Union Catalogue of Manuscripts from the Islamicate World

Persian MS 4 (The John Rylands Research Institute and Library, The University of Manchester)

Persian Manuscripts


Summary of Contents: This illuminated and illustrated anonymous 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, appears incomplete. It nevertheless contains some 200 illustrations in a refined late Mughal style. The volume consists of two distinct physical segments: an initial portion from folios 1b to 126b, which appears to date to the late Mughal era, with the text completed in a very neat nasta‘līq script, which bears a number of repairs, while the remainder appears in a comparatively hasty hand on entirely different paper stock devoid of restoration. That may indicate that a later patron completed what had been either an unfinished or damaged incomplete manuscript. The colophon indicates the second unidentified scribe completed the volume on 8 Ẕī-al-Qa‘dah, 45th year of the reign of Shāh ‘Alām II (19 Feb. 1804 CE).
Author and Translator: Anonymous
Title: ʻAjāyib al-Makhlūqāt
Title: عجايب المخلوقات
Title: عجايب المخلوقات و غرائب الموجودات
Title: ʻAjā’ib al-Makhlūqāt va Gharāʼib al-Mawjūdāt
Title: ʻAjā’ib al-Makhlūqāt wa Gharāʼib al-Mawjūdāt
Rubric: کتاب عجایب المخلوقات
Incipit: (basmala) برگ ۱پ (folio 1b): العظمة لک و الکبریاء لجلال لک اللهم یا قایم الذات و مفیض الخیرات واجب الوجود واهب العقول و فاطر السموات والارض مبدی الحرکة و الزمان و مبدع الخیر و المکان و جاعل النور و الظلمات محرک الافلاک الدایرات م مزینها بالنجوم الثوابت السیارات مقالون فانواع الحیوانات و اضاف الحادن و النبتات دام حمد و جل ثناوک وتعال ذکرک و تقدرست اسماءک فلک الابتداء و الیک الانتهاء و بقدرتک مکنونات الاشیاء احصی صناء علیک.
Explicit: برگ ۱۹۳ر (folio 193a): ...شنیدم که در عهد کنانیان(؟) رو میان طیار و آنرا مبارک نقط مبارک
Colophon: برگ ۱۹۳ر (folio 193a): این کتاب را ختم کردم والله لاصواب تمام شد تسخه عجایب المخلوقات و صلی علیه و سلم سید یا محمد و اله اجمعین روز جمعه بوقت دوپهر(؟) تایخ هشتم ذیقعده سنه ۴۵ جلوس هجری شاه عالم با شاه غزی.
Colophon: Second portion of the text completed on 8 Ẕī-al-Qa‘dah, 45th year of the reign of Shāh ‘Alām II (19 Feb. 1804 CE).
Language(s): Persian

For other copies of this work held in the Rylands, see Persian MS 1, 2, 3, 37, and 374.

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: Textblock of two types of paper, both probably handmade in the Indian subcontinent. Folios 1b to 126b comprised of thin-weight very fine and evenly-formed cross-grained, externally sized and polished, cream-coloured with ~10 laid lines per cm and no discernible chain lines. Thereafter a comparatively thin and translucent, straight-grained, externally sized and polished, ivoury-cloured stock, with ~8 laid lines per cm and no discernible chain lines.
Extent: 193 folios, 8 flyleaves (ff. iii + 0 + v).
Dimensions (leaf): 321 × 200 mm.
Dimensions (written): 240 × 133 mm.
Foliation: Hindu-Arabic numerals added to the upper-left corners of the a sides throughout, with many subsequently trimmed, and others supplements in a pencilled hand on the final folios..


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


Text in good condition, with very moisture and insect damage and historical repairs to the initial portion.


Written in 1 column with 19 lines per page. Ruled with a misṭarah hand guide.


Written in clear black nasta‘līq with red subheaders.


The volume features an illuminated double-page opening, and some 200 illustrations and diagrams, executed in a late Mughal style.

