Union Catalogue of Manuscripts from the Islamicate World

Persian MS 68 (The John Rylands Research Institute and 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 and dedicated it to his patron, Bahrām Shāh of Ghazna (b. 1084, r. 1117–1152), it often appears under the variant title of 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 60), translated in turn from a now-lost Pahlavi Middle Persian translation of the Sanskrit Panchatantra (Five Treatises). However, Naṣr Allāh did not merely translate that work, but he imaginatively recast and augmented it with quotations from the Qur’ān and Ḥadīth (Prophetic traditions) interspersed with proverbs and lines of poetry in Arabic and Persian. The resulting synthesis proved so influential that it profoundly revolutionized medieval Persian literature. This manuscript, completed in 616 AH (1219 CE)—one of two Persian redactions held in the John Rylands Library (see also 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 Ottoman ruler Sultan Beyāzīd II (b. 1447, r. 1481–1512), then acquired by French dragoman to the Ottoman court, orientalist Joseph Marie Jouannin (1783–1844), who subsequently acquired the volume and had it rebound before presenting it to his friend and fellow scholar Antoine-Isaac Silvestre de Sacy (1758–1838).
Author and Bibliographic antecedent: Ibn al-Muqaffaʻ, d. ca. 760
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: برگ ۱۸۶پ (folio 186b): 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.
Colophon: Completed by ‘Alī bin Abī Bakr al-Khatīr at the end of end of Sha‘bān year 616 AH (Beginning of November, 1219 CE).

In the introduction to his critical edition of the Persian text, Mojtaba Minovi (pp. yā–tā) describes two earlier manuscripts held in Turkish libraries survive, one dated Muḥarram 27, 551 AH (March 22, 1156–1157 CE), 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); however, he did not reference this volume. The Kalīla and Dimna – AnonymClassic project at Freie Universität, Berlin, discusses this edition in relation to other redactions.

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: Comprised tan-coloured paper possibly handmade in Greater Iran, with a lighter cream-coloured polished paper of unknown manufacture added to replace folios 14–15, 79, 84, 177–178, 177, and 189.
Extent: 188 Folios (ff. xvi + 188 + xvi).
Dimensions (leaf): 225 × 150 mm.
Dimensions (written): 172 × 99 mm.
Foliation: Pencilled Arabic numerals on the upper-left corners of the a sides throughout added when catalogued.


Undetermined. Catchwords throughout on the lower-left corners of the b sides.


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 misṭarah.


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

Replaced folios 14–15, 79, 84, 177–178, 177, and 189 copied in a later naskh hand written with a thinner pen and slightly smaller hand in imitation of the original copyist.

Additions: Inscriptions:
  • Folio 1a inscribed with unidentified Persian couplets in a medieval naskh hand, and also a note from former owner Joseph Marie Jouannin in French declares his presentation of the volume to Antoine-Isaac Silvestre de Sacy.
  • The final left flyleaf a side (f. xxxiiib) marked ‘SY 307’, probably from de Sacy's library.
  • The left paste-down bears the ‘Bibliotheca Lindesiana’ with the shelfmark ‘F/6’, and ‘Bland MSS No. 290’, and ‘Jh. Mie Jouannin’, the last also on folio 1a.
  • The final right flyleaf a side (f. xvia) bears a pencilled sketch of pineapple leaves, with the word ‘ānānās’ in Persian.
  • An astrology chart appears on 188b mentions a Rumī calendar date of 1495 CE, so likely added in the Ottoman empire during Beyazid II's reign.


Rebound in circa 1810 in the 'Empire' style for former owner binding for former owner, French orientalist Joseph Marie Jouannin (1783–1844) as indicated by his initials ‘J. M. J.’.

