Tradition Online Translated by J. J. Witkam. (Leiden: Brill 2017), pp. 882–883, no. 12.
    V. Gupta, 'Remapping the World in a Fifteenth-Century Cosmography: Genres and Networks between Deccan India and Iran', Indo-Persian Manuscripts special issue of Iran: Journal of the British Institute of Persian Studies, Vol. 59, No. 2 (2021): pp. 151–168.
    Rukn al-Dīn Humāyūnfarrukh, Rāhnimā-yi Kitāb Vol. 14, Nos. 4–6 (1350 SH [June–Sept. 1971]): p. 245.
    S. Mihan 'The Journey of The Gift of the Noble' Voyages and Travel Accounts in Historiography and Literature, Vol. 1. Edited by Boris Stojkovski (Novisad: Trivent, 2020), pp. 245-263.
    C. Rieu, Catalogue of the Persian manuscripts in the British Museum, Vol. II (London: British Museum, 1881), p. 464 [BL Add. 23564].
    C. Rieu, Supplement to the Catalogue of the Arabic Manuscripts in the British Museum (London: British Museum, 1894), pp. 473–474 nos. 698–699 [BL Or. 1527 and Or. 4217].
    B. W. Robinson, Persian Paintings in the John Rylands Library: A Descriptive Catalogue (London: Sotheby Parke Bernet Publications, 1980), pp. 35–69, nos. 1–404.
    K. Rührdanz, 'Illustrated Persian ‘Ajā’ib al-Makhlūqāt Manuscripts and their Function in Early Modern Times', Society and Culture in the Early Modern Middle East: Studies on Iran in the Safavid Period, Edited by Andrew J. Newman (Leiden: Brill, 2003), pp. 33–47.
    K. Rührdanz, 'An Ottoman Illustrated Version of al-Ṭūsī’s ‘Ajā’ib al-Makhlūqāt', Mélanges Prof. Machiel Kiel, Edited. A. Temimi et al. (Zaghouan: Fondation Temimi pour la recherche scientifique et l'information 1999), pp. 455–475.
    K. Rührdanz, 'Zakariyyā al-Qazwīni on the Inhabitants of the Supralunar World: From the First Persian Version (659/1260–61) to the Second Arabic Redaction (678/1279–80)'. The Intermediate Worlds of Angels: Islamic Representations of Celestial Beings in Transcultural Contexts: Beiruter Texte Und Studien 114, edited by Sara Kuehn, Stefan Leder, and Hans-Peter Pokel (2019): pp. 384–402.
    E. Sachau and H. Ethé, Catalogue of the Persian, Turkish, Hindûstani, and Pushtû manuscripts in the Bodleian Library Vol I (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1889), col. 399, no. 397 [Bodl. Ouseley 312].
    C. A. Storey, Persian Literature: A Bio-bibliographical Survey, Vol. II Pt. 1 (London: Luzac & Co., 1953), p. 126.
    N. Titley, Persian Miniature Painting and its Influence on the Art of Turkey and India: The British Library Collections (London: British Library, 1983), pp. 87–91, no. 238 [BL Add. 23564].
    T. Zadeh, Wonders and Rarities: The Marvelous Book That Traveled the World and Mapped the Cosmos. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2022.

Funding of Cataloguing

Iran Heritage Foundation

The John Rylands Research Institute


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