Union Catalogue of Manuscripts from the Islamicate World

Persian MS 75 (The John Rylands Research Institute and Library, The University of Manchester)

Persian Manuscripts


Summary of Contents: This illustrated copy of the Dabistān-i Maẕāhib (School of Doctrines) presents an encyclopedia of comparative religion recounting various creeds, ideologies, and philosophies found in Asia, divided into twelve ta‘līm (teachings) and subdivided into a various naẓar (observations). The author, whose name appears here as Mīr Ẕū-al-Fiqār ‘Alī al-Ḥusaynī (ca. 1615–70), lived during the reign of the Mughal ruler ‘Ālamgīr I (r. 1658–1707) and apparently followed an Indian branch of an Iranian Ishrāqī illuminationist sect founded by Zoroastrian high priest Āẕar Kayvān (ca. 1529–1618). The author not only travelled throughout the northern Indian subcontinent, but also to Mashhad in Iran. As a result, he became thoroughly acquainted with a great number of religious and scientific Parsi, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim personalities and their doctrines. Completed by Munshī Ghulām Muḥammad bin Muḥammad Jamāl in Surat on 28 Ramaz̤ān 1215 AH (12 Feb. 1801 CE), the manuscript contains seven tinted drawings that depict the planets according to Hindu mythology.
Author and Dubious author: Fānī, Muḥsin, d. 1671 or 2
Incipit: (basmalla) برگ ۱پ (folio 1b): بنام ایزد بخشایش گر مهان، بسم الله الرحمان الرحیم. ای نام تو سر دفتر اطفال دبستان * یاد تو ببالغ نظران شمع شبستان،
Explicit: برگ ۲۲۹ر (folio 229a): ودر این کردارستان عقیده آبادو از اعتقادات فرق مختلفه آنچه نگاشته آمد از زبان صاحبان آن ملت و کتاب ایشان است و در گذارش احوال اشخاس و رجال هر گروه چنانکه مطبعان و مخلصان نام برند بطعظیم ثبت نموده تا بوی تعصب و جانب رو [ی؟] نیابد و نامه نگار را ازین گزار جز منصب ترجمانی نیست و اگر متامل را در مطلبی اشتباه افتاد محرر اوراق را ضامن جواب نشمارد بیت غرض نقشی است کزما بازماند که هستی را نمی بینم بقائی ...
Colophon: برگ ۲۲۹ر (folio 229a): ۱۲۱۵. این کتاب مسمی بدبستان که فی الحقیقه تبصرة المذاهب وتذکرة الادیان است از تألیف استاد المحققین و اسناد المدققین میر ذو الفغار علی الحسینی المتخلص بموبدشاه بتاریخ بیست و هشتم شهر رمضان المبارک سنه ۱۲۱۵ در بندر مبارک سورت از دست اضعاف العباد منشي الغلام محمد بن محمد جمال متوطن بلده شیشه صورت اتمام یافت . تم تمام شد کار من نطام شد روئ شیطان سیاه شد و السلام. تم
Colophon: Completed by Munshī Ghulām Muḥammad bin Muḥammad Jamāl in Surat on 28 Ramaz̤ān 1215 AH (12 Feb. 1801 CE).

For other unillustrated copies of this work, see Rylands Persian MS 189 and 190. Regarding the attribution of authorship for this work to Mīr Ẕū al-Fiqār ‘Alī al-Ḥusaynī Ardistānī, see Mojtabāʾī and Barzegar.

Language(s): Persian
1. 1b
Title: دیباچه
Title: Introduction
2. 1b
Title: تتعلیم نخست از کتاب دبستان درمعرفت عقاید پارسیان

مشتمل بر چند (۱۵) نظر

Title: First Teaching on the Tenets of the Parsis

Comprised of 15 naẓr.

3. 80b
Title: تتعلیم دوم از کتاب دبستان دربازنمودن عقاید هندوان

مشتمل بر دوازده نظر

Title: Second Teaching on the Tenets of the Hindus

Comprised of 12 naẓr.

4. 139a
Title: تتعلیم سوم در عقیده قراتبتیان

مشتمل بر یک نظر

Title: Third Teaching on the Tenets of the Tibetans

Comprised of 1 naẓr

5. 139b
Title: تتعلیم چهارم از کتاب دبستان درلختی از عقاید یهودیه

مشتمل بر دو نظر

Title: Fourth Teaching on Jewish Tenets.

Comprised of 2 naẓr.

6. 145a
Title: تتعلیم پنجم از کتاب دبستان در عقاید ترسا

مشتمل بر سه نظر

Title: Fifth Teaching on Christian Tenets.

Comprised of 3 naẓr.

7. 149b
Title: تتعلیم ششم از کتاب دبستان در عقیده محمدیان و اهل اسلام

مشتمل بر دو نظر

Title: Sixth Teaching on Islamic Tenets.

Comprised of 2 naẓr.

8. 172b
Title: تعلیم هفتم در عقیده صادقیه
Title: Seventh Teaching on the Tenets of the Followers of Ṣādiq

Comprised of 1 naẓr.

9. 174b
Title: تتعلیم هشتم در عقیده واحدیه وامنا

مشتمل بر چهار نظر

Title: Eighth Teaching on the Tenets of Unitarians and their Faith

Comprised of 4 naẓr.

10. 177b
Title: تتعلیم نهم از کتاب دبستان در حال روشنیان

مشتمل بر سه نظر

Title: Ninth Teaching of the Book of Dabistan on the Conditions of the Enlightened

Comprised of 3 naẓr.

