Union Catalogue of Manuscripts from the Islamicate World

Persian MS 40 (The John Rylands Research Institute and Library, The University of Manchester)

Persian Manuscripts

Two copies of Qiṣṣah-'i Mūsh va Gurbah (Story of the Mouse and Cat) bound together, both apparently completed in Indian subcontinent.


Summary of Contents: This composite manuscript contains two copies of Qiṣṣah-'i Mūsh va Gurbah (Story of the Mouse and Cat)—one illustrated—in different hands and formats bound together. A mock-epic, attributed to ʻUbayd Zākānī, it features a satirical fable concerning a cruel and hypocritical tyrant, symbolically depicted as an evil cat, often associated with the founder of the Muzzafarid Dynasty (1314–1393) Mubāriz al-Dīn Muḥammad (r. 1314–1358), who repeatedly torments a community of virtuous mice. Originally, this volume only contained one large illustrated manuscript, but a subsequent owner added a second smaller unillustrated copy of the text alone, probably when restoring the original volume, likely in Britain in circa 1800.

Physical Description

Form: codex
Extent: 32 pages, 8 flyleaves (ff. iv + 16 + 16 + iv).
  • The third right flyleaf a side (f. iiia) bears ‘Nº 30’ likely in the hand of former owner Adam Clarke
  • The final left flyleaf a side (f. viiia) bears two numbers, ‘Nº 84’ crossed out and ‘237’ above, which correspond to the subsequent sales of the volume.
Bookplates: The left pastedown: ‘Bibliotheca Lindesiana’ with shelf mark ‘F/5’ and ‘Bland MSS No. 50’ with the name and number crossed out and ‘Persian’ and ‘40’ written aside.


Probably originally bound in the 18th-century in the Indian subcontinent, in full dark greenish-black goatskin leather, by Asad Khān valad-i Ḥafz̤ Khān as per the detached pendants engraved with his name, along with the number 8, which possibly indicates the regnal year of an unidentified ruler. Subsequently restored, probably by a British bookbinder, possibly for former owner Charles Fox (1749–1809).

Resewn on three recessed cords, laced them into new pasteboards, then covered spine and board edges covered in tight-backed straight-grained red morocco leather, and remounted the original sides over top.

Boards originally blocked with central scalloped mandorlas, engraved with central sextfoils surrounded by floral palmette finials, along with detached flanking pendants engraved with the binder's name, and similarly decorated corners. The central Decoration outlined in white, with radiating scrollwork flourishes, bounded by a single-ruled white line along the perimeters. When restored, a presumably British bookbinder paletted panel lines and floral decoration on the spine, titled it ‘GERBEH MOOSH’, in gold, and decorated the board perimeters with decorative rolls engraved with floral scrollwork, rope designs, and diagonal thick-and-thin dotted lines on the interior dentelles, all in gold, in circa 1800.

Vividly handpainted endpapers, likely completed with the main volume in the Indian subcontinent feature pink birds set within floral scrollwork on a yellow ground, bounded by wide silver marginal ruling, outlined with thin, single red lines on either side, surrounded by a single white ruled line, and mounted on hand-coloured black paper. Due to restoration of the volume, these now comprise the third and fourth right (ff. iii–iv) and corresponding fifth and sixth left (ff. v–vi) flyleaves. The restorer subsequently added further stiff-leaved, Stormont-patterned endpapers with large gray spots over bright milori blue, green, red, and black veins, adhered to ivory-coloured paper that bears a Britannia watermark on the second to last left flyleaf (f. vii), with the second right flyleaf (f. ii) countermarked Durham & Co., 1796, at that time owned and operated by William Durham (d. 1803) together with his son John Durham (d. 1799) in Postlip, Glousctershire.

258 × 171 × 10 mm.

Binding in good condition.


Origin: Completed in the Indian subcontinent, undated, but probably late 18th century.

Provenance and Acquisition

Formerly in the collection of bookseller, poet, orientalist, artist and dentist Charles Fox (1749–1809). Born in Falmouth, he owned a bookshop until it burned, after which he travelled to the Baltic then returned and settled in Bristol where he practiced dentistry, but then ultimately relocated to Bath. Fox's friend and student of Persian, the Methodist theologian Rev. Adam Clarke (ca. 1762–1832) describes the volume in his Biographical Miscellany published in 1806:

Girbah Moosh, or the wars of the king Cat with the community of Rats. A satirical poem on some Eastern King. I have never seen but ene[sic] copy of this work: it is a small folio, ornamented with curious paintings, and makes a part of the valuable collection of Oriental MSS. in the possession of C. Fox, Esq. of Bristol.. After Fox's death, his widow gave the volume with other manuscripts and drawings to Clarke (see Etheridge and Smith).

After Clarke's death, his son Jospeh Butterworth Bulmer Clarke (d. 1855) inherited the volume and describes it in his catalogue, no. 84, published in 1835.

The next year, Clarke's son auctioned his father's collection through the London firm of Sotheby & Son on 20 Jun. 1836, where bookseller William Straker purchased the manuscript for £8-5s.

Straker then probably sold the volume to scholar Nathaniel Bland (1803–1865).

After Bland's 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.

