Union Catalogue of Manuscripts from the Islamicate World

Persian MS 47 (The John Rylands Research Institute and Library, The University of Manchester)

Persian Manuscripts


Summary of Contents: The Salīm-Shāhnāmah (Book of Salīm Shāh), chronicles the reign of the Ottoman ruler Selim I (1470–1520; r. 1512–20). The author, Idrīs Bidlīsī (d. 1520), served Sultans Beyazid II (1447–1512, r. 1481–1512) and Selim I as an administrator throughout the empire. He intended it as a sequel to his Hasht Bihisht (Eight Paradises), which recounts the reigns of the first eight Ottoman rulers prior to his patron. Thematically, he divided the work into two parts: the first features four discourses on Selim’s early years, his religious devotion, ethics, and literary works, while the second recounts events in Selim I's life until his death and succession by his son Sultan Suleiman I (1495–1566, r. 1520–1566). The text alternates between prose narration of events followed by lines of poetry that recast the same in muqtarib metre, hence a richly nuanced literary style that dramatically departs from works by prior Ottoman historians. The author recounts many events that he witnessed towards the end of Selim I’s reign; however, he died soon after his patron in 1520 and never completed it. After his death, his son Ebülfazl Mehmed Efendi (d. 1574) compiled and edited his father's various surviving drafts to which he added a preface, then in 1566–67 presented the completed work to Sultan Selim II (1524–1574, r. 1566–1574), the subject's grandson and namesake, as an accession gift. Since this lavishly illuminated volume in the Rylands bears a dedication to the same ruler on folio 4a, it must have been completed within a seven-year period after 1567 but before Selim II's death in 1574. Therefore, this manuscript appears to be one of the earliest extant copies of this work, probably copied from the original holograph text.
Incipit: (basmalla) برگ ۴ر (folio 4b): الحمد لله الذي صدقنا وعدّه واورثنا الارض نتبوا من الجنة حیث نشاء فنعم اجر العالمین
Explicit: برگ ١٨٩پ (folio 189a): ریاض بقایت تر و تازه باد * ز عدل تو گینی پر آوازه باد
Colophon: No colophon.
Language(s): Persian

While this manuscript lacks an explicit title, Michael Kerney correctly identified it as the Salīm-Shāhnāmah in his Handlist, p. 109. However, subsequent electronic records employed another mistaken title, Tārīkh-i Mawlā-yi Mulūk al-‘Arab, derived from the dedication to Sultan Selim II (b. 1524, r. 1566–1574) on folio 4b. For a complete descriptions of the contents, see Rieu, Catalogue Vol. I, pp. 218–219 [British Library Add. 24960] and Markiewicz.

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: Textblock of two types of straight-grained, cream-coloured handmade paper manufactured in the Islamic world. Folios 3–76 have laid lines ~2 mm apart and infrequently discernible, crooked chain lines, albeit very and at irregular intervals. Folios 77–191 are of comparatively flocked paper ~2 mm between laid lines and no discernible chain lines.
Extent: 193 folios (ff. 193 + i)
Dimensions (leaf): 307 × 199 mm.
Dimensions (written): 225 × 119 mm.
Foliation: Modern foliation in Arabic numerals on the upper-left corners of the a sides, which includes all preliminary and the first final endleaves, so off by 3. Note this record uses the current numbers.


Primarily quinternions throughout. 1VI+1(14)10V(114)1II(118)2V(138)1IV(146)4V(186)1III-1(191). Catchwords throughout.


In good condition, with minor historical and modern repairs. A stub remains between folios 191 and 192, apparently what remains of the final conjugate fold.


Written in 1–2 columns with 25 lines per page. Ruled with a misṭarah hand guide.


Primarily written in nasta‘līq (Ottoman: talīḳ) script in black ink, with subheadings in gold, blue, and red riqā‘ (Ottoman: rıḳā‘) script.


Elaborate early Ottoman-era illumination throughout.

Roundel: Folio 4a bears an illuminated roundel with an Arabic dedication to the manuscript's patron, Sultan Selim II, written in white rayḥānī outlined in thin black, against a gold ground and set within floral scrollwork, and surrounded by ultramarine radiating lines:

‘قد وقع توقيع هذا التاريخ برسم خزانهٔ مولى ملوك العرب والعجم السلطان بن السلطان ابو الفتح سلطان سليمشاه خان بن سليمان شاه بن سلطان سليم خان خلد الله ملكه’

Headers: Folio 4b bears an elaborate lobed sarlawḥ (Turkish: serlevha) with a basmalla written in white thuluth script outlined in thin black, within gold and ultramarine cartouches bearing floral scrollwork, surmounted by lobed decoration featuring the same, with vertical ultramarine radiating lines (Turkish: tiğ) terminating in floral blossoms atop. Other illuminated subheaders found throughout.

Ruling: Marginal ruling throughout in gold outlined with thin single interior and double exterior black lines, and surrounded by a comparatively thick ultramarine single line..



  • Folios 1a and 193a: Sy 325, from de Sacy's library.