Resewn on four recessed cords, laced into the pasteboards. Endpapers of brown shell patterned French marbled papers, unusually executed over yellow paper. First and final flyleaves stiff-leaved to outer folios of two quaternions (8 folios) of modern blank laid paper (~8 laid lines per cm and 31 mm between chain lines) sewn onto the right and left of the original text block when rebound, that bear the watermark ‘Imperial’ with tre lune (three-crescent) and shield possibly bearing a crescent moon insignia. Edges trimmed, and French-style decorative single-core front-bead endbands sewn in white, green, and russet silk threads at head and tail. Covered in an 'Empire' style, hollow-backed, in full sprinkled calfskin leather binding.

Boards decorated with 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 panels paeletted with gilt double-fillets, with arc-and-dart and dotted-lotus decorative palettes at the tail.

Two black skiver leather labels applied to the 2nd and fourth panel down from the top titled ‘LES FABLES DE BIDPAÏ OU KÈLILÈ ET DÉMÉNÉ’ and ‘MANUSCRIT PERSAN ECRIT EN- 606. DEL' HÉGIRE’.

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 or associates.

  • 1: Folio 1a bears a partially obliterated, pointed oval-shaped seal impresion, intaglio carved with the imperial ṭughrā (Modern Turkish= tuğrâ of the Ottoman ruler Sultan Beyāzīd II (b. 1447, r. 1481–1512) (see Kut and Bayraktar and also Necipoğlu, Kafadar, and Fleischer):

    ‘ًبايزيد بن محمد خان المظفر دائما’

    Bāyzīd bin Muḥammad Khān, al-Muẓaffar da'īmān

    13.5 × 21 mm.

  • 2: The final right endleaf b side (folio xvib) bears an undated oval seal impression, possibly 17th century, of one Gul Muḥammad, intaglio carved in a single line of nasta‘liq script:

    ‘ العبد الراجي گل محمد ’

    al-‘Abd al-Rājī Gul Muḥammad

    14 × 21 mm.

  • 3: The first left flyleaf a side (f. xviia), a later endpaper added after prior restoration, bears a partially legible ovoid seal impression of one ‘Abbās ‘Alī.

    10 × 16 mm.


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

Provenance and Acquisition

Formerly owned by Sultan Beyazid II as per his seal impresion on folio 1a (see Kut and Bayraktar and also Necipoğlu, Kafadar, and Fleischer). Subsequently owned or possibly inspected by one Gul Muḥammad who impressed his seal on the final right flyleaf a side (f. xvia) and one ‘Abbās ‘Alī as per his seal on the later first left flyleaf a side (f. xviia) flyleaves.

Subsequently acquired by French dragoman Joseph-Marie Jouannin (1783–1844), likely during his tenure in Constantinople (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 then later presented it to his friend and fellow scholar Antoine-Isaac Silvestre de Sacy (1758–1838), as per his incription on his bookplate on folio 1a.

After de Sacy's death, presumably inherited by his son Samuel Ustazade Silvestre de Sacy (d. 1879), who sold many of his father's oriental manuscripts through Parisian booksellers Romain Merlin (1793–1871) and Grangeret de la Grange, (1790-1859) on 1843 (no. 217), where an individual named 'Moore' purchased it.

Thereafter acquired by scholar Nathaniel Bland (1803–1865) purchased it then brought it to his home at Britain.

After Bland's death, London 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 catalogue 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 volume.


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 Gilded Word and Radiant Image, sponsored by the Altajir Trust.

Digital Images

Manchester Digital Collections (full digital facsimile).


    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.
    Günay Kut and Nimet Bayraktar Yazma Eserlerde Vakıf Mühürleri. 2nd Rev. ed. (: , 1842), pp. 35–37, no. II.
    R. Merlin and G. de la Grange, Bibliothèque de M. le Baron Silvestre de Sacy, Vol. III, Pt. 2 'Manuscrits' (Paris: Imprimerie Royale, 1842), pp. 52–53, no. 307.
    Naṣr Allāh 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.
    Türkiye Yazma Eserler Kurumu Başkanlığı, 'Mühür Veribatanı', no. YEKMU0048.

Funding of Cataloguing

Iran Heritage Foundation

The John Rylands Research Institute


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