Union Catalogue of Manuscripts from the Islamicate World

Persian MS 779 (The John Rylands Research Institute and Library, The University of Manchester)

Persian Manuscripts


Summary of Contents: An unidentified scribe completed this very rare, complete, prosimetrical biography entitled Ḥāl-i Baygum Samrū of Samru Begam, (ca. 1745, r. 1778–1836), ruler of the principality of Sardhana, on Monday, 11 February 1841, just 5 years after her death. Comprised of twenty-two brief chapters, it opens by recounting her husband, German mercenary Walter Reinhardt Sombre (ca. 1720-1778), and how the Mughal ruler Shāh ‘Alām II rewarded him with lands of the Durranis forces that he defeated, within which he established the principality in 1773. Referring to her to by the honourific Zīb al-Nisā Baygum throughout, then work continues to describe Begum Samru's ascension upon her husband's death in 1778, her formidable character, and major events in her life up until her death.
Incipit: (basmala) برگ ۱پ (folio 1b): .بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم * مطلع انوار كتاب كريم. مخزن اسرار الهيست اين * که هر گنج شایسته هست این
Explicit: برگ ۳۴ر (folio 34a): کو هیج ذکر مناثین(؟) چون مست غمت * چون هست غمت ذکر چه غم دارم من.
Colophon: برگ ۳۴ر (folio 34a): تمام شد بتاری یانزدهم فبروری سنه ۱۸۴۱ ع، روز دوشنبه
Colophon: Completed by an unidentified scribe on Monday, 11 February 1841.

This work may possibly be a prose redaction of a metrical biography of Begum Samru compposed by her munshī, Lālah Gūkul Chand, before her death (British Library Add. 25830), in which he states in his preamble that he took on the task after the discovery that a prior prose version reportedly authored by Jai Singh Rai had been lost. Nevertheless, this text covers the final decade of her life apparently not found in the other manuscript. D. N. Marshall also notes another manuscript held in the Saravasti Bhandar Library, Udaipur, described by M. L. Menaria as also authored by Gokul Chand; however, whether that volume might also comports with the others awaits investigation.

Language(s): Persian

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: Thin-weight, ivory-coloured, externally sized and polished paper probably handmade in the Indian subcontinent, with ~11 laid lines per cm and no discernible chain lines.
Extent: 34 folios, 8 flyleaves (ff. v + 34 + iii).
Dimensions (leaf): 147 × 115 mm.
Dimensions (written): 116 × 80 mm.
Foliation: Foliated in Hindu-arabic numerals on the upper-left corners of the a sides throughout.


Primarily quaternions. 4IV(32)1II(vii). Catchwords on the lower-left corners of the b sides throughout.


Text in good condition.


Written in 1 column with 10 lines per page. Ruled with a misṭarah hand guide.


Written in clear black nasta‘līq with red subheaders.

Table of Contents: Listed on the two loose bifolia inserted before the right flyleaves, (loose leaves 1a to 4b).
Inscriptions: The fifth right flyleaf a side (f. va) bears a descriptive title of the work in bold nasta‘līq with the name of former owner Colonel George William Hamilton, likely in the hand of his an assistant Muhīn Dās.
Bookplates: The left cover interior: ‘Bibliotheca Lindesiana’ with pencilled shelfmark ‘2/K’, and ‘Hamilton MSS No. 696’.


Probably rebound in Multan for former owner Colonel George William Hamilton.

Unsupported sewing at 2 stations, spine lined with cotton fabric, with the excess width adhered to the second and second-to-last flyleaves. Edges trimmed, but endbands omitted. Covered in semi-limp full maroon semi-limp goatskin leather. Flyleaves tipped onto the cotton fabric, with the excess width adhered as hinges connecting the text to the cover, but without full pastedowns, then reinforced with overlaid, thin transluscent tissue.

An octagonal paper label on the right cover bears the title in black nasta‘līq

150 × 118 × 9 mm.

Handle binding with caution. In fair condition with the right cover detached. Boxed.

Accompanying Material

Two bifolia tucked between the left pastedown and first right flyleaf a side (f. ia) bear a list of the contents written in black nasta‘līq in machine-made paper


Origin: Presumably completed by an unidentified scribe in the Indian subcontinent; in the Monday, 11 February 1841 CE

Provenance and Acquisition

Subsequently acquired by Colonel George William Hamilton (1807-1868) who served in India from 1823 to 1867, latterly as Commissioner in Delhi. He acquired over a thousand Indian and Persian manuscripts, from which the British Museum selected 352, now held in the British Library.

Alexander Lindsay, 25th Earl of Crawford (1812–1880) purchased the remainder of Hamilton's collection in 1868.

Alexander Lindsay, 25th Earl of Crawford (1812–1880) purchased the remainder of Hamilton's collection in 1868.

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.


    Brajendranath Banerji Begam Samru Calcutta: M. C. Sarkar and Sons, 1925.
    Lalla Gokul Chand, The History of Zeb-Ul-Nissa: the Begum Samru of Sardhana. Translated by Nicholas Shreeve. Crossbush: Bookwright, 1994.
    J. Keay, Farzana : the Woman Who Saved an Empire. London: I. B. Tauris, 2014.
    D. N. Marshall, Mughals in India: A Bibliographical Survey. Vol. 1. Manuscripts (Bombay: Asia Publishing House, 1962), p. 163, no. 540.
    M. L. Menaria, Catalogue of Manuscripts in the [Sarasvati Bhandar] Library of H. H. the Maharana of Udaipur (Mewar). (Udaipur:: Government of Mewar, 1943), p. 22 no. 151.
    Rekhta Foundation Begam Samru Google Arts and Culture. n.d.
    C. Rieu, Catalogue of the Persian manuscripts in the British Museum, Vol. II (London: British Museum, 1881), p. 724a [British Library Add. 25830].
    M. N. Sharma, The Life and Times of Begam Samru of Sardhana, A.D. 1750-1836. Sahibabad: Vibhu Prakashan, 1985
    Briraj Singh, ‘The Enigma of Begum Samru: Differing Approaches to Her Life’. India International Centre Quarterly, Vol. 24, No. 4 (1997): pp. 33-43.
    C. A. Storey, Persian Literature: A Bio-bibliographical Survey, Vol. II, Pt. 3 (London: Luzac & Co., 1977), pp. 691–692, no. 900.

Funding of Cataloguing

Iran Heritage Foundation

The John Rylands Research Institute


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