Union Catalogue of Manuscripts from the Islamicate World

Persian MS 848 (The John Rylands Research Institute and Library, The University of Manchester)

Persian Manuscripts


Summary of Contents: This copy of the Mas̲navī-i Ma‘navī (Spiritual Couplets) by Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī (1207–1273) contains six illuminated headers indicating the start of each of book within the volume. A scribe named Ni‘mat Khān copied this volume over five months in Kasur, Punjab, where he finished it on 6 Rajab 1079 AH (10 Dec. 1688).
Editor: Ni‘mat Khān; نعمت خان
Incipit: (beginning) برگ ۱پ (folio 1b): بشنو از نی چون حکایت میکند * و ز جدأیها شکایت میکند
Explicit: برگ ۳۳۴پ (folio 334b): ور سهو خطای با واقع * رب اغفر لي انکه ⟨انت⟩ تواب
Colophon: برگ ۲۷۰پ (folio 270b): المشق فقیر عارضی نعمتخان
Colophon: برگ ۳۳۴پ (folio 334b): تمت تمام شد کتاب تصنیف مولوی صاحبی روم مسنوی المشق قفیر حقیر احقر الناس نعمت خان متوطن قوم طرین سکي بتاریخ ششم ۶ رجب المرجب سنه ۱۰۷۹ جلوس میمون سنه ۱۲ در مدت پنج ماه مرقوم نموده شد و الله اعلم بالقوات.
Colophon: Signed twice by the scribe Ni‘mat Khān, briefly on folio 270b and a full statement on folio 334b which indicates that he copied over a period of five months in Kasur, Punjab in the 6 Rajab 1079 AH (10 Dec. 1688), ‘in the 12th year of the august reign [of the Emperor ‘Ālamgīr I]’.

Former owner Duncan Forbes (1798–1868) mistakenly describes the volume as completed in ‘the reign of Akbar’, but the date actually corresponds to that of ‘Ālamgīr I.

Language(s): Persian

For other copies of this work held in the Rylands, see Persian MS 17, 21, 72, 213, 236, 250–255 (Books I–VI), 795, 847, 926, 983 (Book I), and 984, the last being the earliest, completed in 9 Muḥarram 758 AH (2 January 1357 CE), about 85 years after the author first composed it. For critical editions, see Isti‘lāmī and Furūzānfar. For a recent English translation of the first two books based on the former edition, see Williams. For earlier translations, see Arberry, Nicholson, and Whinfield.

Title: Book One
Title: دفتر الاوّل
Title: Daftar-i Avval
Title: Book Two
Title: دفتر دوّم
Title: Daftar-i Duvvum
Title: Book Three
Title: دفتر سیوم
Title: Daftar-i Sīyūm
Title: Book Four
Title: دفتر چهادم
Title: Daftar-i Chahārum
Title: Book Five
Title: دفتر پنجم
Title: Daftar-i Panjum
Title: Book Six
Title: دفتر ششم
Title: Daftar-i Shīshum

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: Written on thin, cross-grained, ivory-coloured, externally sized and polished paper, probably handmade in the Indian subcontinent, with >1 mm. between laid lines and few discernible chain lines.
Extent: 334 folios, 4 flyleaves (ff. ii + 334 + ii).
Dimensions (leaf): 272 × 165 mm.
Dimensions (written): 187 × 101 mm.
Foliation: Originally foliated in pencilled partially-legible Arabic numerals on the upper-left corners of the a sides that subsequently suffered mould damage and also many trimmed off when rebound, therefore pencilled foliation at top-left of the a sides in new Arabic numerals added when catalogued. Former owner Duncan Forbes (1798–1868) describes the volume as having ‘663 pages’ but it actually contains 4 more.


Collation undetermined due to tight opening, but primarily quaternions throughout. Catchwords present at the lower-left corners of the b sides.


Handle with caution. In fair condition, with extensive cut-outs and infills on the margins repairs to inner quires in the gutters. Extensive mould and damp damage throughout left the centres of many pages weakened, with breaks and losses in the final folios.


