Union Catalogue of Manuscripts from the Islamicate World

Persian MS 41 (The John Rylands Research Institute and Library, The University of Manchester)

Persian Manuscripts


Summary of Contents: This illustrated New Persian metrical translation of the Pahlavi Middle Persian text Ardāvirāfnāmah (Book of Ardā Virāf) by Zartusht Bahrām Pazhdū (fl. 1278) recounts the visions of Vīrāf (or Wīrāz in Pahlavi) during a dream-like journey to the afterlife. Comprised of two parts, the first relates the rewards of the virtuous in paradise while the second longer part highlights punishments meted out in hell for various sins in a manner that presages the Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri (d. 1321). Completed in 1789 by a Parsi scribe known as 'Patvārī' in Navsari, a preeminent centre for the Zoroastrian faith in India, when British surgeon Samuel Guise, who acquired this volume, served in nearby Surat.
Scribe: Pishūtan Jīv b. Hirjī b. Humjī b. Bahrāmjī b. Hāyjī b. Shākir b. Bahrām Chāndā, known as 'Patvārī'
Incipit: (beginning) برگ ۱پ (folio 1b): شهنشه آردشیر از فردا داد * که هر دشت چهل دار
Explicit: برگ ۷۳ر (folio 73a): ختم شد قصهٔ اردای ویراف * ز همتهای زرتشت دل صاف | شیطان غلام شد * بنده قوي شد.
Colophon: برگ ۷۳ر (folio 73a): تمت تمام شد * کار من نظام شد. این کتاب اردای ویراف از تصنیف دستور زرتشت بهرام پژدو آنکه شادی و راشنی(؟) بروز مبارک آبان ایزد ماه مبارک دی ایزد سنه از شهنشاه ایزجرد از تخم ساسان سنه ۱۲۰۳ هجری سنوت ۱۸۴۵ بتاریخ بیست و دویم ماه شوال اکهار ود دسم. کاتب این کتاب خجسته صفات بهدین پشوتنجیو ولد هرجی ابن همچی ابن بهرامجی ابن هایجی(؟) ابن شاکر ابن بهرام چاندا عرف پتواری متوطن قصیه نوساری سرکار سورت منصاف بصوبه احمدآباد این مسطور برای مطابق ملاحظ.
Colophon: Completed by Pishūtan Jīv b. Hirjī b. Humjī b. Bahrāmjī b. Hāyjī b. Shākir b. Bahrām Chāndā, known as 'Patvārī', resident of the town of Navsārī, in Surat district of Aḥmadābād province, on the blessed day of Ābān (day 10), month of Day, equal to the tenth day of the waning part of the month Aṣāḍh Vad Samvat 1845, and 22 Shavvāl 1203 Hijrī (16 July 1789 CE).

Note that the colophon appears before the final prayer that concludes the manuscript. The Rylands also holds an anonymous New Persian prose redaction, Persian MS 93. For a recent critical edition and analysis based upon this manuscript, see Mīr Sālār Raz̤avī's thesis. For a similar illustrated redaction, see Princeton University Library, Islamic Manusripts, New Series no. 1744b.

Language(s): Persian

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: Straight-grained, medium-weight, ivory-coloured, Indian handmade paper, sized and polished, ~2.5 mm between laid lines, no observable chain lines. Cross-grained flyleaves of similar stock.
Extent: 73 folios, 2 flyleaves (ff. i + 73 + i).
Dimensions (leaf): 227 × 174 mm.
Dimensions (written): 200 × 113 mm.
Foliation: Gujarati numerals in both ink and pencil on the upper-right corners of the b sides.
Foliation: Foliated in pencilled Arabic numerals by the cataloguer on the top left corner of the a sides.


1V(10)1IV+1(19)1IV+2(29)+1IV(37)1V(47)1IV(55)1V(65)1V(73) Mixed collation of primarily alternating quaternions and quinternions, with occasional tipped singletons where repaired. Catchwords throughout on the b sides.


In fair condition, occasional historical gutter repairs, and heavily-tipped singletons.


Written primarily in 2 columns, then 1 column towards the end, with 14 lines per page. Ruled with a misṭarah hand guide.