  • Folio 4a, top: brief inscriptions in Persian in nasta‘liq:

    خط همايون (Imperial Script) and كتاب تواريخ فارسي (Book of Persian Histories).

  • Folio 4a, bottom: Four Arabic couplets in nasta‘līq script, signed underneath by famed Ottoman theologian and Şeyhülislam, Ebūssu‘ūd Efendī (1492–1575):

    سفر جليل مثل بحر زاخر * ابوابه اصداف درّ فاخر

    نظمت فرائده و من بقعره * عجبا لصنع عبقري نادر

    ما إن رأه ولا رواه حكاية * احد علي مر الزمان الغابر

    طوي لصانعه من الحبر الذي * ورث الفضائل كابرا عن كابر

  • Folio 193b: ‘Bibliotheca Lindesiana’ with shelfmark ‘F/4’, and ‘Bland MSS No. 57’.


Resewn at four unsupported stations, without endbands. Originally covered in full, possibly in two-piece, tight-backed, smooth dark red goatskin leather with fore-edge flap (type II binding per Déroche). Spine later rebacked in dark maroon goatskin leather with a new envelope flap added in the same leather, with remnants remounted. Later Endpapers of orange-tinted European handmade paper, folio 2 (second right flyleaf) watermarked with a crossed orb surmounted by a six-pointed criss-cross star, with ~1 mm between laid lines and ~32 mm between chain lines, whereas folio 192 (second to last flyleaf) watermarked with a cross above a shallow urn on a stand with curved legs, with ~ 1 mm between laid lines and ~28 mm between chain lines.

The exterior features sunken onlays of smooth, dark green leather, with relief areas of the deeply pressure-moulded scalloped mandorlas, attached pendants, and corners embellished and perimeters outlined in gold ink. Interior doublures lined with the same red goatskin leather as the exterior, but with pressure-moulded recessed scalloped mandorlas with gilt grounds. The fore-edge flap bears five cartouches with central knotwork designs, with ruling, all in gold, with the surrounding wide rule ruling stamped with a chain design. The replaced envelope flap exterior bears blind fillet lines around the perimeter and European fleur-de-lis impression by the tip.

306 × 206 × 33 mm.

Binding in good condition.


Origin: Istanbul completed ‘by order of the treasury’ (‘bi-rasm-i khizānah’) of Sultan Selim II (1566–1574), as per the dedication on folio 4a.

Provenance and Acquisition

Subsequently acquired by French orientalist Antoine-Isaac Silvestre de Sacy, (1758–1838), as per notations on folios 1a and 193a which correspond to his 1843 library sale catalogue, no. 325.

Purchased in Paris at the de Sacy sale by scholar Nathaniel Bland (1803–1865), after whose 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 (1843–1908) in 1908 to the John Rylands Library.

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 2021 with reference to the manuscript, and in consultation with Prof. Christopher Markiewicz, Univeristy of Birmingham.


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)


    R. Merlin and G. de la Grange, Bibliothèque de M. le Baron Silvestre de Sacy, Vol. III, [Appendice] 'Manuscrits' (Paris: Imprimerie Royale, 1842), p. 55, no. 325.
    İdrîs Bidlîsî, Selim Şah-nâme. Turkish translation by Hicabi Kırlangıç. Ankara: Hece Yayınları, 2016.
    Fehmi Ethem Karatay, Topkapı Sarayı Müzesi Kütüphanesi Farsça yazmalar kataloğu., (İstanbul: Topkapı Sarayı Müzesi, 1961),pp. 59–60 nos. 156–157 [Topkapı E.H. 1423 and R. 1540].
    Christopher Markiewicz, The Crisis of Kingship in Late Medieval Islam: Persian Emigres and the Making of Ottoman Sovereignty. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019), pp. 143–147, 302–303.
    Abdülkadir Özcan, "İdrîs-i Bitlisî" in TDV İslâm Ansiklopedisi Vol. 21. (2000): pp. 485–488.
    Abdülkadir Özcan, "Ebülfazl Mehmed Efendi" in TDV İslâm Ansiklopedisi Vol. 10. (1994): pp. 356–357.
    Charles Rieu, Catalogue of the Persian Manuscripts in the British Museum, Vol. I. (London: British Museum, 1879), pp. 218–19 [BL Add. 24960]
    C. A. Storey, Persian Literature: A Bio-bibliographical Survey, Vol. I Pt. 1 (London: Luzac & Co., 1927), p. 416, §587(2).
    Sarah Nur Yildiz, "Historiography xiv. The Ottoman Empire" in Encyclopædia Iranica, Vol. XII, Fasc. 4, (2004): pp. 403–411.
    Sarah Nur Yildiz, "Ottoman Historical Writing in Persian, 1400–1600," in Persian Historiography: A History of Persian Literature Vol. X: Edited by Charles Melville. (London: I. B. Tauris 2012): pp. 493–494.

Funding of Cataloguing

Iran Heritage Foundation

The John Rylands Research Institute


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