Written in 1 to 4 columns with 21 lines per page. Ruled with a misṭarah hand guide.


Primarily written in nasta‘līq script in black with headers in red by Ni‘mat Khān, who possibly also wrote some marginal notes outlined in the same manner as the marginal ruling.

Inscription: Folio 1a inscribed by Muḥammad Quṭb al-Dīn bin Hājjī Muḥammad Aḥmad below his seal dated 1178 AH (1667–68 CE), impressed over a fore-edge repair:
‘ مالک بنده النسخته المسماة بمثنوی هو الله تعالی لیکن جعل فی تحویل فقیر محمد قطب ‌الدین بن حاجی الحرمین الشرفین محمد احمد غفر الله لهما و احسن الله الیهماه’ Bookplates and labels:
  • Left paste-down: ‘Biblioteca Lindesiana’ with shelfmark ‘F/6’.
  • The last right flyleaf a side (f. iiia) bears a handwritten Biblioteca Lindesiana label with classmark ‘Persian MSS no. 848’


Rebound in 1873 probably by Stephen Austin & Sons in Hertford, (possibly by a member of the Henington family of bookbinders, whom previously completed fine bindings commissioned by the East India Company), arranged through Bernard Quaritch (1819–1899) for Alexander Lindsay, 25th Earl of Crawford (1812–1880), along with eight other manuscripts, including Persian MS 843. This firm previously worked for East India College at Haileybury until it closed in 1858. They employed the same dies on a Prakit grammer held in the British Library, C188a73. Resewn on five recessed cords all-along, then laced into the pasteboards. Edges then trimmed and gilt, with European-style front bead decorative enbands worked in yellow and green silk at head and tail. Recovered in full pebble-grained dark maroon morocco goatskin leather, with fore-edge flap (type II binding per Déroche et al), with straight-grained black basil sheepskin leather lining the flap interior and maroon coated paper endpapers.

Covers decorated with Islamic-inspired recessed central medallion, attached pendants and corners intaglio-engraved with arabesque palmette scrollwork designs all blocked in heavy gold leaf, joined by single-fillet lines and surrounded by double-fillet lines along the perimeters of the boards, also in gold. Gilt spine palleted with four sextfoil scroll panel lines with double-fillet lines either side and at head and tail. Likely later titled for former owner Alexander Lindsay:
and dated ‘A.H. 1079 [1668–69 CE].’.

280 × 193 × 49 mm.

Handle binding with caution. In good condition, with slight abrasion to joints and headcaps, and corners of the flyleaves bent. Boxed.


Retangular, intaglio-carved namesake seal in thuluth script in three stacked lines, double-ruled, impressed in black ink on folio 1a, ‘ اغثني یاری قطبي ’ of former owner Muḥammad Quṭb al-Dīn bin Hājjī Muḥammad Aḥmad. 12 × 16 mm.


Origin: Completed by Ni‘mat Khān in Kasur, Punjab; 6 Rajab 1079 AH (10 Dec. 1688).

Provenance and Acquisition

Previously owned by one Muḥammad Quṭb al-Dīn bin Hājjī Muḥammad Aḥmad, as per his inscription and adjacent seal impression on folio 1a.

Later acquired by Duncan Forbes (1798–1868), Professor of Oriental Languages at King's College.

In 1866, he published the volume in his library catalogue, then sold it to his publishers, W. H. Allen & Co. in London in exchange for an annuity.

Acquired by Alexander Lindsay, 25th Earl of Crawford (1812–1880) later that same year.

Subsequently 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. Identification of provenance based on a manuscript catalogue by Michael Kerney, circa 1890s.

Dating information from Kerney, Bibliotheca Lindesiana, Hand-list of Oriental Manuscripts: Arabic, Persian, Turkish, 1898.

Manuscript description by Jake Benson in 2021 with reference to the volume, and in consultation with Philippa Marks (Curator of Bookbinding, British Library) and Richard Morel (Curator of Philatelic Collections, British Library) regarding the rebinding of the volume and the Austin and Henington firms.


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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