Persian MS 40A


Summary of Contents: The first version of this work comprises the bulk of the volume, written on larger folios in 104 couplets, with commercial illustrations, probably completed in the Indian subcontinent in the late 18th-century, with hand-painted endleaves.
Pages 1-16
Incipit: (basmalla) صفحه‌ی ۱ (page 1): ای خردمند طبع موزونا * قصۀ موش و گربه برخوانا
Explicit: صفحه‌ی ۱۴ (page 14): هست این قصۀ عجیب وغریب * یادگار عبید برخوانا
Colophon: No colophon
Language(s): Persian

Physical Description

Support: Thick, buff-coloured paper, handmade in the Indian subcontinent, lightly sized and burnished. Laid lines approximately 1.5 mm. apart, with no discernible chain lines. paper. Hand-painted endleaves.
Extent: 16 pages
Dimensions (leaf): 254 × 164 mm.
Dimensions (written): 207 × 118 mm.

Paginated in Hindu-Arabic numerals in ink.


Pencilled Arabic numerals at the top-left corner of the a sides starting on page 2 (hence off by one).


A single quaternion, 1IV(16). Catchwords on the b sides of nearly every folio, albeit many trimmed off when rebound.


In good condition.


Written in 2 columns with 11 lines per page. Ruled with a misṭarah hand guide.


Written in nasta‘līq script in black ink.


Illustrations: Eleven illustrations, likely rendered by an unidentified commercial late 18th-century painter.

  1. Page 2The cat kills one mouse while a man smokes waterpipe.

    87 × 115 mm.

  2. Page 3: The mice honour the cat, whom then kills one while four others flee.

    78 × 114 mm.

  3. Page 4: The cat kills a mouse while four others flee.

    74 × 114 mm.

  4. Page 5: The mice and cats battle.

    77 × 114 mm.

  5. Page 6: The mice visit the king of the cats.

    80 × 118 mm.

  6. Page 7: The mice honour the king of the cats.

    61 × 115 mm.

  7. Page 8: The cat kills a mouse.

    78 × 115 mm.

  8. Page 9: Confrontation between mice and cats.

    73 × 115 mm.

  9. Page 10: The mice take the cat prisoner.

    78 × 115 mm.

  10. Page 12: The mice bring the cat to trial.

    75 × 111 mm.

  11. Page 13: The mice execute the cat by burning him alive on a pyre.

    78 × 112 mm.

Ruling: Vertical column dividers and horizontal section breaks ruled gold outlined with single bright red lines. Illustrations also outlined with single bright red lines. Surrounding gold marginal ruling throughout, outlined with thin single interior and double exterior black lines, surrounded by a dark, partly oxidizes red lines.


Origin: Completed in the Indian subcontinent; undated but probably late 18th century.

Persian MS 40B


Summary of Contents: Another version of the same text, in 112 couplets with variant lines, probably completed in Bengal on 3 Ẕī'l Ḥijjah, year 15 [of Shah ‘Alam II's reign, hence 1187 AH] equal to year 1180 Bangla calendar, (15 February 1774)
Pages 17–32 [1–16]
Incipit: (basmalla) صفحه‌ی ۱۶ (page 16 [f. 1]): ای خردمند طبع موزونا * قصۀ موش و گربه برخوانا
Explicit: صفحه‌ی ۳۲ (page 32 [f. 15]): هست این قصۀ عجیب وغریب * یادگار عبید برخوانا
Colophon: صفحه‌ی ۳۲ (page 32 [f. 15]): تمام شد قصهة گربه موش مبلغ سیوم شهر ذ[ی ا]لحجه سنه ۱۵ مطابق سنه ۱۱۷۰ بنگله
Colophon: Completed 3 Ẕī'l Ḥijjah, year 15 [of Shah ‘Alam II's reign, hence 1187 AH] equal to year 1180 Bangla calendar, (15 February 1774), hence likely completed in Bengal.

Note that prior records mistakenly describe the entire volume as a single work with the above date.

Language(s): Persian

Physical Description

Support: Written on straight-grained, medium-weight buff-coloured paper handmade in India, with ~2 mm between laid lines, and no discernible chain lines.
Extent: 16 pages
Dimensions (leaf): 192 × 118 mm.
Dimensions (written): 141 × 78 mm.

Paginated in pencilled Arabic numerals, starting on page 2 (so off by one).


A single quaternion. 1IV(32). Catchwords on lower left corners of the b side of nearly every folio.


In good condition.


Written in 2 columns with 9 lines per page. Ruled with a misṭarah hand guide.


Written in clear black nasta‘līq.

Inscriptions: Page 1 inscribed ‘R. Forbes’ and underneath ‘Battle of the Cat and the Mice’, probably by former owner Hon. Robert Forbes.


Origin: Probably completed in Bengal; 3 Ẕī'l Ḥijjah, year 15 [of Shah ‘Alam II's reign, hence 1187 AH] equal to year 1180 in the Bangla calendar (15 February 1774 CE).


Previously owned by ‘R. Forbes’, probably Hon. Robert Forbes (1808–1883), as per his inscription on page 1. A younger son of General James Ochoncar Forbes, 18th Baron Forbes (1765–1843), he studied Oriental languages at East India College at Haileybury, then served in India, ultimately as Magistrate of Burdwan (Barddhamān today).

Additional Information

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 2020 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.

Digital Images

Manchester Digital Collections (full digital facsimile)


Funding of Cataloguing

Iran Heritage Foundation

The John Rylands Research Institute


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