Union Catalogue of Manuscripts from the Islamicate World

Persian MS 68 (The John Rylands Library, The University of Manchester)

Persian Manuscripts


Summary of Contents: The author of this unillustrated Persian translation of Kalīlah va Dimnah (Fables of Bidpai), Abū al-Maʻālī Naṣr Allāh ibn Muḥammad ibn Ḥamīd Munshī Shīrāzī (fl. 12th c.), originally completed it between 538–540 AH (1143–1146 CE). Since he composed it in honour of his patron, Bahrām Shāh of Ghazna (r. 1117–1152), it is commonly known as the Kalīlah va Dimnah-yi Bahrām Shāhī. He based it upon an earlier Arabic version of Ibn al-Muqaffaʻ, (d. ca. 760), copies of which the John Rylands Library also hold (see Arabic MS 2 and Arabic MS 60), translated in turn from a now-lost Pahlavi Middle Persian translation of the Sanskrit Panchatantra (Five Treatises). However, the author did not merely translate that work but imaginatively recast and augmented it with Arabic quotations from the Qur’ān and Hadith traditions interspersed with proverbs and lines of poetry. The resulting synthesis proved so influential that it ultimately revolutionized medieval Persian literature. This manuscript, completed in 616 AH (1219 CE)—one of two Persian redactions held in the John Rylands Library (the other being Persian MS 91)—appears to be the third-earliest copy known to survive. Surprisingly, it predates any surviving Arabic version. Formerly held in the library of the Ottoman ruler Sultan Beyazid II (1447–1512, r. 1481–1512), French orientalist Joseph Marie Jouannin (1783–1844) subsequently acquired the volume and had it rebound before presenting it to his friend and fellow scholar Antoine-Isaac Silvestre de Sacy (1758–1838).
Title: Kalīlah va Dimnah-yi Bahrām Shāhī
Incipit: (basmalla) برگ ۱پ (folio 1b): رب تمام بالکرمك. سپاس و ستایش خدای را جل و جلاله که آثار قدرت او بر چهرهٔ روز روشن تابانست.
Explicit: ۱۸۶پ (folio 186b): برگ ۱۸۶پ: ایزد تعالی خداوند عالم را در دین و دنیا بنهایت همت بر سیاناد، و تمامی بلاد شرق و غرب را بسایه رایت منصور و ظل چتر مبارک شاهنشاهی منور گرداناد، و تشنگان امید را در آفاق جهان که منتظر احسان و عاطفت پادشاهانه‌اند از جام عدل و رأفت ملکانه سیراب گرداناد، انه القادر علیه و المتطول به.
Colophon: برگ‌های ۱۸۷پ-۱۸۸ر (folios 187b–188a): کتبه على بن ابى بكر بن الخطير في مدت عارصة [عارضة] عينه بطريق الستعجال في أواخر شعبان سنه ست عشر و ستمائه [۱۸۷ر] حمداً ومصلیاً علی نعمه والحمد لله رب العالمین والصلوة والسلم علی نبیه محمدٍ و عترته الطاهرین و سلم تسلیماً کثیراً.

Completed by ‘Alī bin Abī Bakr al-Khatīr at the end of end of Sha‘bān year 616 AH (Beginning of November, 1219 CE). Note that only two earlier manuscripts are known, both held in Turkish libraries: One dated Muḥarram 27, 551 AH (March 22, 1156–1157 CE) is held in Istanbul, Süleymaniye Kütüphanesi, Cârullah Efendi, 1727 (See Hamdani, p. 564), and another dated 594 AH (1197–1198 CE) in Ankara, Millet Kütüphanesi, 06 Hk 111 (See Minovi ed., Intro. pp. yā–tā)

Language(s): Persian
Title: Opening of the Book
Title: مفتح الکتاب
Title: Table of Contents
Title: Chapter 1: Opening
Title: الباب الأول: ابتدأ الکلیلة ودمنه
Title: Chapter 2: The Physician Burzūya
Title: الباب الثاني: في برزویة الطبیب
Title: Chapter 3: The Ox and Lion
Title: الباب الثالث: ثور ولأسد
Title: Chapter 4: ِExamination on the Order of Dimna
Title: الباب الرابع: الفحض عن أمر الدمنه
Title: Chapter 5: The Collared Pigeon
Title: الباب الخامس: الحمامة المطوقه
Title: Chapter 6: The Owl and the Crows
Title: الباب السادس: البوم والغراب
Title: Chapter 7: The Monkey and Turtle
Title: الباب السابع: القرد والسلحفاة
Title: Chapter 8:The Hermit and the Weasel
Title: الباب الثامن: الناسك وابن عرس
Title: Chapter 9: The King and the Bird Named Qabrah
Title: الباب التاسع: الملك والطابر الذي سمي قبره
Title: Chapter 10: The Tomcat and the Rat
Title: الباب العاشر: السنور والجرذ
Title: Chapter 11: The Lion and the Jackal
Title: الباب الحادی عشر: الأسد وإبن اوى
Title: Chapter 12: The Lion and Lioness
Title: الباب الثانی عشر: الأسد واللبوة
Title: Chapter 13: The Hermit and Guest
Title: الباب الثالث عشر: الناسك والضيف
Title: Chapter 14: Bilār and the Brahmin
Title: الباب الرابع عشر: البلار والبراهمه
Title: Chapter 15: The Goldsmith and the Tourist
Title: الباب الخامس عشر: الصايغ والسياح
Title: Chapter [16]: The Prince and His Companions
Title: باب [السادس عشر]: الملك والأصحابه

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: Textblock of tan indigenous Persian handmade paper, with a lighter cream-coloured polished handmade paper used for replacement folios 14–15, 79, 84, 85, 177, 178, 189.
Extent: xvi+188+xvi.
Dimensions (leaf): 225 × 150 mm.
Dimensions (written): 172 × 99 mm.

