Union Catalogue of Manuscripts from the Islamicate World

Persian MS 813 (The John Rylands Research Institute and Library, The University of Manchester)

Persian Manuscripts


Summary of Contents: Although the spine of this volume bears an alternate title, Majlis al-Shu‘arā (Assembly of Poets), Muḥammad Ṣāliḥ ibn Muḥsin Navvāb Raz̤avī (fl. ca. 1652–1676) entitled this massive anthology Latāyif al-Khayāl (Charms of the Imagination). Seemingly complete, the text presents examples of 964 poets, alphabetically arranged by the last letters of their names, but it omits any biographical information. A chronogram appended to the end of the preface indicates the date of the work's completion in 1104 AH (1692–93 CE). While unsigned and undated, at least two scribes compied this manuscript. A note by one Munshī Khayr al-Zamān Aḥmad declares that he purchased the volume in Dinajpur (Bengal) in 1210 AH (1795 CE), so it must date before then. Scholar Nathaniel Bland (1803–1865), a friend of the volume's subsequent owner, orientalist Duncan Forbes (1798-1868), describes this manuscript in his essay on biographies of Persian poets.
Title: Majlis al-Shu‘arā
Title: مجلس الشعرا
Incipit: (basmala) صفحه‌ی ۱ (page 1): الحمد لله كما هو اهله و صلي الله على محمد و اله اجمعين. اما بهد: آمد آنكه اين رساله موسومه بلطايف الخيال بعد از آنكه انتخاب و تالبف بترتيب خاص كه در دباةه تفصيل تحقيق آن شده انتخاب ديگر از آن سده و موسو خلاصه لطایف الخیال گردیده و اضافه برآن ترتیب قاعده درین منتخب قرار دارد که هر جا مطلبی باشد بفاصله نوشته شود.
Explicit: صفحه‌ی ۱۵۰۹ (page 1): جنون تکلیف صحرا می کند هر دم دم ما را(؟) * تو گل می کنم بر عشق با همسر خرد هویی
Colophon: No colophon.
Language(s): Persian

Another chronicle of poets authored by Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad Dārābī bears the same title. Few complete copies of this work appear to survive. For an expanded redaction with a longer preface and indices by Muḥammad Naṣīr ibn Muḥammad Ja‘far, pen named 'Nuṣrat', see Ethé and Storey.

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: Textblock comprised of cross-grained, externally sized and lightly polished, ivory-coloured paper probably handmade in Bengal with ~8 laid lines per cm and no discernible chain lines.
Extent: 1512 pages, 7 flyleaves (ff. iv + 762 + iii).
Dimensions (leaf): 246 × 158 mm.
Dimensions (written): 188 × 91 mm.
Foliation: Pencilled Arabic page numbers added to the upper-left corners of the a sides by former owner Duncan Forbes.


Undetermined, but probably primarily quaternions throughout. Catchwords throughout most of the lower-left corners of the b sides.


Text in good condition.


Written in 2 columns with 17 lines per page. Ruled with a misṭarah hand guide.


Written in black nasta‘līq with red subheaders by at least two different hands in collaboration, one comparatively hasty and the other clear and bold.


Ruling: All margins ruled in double red surrounded by single blue lines, with vertical column dividers and horizontal section breaks ruled in double red lines.

  • The fourth right flyleaf a side (f. iva), top bears the number ‘D. F. 52’, with the latter digit overwritten as ‘3’, and a price of ‘£12.12.6’ both correspond to Duncan Forbes' catalogue, along with a pencilled description of the volume in Forbes' hand between:
    ‘Poetical selections from the oldest of various Persian Poets’.
  • Page 1510 bears an Arabic note by one Munshī Khayr al-Zamān Aḥmad declaring that he purchased the volume in Dinajpur (Bengal) possibly on 5 Rabī‘ [I?] 1210 AH (19 Sept. 1795 CE):
    ‘ شرئي هذا الكتاب في مقام دناپور منشي خير الزمان احمد خمسة [رابع؟] في سنة الف و ماتين عشر هجري نبوي صلي الله عليه و سلم. ’
Bookplates: The left pastedown: ‘Bibliotheca Lindesiana’ bookplate with pencilled shelfmark ‘1/F’, and an earlier Lindesiana label ‘Persian MSS No. 17’, with the number crossed out and ‘813’ written aside.