Written in nasta‘līq script in black ink with verse markers in red.


Illumination: Headpiece on folio 1b hastily rendered in blue, orange, pink, green, and gold. Marginal ruling throughout, with a wide rule painted in pale ochre imitating gold, outlined on both sides with thin black single and double-ruled lines, surrounded by single lines of red and blue.

Illustrations: Fifty-nine illustrations, hastily rendered in bright colours and embellished in gold by an unknown artist.

  • The right flyleaf a side (f. ia) bears an English description of the manuscript written in sepia, likely in the hand of a former owner Samuel Guise, with with his name and that of William Ouseley pencilled at top by a subsequent owner (possibly John Haddon Hindley), and the number ‘413’ in black.

    Gujarati inscription in blackat top:

    Vīrāfnāmu suratdār che beheśt tā. Dojakhnī vāt che.

    ‘([This] is an illustrated Vīrāfnāmu. It is about paradise and hell.’

  • Folio 1a inscribed with the variant title Vīrāzāfnāmah.


Probably bound in Surat, possibly for former owner Samuel Guise. Sewn at two stations, with remnants of endbands at head and tail. Cloth hinges adhered to the first and final folios, with flyleaves tipped over top. Russett hand-coloured paper doublures line the board interiors, with strips of the same stock applied as hinges to the joints that span the doublures and flyleaves. Covered in full, tight backed, red goatskin leather over back-cornered pasteboards, with defined exterior joints and cut flush with the edges of the text block without a flap (Type III binding per Déroche ).

Boards decorated with blind stamped silver paper onlays (now darkly tarnished), with a scalloped central mandorla with quintafoil scrollwork, detached quatrefoil pendants, and floral scrollwork corners. Board perimeters margined with strips of pink paper then tooled with a wide floral scrollwork band. Thin yellow single-ruling criss-crosses the central decoration and connects the corners, while thick and thin lines outline the surrounding margins. The same dies also blocked on Rylands Persian MS 300, 301, and 926.

230 × 178 × 35 mm.

Handle with caution. In fair condition. Extensive abrasion to the board exteriors and spine, onlay losses, and weak interior joints.


Origin: Possibly completed for Navsari; 10 Day, equal to 10 Aṣāḍh 1845 VS and 22 Shavvāl 1203 AH (16 July 1789 CE), possibly for former owner Samuel Guise (1751–1811).

Provenance and Acquisition

Acquired by Samuel Guise (1751–1811) in Surat where he worked as a surgeon, before 1792. Listed for sale in the second 1793 catalogue of Guise's collection, p. 28, no. 352. Also published by William Ouseley (1767–1842) in his Oriental Collections in 1798; however, he likely did not own it at that time (also note that a prior record incorrectly suggested that Sir Gore Ouseley (1770–1844) and John Bardoe Elliot (1785–1863) previously owned the volume).

Sold by Leigh and Sotheby, London, on 3 July 1812, where Manchester librarian John Haddon Hindley (1765–1827) purchased it for £2 5s.

After Hindley's death, London antiquarian dealers Howell and Stewart, offered it for sale (cat. no. 5262), from whom legal clerk Samuel Hawtayne Lewin (1795–1840) probably purchased it on Feb. 1828 for £3 3s as per his pencilled note on folio 1a.

Subsequently acquired by Persian scholar Nathaniel Bland (1803–1865), after whose death London antiquarian dealer 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.

Record Sources

Provenance description based on an an essay by Ursula Sims-Williams, 'The Strange Story of Samuel Guise: An 18th-Century Collection of Zoroastrian Manuscripts'.

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 2022 with reference to the volume in hand, and in consultation with both Ursula Sims-Williams, British Library, and Prof Daniel Sheffield, Princeton University, who transliterated and translated the Gujarati inscriptions.


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 The Everlasting Flame: Zoroastrianism in History and Imagination, at the School for Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London.

Exhibited in The Everlasting Flame: Zoroastrianism in History and Imagination, at the National Museum of India, New Delhi.

Digital Images

Manchester Digital Collections (full digital facsimile)


Funding of Cataloguing

Iran Heritage Foundation

The John Rylands Research Institute



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