200 illustrations and diagrams, executed in a late Mughal style, with a majority by the same artist, with the subjects set against miniature landscapes..

Illumination: Folios 1b to 2a features an illuminated double-page opening, with finely executed floral scrollwork margins outlined in gold, with the text outlined in cloud bands with the interstices infilled with gold.

Folio 1b bears a gilt scalloped domed headpiece with floral scrollwork interspersed by scalloped lozenges bearing white scrollwork on an ultramarine ground, above a central cartouche panel inscribed with a basmalah, above a boldly gilt floral and palmetted border against an untramarine grouns, with the whole surmounted vertical radiating lines.

Ruling: Central text ruled in gold outlined with thin single interior and double exterior black lines, and surrounded by single dark blue lines, with dark blue single lines on the outer margins from 2b onwards.

  • The right pastedown, Top: ‘£3..3..’
    Centre: title and author pencilled in an unidentified English hand.
    ‘Nawwab’ in English with the date ‘۱۸۰۵ (1805 CE)’ given in given in Hindu-Arabic numerals underneath (and surprising given the East India Company watermark dated 1827 evident in the pastedown underneath).
  • The right flyleaf a side (f. ia) repeats the title and author's name in the same unidentified English hand as on the right pastedown opposite.
Bookplates: The left pastedown: ‘Bibliotheca Lindesiana’ with pencilled shelfmark ‘F/12’, and ‘Bland MSS No. 14’, with the name and number crossed out and ‘Persian’ and ‘4’ written aside.


Probably bound in a hybrid British-Indian style in the Indian subcontinent for an unidentified British owner, after 1827, the date of the East India Company endpapers added to the volume.

Endpapers of medium-weight, straight-grained, ivoury coloured paper with ~10 laid lines per cm and 26 mm between chain lines, watermarked with the East India Company insignia ‘VEIC’, the maker's name ‘E. WISE 1827, manufactured by Edward Wise (1785–1863), who then owned and operated the Padsole Mill, Maidstone, Kent.
147 × 91 mm.
Sewn on three tapes or flat thongs, rounded and backed, then laced into pasteboards. Edges trimmed, coloured bright yellow, then front-bead decorative endbands sewn in blue and white threads at head and tail. Covered in full crimson goatskin leather, tight-backed and tight-jointed, with squares along the edges but without a flap (Type III binding per Déroche).

Exterior boards decorated in a fully gilt Cambridge panel-inspired design, with European tools, with central floral designs made of four impressions of the same tool, and margins and mitres executed with a seried of decorative rolls, including dots, meanders, and foliate scrollwork, all hand-tooled in gold leaf. Spine divided into seven panels and palleted with meanders and dotted lines and serpentine lines on either side, and large, open quatrefoil designs in the centres, also hand-tooled in gold leaf. Untitled.

331 × 215 × 32 mm.

Handle binding with caution. In fair but stable condition, with extensive abrasion and insect damage to the exterior, and sight sewing in the interior.


Origin: Completed in the Indian subcontinent; 8 Ẕī-al-Qa‘dah, 45thth year of the reign of Shāh ʻĀlam II, Emperor of Hindustan (b. 1728, r. 1759–1806) (19 Feb. 1804 CE).

Provenance and Acquisition

Evidently acquired by a British owner who inscribed the right pastedown ‘Nawwab’ in English and ‘۱۸۰۵ (1805 CE)’ given in given in Hindu Arabic numberals underneath, surprising given the East India Company watermark dated 1827 explicitly evident in the pastedown. Hence, it may represent a statement by the owner who had the volume rebound whilst in India. A price of ‘£3..3..’ at top suggests that the person returned to Britain with the volume and sold it.

Subsequently acquired from an unidentified source 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, 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 Jake Benson in 2024 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.


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Funding of Cataloguing

Iran Heritage Foundation

The John Rylands Research Institute

The Persian Heritage Foundation


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