Probably bound in Bengal.

Sewn at two unsupported stations. Edges trimmed, and chevron endbands of red and green silk threads twined at head and tail. Covered in full dark maroon coloured goatskin leather over pasteboards, flush-cut, with a flap (type II binding per Déroche). Board interiors lined with the same leather. Spine subsequently replaced (rebacked) with medium russet-coloured goatskin leather.

Boards and flap uniformly decorated with blind central scalloped mandorlas, detached pendants, cornerpieces, and surrounding marginal cartouches that feature floral scrollwork against pointille backgrounds. Centres and inner margins ruled with single and double lines that connect the decoration, surrounded by comparatively thick single lines with thin lines on either side.

255 × 174 × 93 mm.

Handle binding with caution. In fair but stable condition, with stiffened flap. Prior water damage delaminated the pasteboard internally, causing them to soften.


Origin: Possibly completed in Bengal; undated, but probably before 1795 CE.

Provenance and Acquisition

Subsequently purchased by Munshī Khayr al-Zamān Aḥmad in Dinajpur (Bengal), possibly on 5 Rabī‘ [I?] 1210 AH (19 Sept. 1795 CE).

While the circumstances under which this volume arrived in Britain remain unclear, Duncan Forbes (1798-1868) acquired it from an unidentified source. Ultimately appointed King's College Professor of Oriental Languages, Forbes later described the volume in his 1866 catalogue, valued at £12 12s 6d (also inscribed on the fourth right flyleaf a side (f. iva), before he sold his manuscript collection to his publisher W. H. Allen & Co. in exchange for an annuity.

Subsequently sold by that firm to Alexander Lindsay, 25th Earl of Crawford (1812–1880) in 1866 for his 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, Manchester.

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 2024 with reference to the manuscript 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.


    Nathaniel Bland, 'On the earliest Persian Biography of Poets, by Muhammad Aúfi, and on some other Works of the class called Tazkirat ul Shuârá', Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol. IX. (1848): p. 168.
    M. Dirāyatī and M. Dirāyatī, Fihristgān: Nuskhahʹhā-yi Khaṭṭī-i Īrān (Fankhā) (Union catalogue of Iran manuscripts), Vol. 27 (Tehran: Sāzmān-i Asnād va Kitābkhānah-i Millī-i Jumhūrī-i Islāmī-i Īrān, 1392 S. H. [2013–14 CE]), pp. 334–335 [K. Majlis no. 9054, 8217, &c.].
    H. Ethé, Catalogue of Persian manuscripts in the library of the India Office, Vol. I (London: Printed for the India Office by H. Hart, 1903), cols. cols. 945–946, nos. 1739–1740 [British Library IO Islamic 320 and 2539.].
    D. Forbes, Catalogue of Oriental Manuscripts, Chiefly Persian, Collected Within the Last Five and Thirty years (London: W. H. Allen., 1866), p. 18, no. 53.
    E. Sachau and H. Ethé, Catalogue of the Persian, Turkish, Hindûstani, and Pushtû manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, Vol. I (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1889), cols. 701–702, no. 1143 [Bodleian MS Elliott 291].
    C. A. Storey, Persian Literature: A Bio-bibliographical Survey, Vol. 1 Pt. 2 (London: Luzac & Co., 1953), pp. 761–762 n127, no. 1128.

Funding of Cataloguing

Iran Heritage Foundation

The John Rylands Research Institute

The Soudavar Memorial Foundation


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