Foliation pencilled at top-left of the a sides in Arabic numerals by the cataloguer.


Catchwords throughout.


In good condition, but handle abraded leaves at the beginning and end with care.


Written in 1 column with 21 lines per page. Ruled with a miṣṭārāh.


Primarily copied in a medieval naskh hand in sepia-toned ink.

Replacement folios copied in a later naskh hand written with a thinner pen and slightly smaller hand in imitation of the original copyist.

  • Inscriptions: Folio 1a is inscribed with unidentified Persian couplets in a medieval naskh hand.
  • Sketch: On the last right flyleaf is a pencilled sketch of pineapple leaves, with the word 'ānānās' in Persian.
  • Astrology chart: On 188b is an astrology chart that mentions a Rumī date of 1495, so likely completing during Beyazid II's reign.
  • Bookplates: On the left paste-down: Bibliotheca Lindesiana with shelfmark F/6, Bland MSS No. 290, and Jh. Mie Jouannin, with the latter found again on folio 1a.


Rebound in circa 1810 in the 'Empire' style, in a hollow-backed, full sprinkled calfskin leather binding for former owner, French orientalist Joseph Marie Jouannin (1783–1844), as indicated by his initials 'J. M. J.' lettered at the tail of the spine. Gilt triple-fillet margins on the boards, zigzag designs on the board edges, and headcaps with a thick-and-thin line decorative palette. The spine bears gilt single fillet panels with arc-and-dart and lotus bands at tail. French-style decorative single-core endbands sewn in white, green, and russet silk threads. Endpapers of brown 'shell' patterned French marbled papers, unusually executed over yellow paper. Flyleaves stiff-leaved to outer folio of two quaternions of modern blank wove papersewn onto the right and left of the original text block when rebound, that bear the watermark 'Imperial' with trés lunes (three-crescent) and shield possibly bearing a crescent moon insignia.

235 × 158 × 43 mm.


Handle with care. Binding scuffed on the spine board edges, and joints. Silk tailband broken in the middle.

Seals of various owners

  • Last right endleaf (folio xvib): Undated oval seal, possibly 17th century, of one Gul Muḥammad, intaglio carved in a single line of nasta‘liq script:

    العبد الراجي گل محمد

    Transliteration: al-‘Abd al-Rājī Gul Muḥammad

    14 × 21 mm.

  • Folio 1a: partially-obliterated marquise-shaped intaglio-carved seal bearing the imperial tughra of the Ottoman ruler Sultan Beyazid II (1447–1512, r. 1481–1512).

    13.5 × 21 mm.

  • 3: First left flyleaf (folio xviia): partially-legible ovoid seal of one ‘Abbās ‘Alī is impressed upon a later endpaper.

    10 × 16 mm.


Origin: Probably Iran; completed by ‘Alī bin Abī Bakr al-Khatīr at the end of end of Sha‘bān 616 AH (beginning of November 1219 CE).

Provenance and Acquisition

Formerly owned by Sultan Beyazid II as per his seal impression on folio 1a. Subsequently owned by one Gul Muḥammad and ‘Abbās ‘Alī as per their seal impressions on the last right (folio xvia) and first left (folio xviia) flyleaves. Later acquired by dragoman Joseph-Marie Jouannin (1783–1844), likely during his tenure in Istanbul. The Empire style binding bearing both his initials on the spine and his bookplates indicate that he had the volume rebound in Paris but later gave it to his friend and fellow scholar Antoine-Isaac Silvestre de Sacy, (1758–1838). After de Sacy's death, his oriental manuscripts were sold in Paris in 1843, (see Bibliothèque, Vol. III, Appendix, no. 287), where it was likely purchased by Persian scholar Nathaniel Bland (1803–1865). After Bland's 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.

Record Sources

Bibliographical description based on an index created by Reza Navabpour circa 1993, derived from a manuscript catalogue 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.


    Hayreddin Hızır b. Mahmud b. Ömer el-ʿAtufi, Kitāb al-Kutub (Register of Books, Török F 59). Budapest: Magyar Tudományos Akadémia Könyvtára Keleti Gyűjtemény (Oriental Collection of the Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences), 909 AH (1503–04 CE), folio 189, ln. 14.
    Michael Kerney, Bibliotheca Lindesiana. Handlist of Oriental Manuscripts, Arabic, Persian, Turkish. ([Aberdeen]: Privately printed, 1898), p. 109, no. 68.
    G. de La Grange, Bibliothèque de M. le Baron Silvestre de Sacy, Vol. III: (Appendice 'Manuscrits'). (Paris: Imprimerie Royale, 1842), p. 52–53, no. 307.
    Naṣrallāh Munshī, Tarjumah-'i Kalīlah va Dimnah. Edited by Mojtaba Minovi. (Tehran: Dānishgāh Tihrān, 1842), pp. yā-ṭā.
    Naṣrallāh Munshī, Kalila and Dimna. Translated by Wheeler M. Thackston. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2019.
    Gülru Necipoğlu, Cemal Kafadar, and Cornell Fleischer, Treasures of Knowledge. An Inventory of the Ottoman Palace Library (1502/3-1503/4), Vol. 2. (Leiden: Brill, 2019), p. 131.
    Dagmar Riedel, Mahmoud Omidsalar and Bernard O'Kane, “Kalila wa Demna ii. The translation by Abu’l-Maʿāli Naṣr-Allāh Monši”, in Encyclopædia Iranica Volume XV, Fasc. 4, (2015), pp. 386-397.

Funding of Cataloguing

Iran Heritage Foundation and The John Rylands Research Institute


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