11. 182b
Title: تتعلیم دهم در عقاید الهیه

مشتمل بر چهار نظر

Title: Tenth Teaching on the Tenets of Ilāhīyah.

Comprised of 4 naẓr.

12. 194b
Title: تتعلیم یازدهم در عقاید حکما

مشتمل بر سه نظر

Title: Eleventh Teaching on the Tenets of the Wise.

Comprised of 3 naẓr.

13. 212a
Title: تتعلیم دوازدهم درعقاید صوفیه صفیه

مشتمل بر سه نظر

Title: Tenth Teaching on the Tenets of the pure Ṣūfīs.

Comprised of 3 naẓr.

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: Textblock of cross-grained, ivory-coloured paper probably handmade in the Indian subcontinent with ~8 laid lines per cm and no discernible chain lines.
Extent: 229 folios, 5 flyleaves (ff. ii + 229 + iii).
Dimensions (leaf): 255 × 180 mm.
Dimensions (written): 195 × 105 mm.


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


Handle text with caution. In fair condition, with extensive water and insect damage with historical repairs throughout.


Written in 1 column with 17 lines per page. Ruled with a misṭarah hand guide.


Written in clear black nasta‘līq with red subheaders by Munshī Ghulām Muḥammad bin Muḥammad Jamāl.


Tinted drawings depict seven of nine Navagraha, Hindu planetary deities, all separately executed by an unidentifed artist on horizontal strips of paper then inserted into the gutter margins adjacent to blank spaces intended for them:

Marginalia: Notations written in the margins throughout.
  • The right flyleaf a side (f. ia) bears an encircled pencilled bookseller's number ‘149’.
  • Folio 1a bears:
    • Top: Signed by former owner Sir Graves Champney Haughton, subsequently scribbled out that partly reads:
      ‘G C Haughton
      Feb 1818’
      For similar inscriptions that Haughton recorded on other volumes he purchased at the same sale, see Rylands Persian MS 173 to 179.
    • Unsigned title and description of the work, likely in the hand of Jonathan Duncan:
      A correct Copy
      The name is a contraction of
      The term Dubeer
      importing a
      wise man’.
    • Inscribed again underneath by Sir Graves Champney Haughton:
      ‘One of Jonathan Duncan's books, Bombay’
Bookplates and pasted items:
  • The right pastedown: Catalogue entry from an unidentified firm with the price crossed out in pencil:
    ‘340. دبستان Dabistan.
    A work giving a fuller account then could be obtained, at least from any other Oriental sauce, of the various religions or forms of worship prevailing in the world, as known to the writer. This copy is neatly written in small Taalik, on polished silk paper. The work is illustrated in the beginning by paintings of the planets, the sun and moon, or rather the symbolical representations of them in the Hindu mythology : the paintings are upon slips of paper, about half the height of the leaves, and a blank is left on the leaf opposite to each.
    Folio, native binding, 458 pp. 6l. 16s. 6d.’
  • The left pastedown: ‘Bibliotheca Lindesiana’ with pencilled shelfmark ‘2/F’, and ‘Bland MSS No. 297’, with the name and number crossed out and ‘Persian’ and ‘75’ written aside.


Possibly rebound in a hybrid British-Indian style in the Bombay Presidency for former owner Jonathan Duncan .

British-made spot marbled endpapers added at front and back, with the flyleaves subsequently crudely cut out. Resewn on five cord supports, with three laced into pasteboards. Edges trimmed and chevron endbands twined in white and black threads over round cores at head and tail. Covered in full polished red goatskin leather over pasteboards, tight-backed with five raised bands on the spine, squares slightly protruding along the head only, and defined joints, and without a flap (Type III binding per Déroche).

Spine titled ‘DABISTAN’

265 × 188 × 44 mm.

Handle binding with caution. In poor condition, with headcap breaking, joints cracking, and internal flyleaves cut out.


Origin: Completed by Muḥammad bin Muḥammad Jamāl in Surat; 28 Ramaz̤ān 1215 AH (12 Feb. 1801 CE). 1215 AH (1800 CE).

Provenance and Acquisition

Subsequently acquired by Jonathan Duncan (1756–1811), who governed the Bombay Presidency for 16 years from 1795 until his death.

After Duncan's death, his surviving family inherited then sold his library through the London firm of Samuel Leigh Sotheby (1805–1861) where Sir Graves Champney Haughton (1788–1849), purchased it for £12, as per his unsigned inscription on folio 1a. An early student at Fort William College, Haughton excelled in the study of several oriental languages and eventually taught them at East India College, Haileybury.

Haughton passed away in Paris, but his library sale catalogue omits this manuscript; therefore, he evidently sold it before moving there. A catalogue entry pasted on the right pastedown likely pertains to the subsequent sale of the volume by an unidentified London firm.

Subsequently acquired by by scholar Nathaniel Bland (1803–1865) for his library at Randalls Park, Leatherhead.

After Bland's death, London bookseller Bernard Quaritch (1819–1899) sold his oriental manuscripts to Alexander Lindsay, 25th Earl of Crawford (1812–1880) in June, 1866, paid in two instalments of £450 and £400, and then moved to Bibliotheca Lindesiana at Haigh Hall, Wigan.

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, concisely published as 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.


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)


Funding of Cataloguing

Iran Heritage Foundation

The John Rylands Research Institute


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