Union Catalogue of Manuscripts from the Islamicate World

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

Persian Manuscripts

Two copies of Qiṣṣah-'i Mūsh va Gurbah bound together.


Summary of Contents: Two copies of Qiṣṣah-'i Mūsh va Gurbah (Story of the Mouse and Cat) — one illustrated — in different hands and formats bound together. This mock-epic, often attributed to ʻUbayd Zākānī, is of uncertain origin. It is a satirical fable concerning a cruel and hypocritical tyrant, symbolically depicted as an evil cat that repeatedly torments a community of virtuous mice. The cat is often associated with Mubāriz al-Dīn Muḥammad (r. 1314–1358), the founder of the Muzzafarid Dynasty (1314–1393) in Iran. The binding appears to have originally been produced in India for the larger, main text. The second text was bound in at the back when the spine and edges were later re-covered with red leather to repair the volume, probably in Europe.

Physical Description

Form: codex
Extent: 32 pages (iv + 16 + 16 + iv)


Bound in a full dark greenish-black goatskin leather, by Asad Khān valad-i Ḥafż Khān. Later resewn on three recessed cords, laced into new boards and recovered in tight-backed straight-grained red morocco leather at the spine and edges, probably in England, with the original sides remounted. The spine is titled GERBEH MOOSH in gold, with gilt paletted panel lines and floral decoration, while the perimeters of the boards bear decorative rolls with floral scrollwork and rope designs, with diagonal thick-and-thin with dotted lines for the interior dentelles, in keeping with late–18th-century English bindings. Handpainted endpapers featuring identical designs of a pink bird set within floral scrollwork on a yellow ground. Later endpapers of Stormont-patterned marbled paper with large gray spots over bright milori blue, green, red, and black veins added when the volume was rebound. 258 × 171 × 10 mm.


Binding is in excellent condition.


Origin: India?; late 18th-early 19th century CE

Provenance and Acquisition

Formerly in the collection of Methodist theologian Adam Clarke (ca. 1762–1832), listed as no. 84 in his library catalogue; however, it is not listed in the catalogue of his collection offered after his death by Baynes and Son. Subsequently acquired by Persian scholar Nathaniel Bland (1803–1865), after whose death his oriental manuscripts were sold through Bernard Quaritch (1819–1899) in 1866 to Alexander Lindsay, 25th Earl of Crawford (1812–1880).

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 is larger, written and illustrated in India circa 1800, and comprises the bulk of the volume 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 Indian handmade paper, 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 and pencilled Arabic numerals at the top-left corner of the a sides starting on page 2 (so off by one).


A single quaternion, 1IV(16). Catchwords on b side of nearly every folio, but many were trimmed when rebound.


Good condition.


Written in 2 columns with 11 lines per page. Ruled with a miṣṭarah.


Written in nastaliq script in black ink.


Illustrations: Eleven illustrations, finely rendered by an unknown artist in the early nineteenth-century, perhaps at Patna, in the style of the so-called "Company School."

  • Page 2 87 × 115 mm.

    The cat kills one mouse while man smokes hookah.

  • Page 3 78 × 114 mm.

    The mice honours cat and cat kills a mouse while four others flee.

  • Page 4 74 × 114 mm.

    The cat kills a mouse while four others flee.

  • Page 5 77 × 114 mm.

    The mice and cats battle.

  • Page 6 80 × 118 mm.

    The mice visit the king of the cats.

  • Page 7 61 × 115 mm.

    The mice honour the king of the cats.

  • Page 8 78 × 115 mm.

    The cat kills a mouse.

  • Page 9 73 × 115 mm.

    Confrontation between mice and cats.

  • Page 10 78 × 115 mm.

    Cat is taken prisoner.

  • Page 12 75 × 111 mm.

    Cat is brought for trial.

  • Page 13 78 × 112 mm.

    The cat is executed by burning on a pyre.


Origin: India; circa 1800 CE.

Persian MS 40B


Another version of the same text, with a colophon dated.

pages 17–32 [1–16]
Incipit: (basmalla) صفحه‌ی ۱۵ (page 16 [1]): ای خردمند طبع موزونا * قصۀ موش و گربه برخوانا
Explicit: صفحه‌ی ۳۲ (page 32 [15]): هست این قصۀ عجیب وغریب * یادگار عبید برخوانا
Colophon: صفحه‌ی ۳۲ (page 32 [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, 1187 AH] equal to year 1180 Bangla [15 February 1774]
Language(s): Persian

Physical Description

Support: Written on straight-grained, medium-weight buff-coloured probably Indian handmade paper, 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


Written in nasta‘liq script in black ink.


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

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.

Revised and expanded by Jake Benson in 2020 with reference to the manuscript.


The manuscript is available for consultation by any accredited reader, see Becoming a Reader for details. Please contact uml.special-collections@manchester.ac.uk for further information on the availability of this manuscript.


Funding of Cataloguing

Iran Heritage Foundation and The John Rylands Research Institute


Comment on this record

Please fill out your details.

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