Union Catalogue of Manuscripts from the Islamicate World

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

Persian Manuscripts


Summary of Contents: The Salīm-Shāhnāmah (Book of Salīm Shāh), is a historical chronicle of the Ottoman ruler Selim I (1470–1520; r. 1512–20). The author, Idrīs Bitlīsī (d. 1520), was an administrator who served Sultans Beyazid II (1447–1512, r. 1481–1512) and Selim I 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, the work is divided 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). It alternates between prose narration of events followed by lines of poetry that recast the same in muqtarib metre. 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 the work. After his death, his son Ebülfazl Mehmed Efendi (d. 1574) collected and edited his father's various 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 is dedicated 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 is likely one of the earliest extant copies of this work.
  • 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 Kearney correctly identified it as the Salīm-Shāhnāmah in his Handlist, p. 109. However, subsequent electronic records employed another title, Tārīkh-i Mawlā-yi Mulūk al-‘Arab, mistakenly derived from the dedication to Sultan Selim I 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 discernible chain lines, albeit very crooked and at irregular intervals. Folios 77–191 are of comparatively flocked paper ~2 mm between laid lines and no discernible chain lines. Endpapers of orange-tinted European handmade paper, folio 2 (the second right flyleaf) is watermarked with a crossed orb surmounted by a criss-cross star, with ~1 mm between laid lines and ~32 mm between chain lines, whereas folio 192 (the second to last flyleaf) is 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.
    Extent: 193 folios
    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, includes all 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 between folios 191–192, the final conjugate fold, was cut out. Flap replaced in modern dark red goatskin leather with remnants remounted and missing areas blind tooled


    Written in 1–2 columns with 25 lines per page. Ruled with a miṣṭārah


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



    • Folio 1b: headpiece.
    • Throughout: subheadings and gilt marginal ruling.
    • Folio 4a: illuminated roundel dedicated to Sultan Selim II, written in rayhani script in white outlined in thin black against a gold ground and set within floral scrollwork, and surrounded by 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



    • Folio 1a and left flyleaf: 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‘liq, signed underneath by one Ebū's-Su‘ūd:

      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

    • Left flyleaf: 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), but the spine was later rebacked in maroon goatskin and a new envelope flap added in the same. 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 has blind fillet lines around the perimeter and blind European fleur-de-lis impression by the point.

    306 × 206 × 33 mm.


    Origin: Istanbul; made by order of the treasury (bi-rasm khizānah) of Sultan Selim II, who reigned between 1566–1574 CE, as per the dedication on folio 4a.

    Provenance and Acquisition

    Later acquired by French orientalist Antoine-Isaac Silvestre de Sacy, (1758–1838), as per his bookplate on the right paste-down and notation on the second to last left flyleaf, verso, whose library was sold in 1843, (see de La Grange, Bibliothèque... Vol. III, Appendix no. 325).

    Later acquired by scholar Nathaniel Bland (1803–1865), after whose death his oriental manuscripts were sold by 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 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. Emended and enhanced by Jake Benson in 2021 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.


      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 Bitlîsî, Selim Şah-nâme. Turkish translation by Hicabi Kırlangıç. Ankara: Hece Yayınları, 2016.
      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].
      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 and The John Rylands Research Institute


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