Union Catalogue of Manuscripts from the Islamicate World

Persian MS 856 (The John Rylands Research Institute and Library, The University of Manchester)

Persian Manuscripts


Summary of Contents: Illustrated copy of Nizami's Khamsa (five poems)

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: Illuminated double title-page (f. 2b and f. 3a) somewhat damaged and the edges trimmed.
Extent: 222 folios
Dimensions (leaf): 311 × 209 mm.
Dimensions (written): 190 × 108 cm.

Small European pencil foliation throughout. There is also Persian foliation in ink, which breaks off at 226, and rough European pagination which reaches 440. (B. W. Robinson mistakenly refers to the illuminated double title-page on folios 2b and 3a as folios 1b and 2a due to the European pagination.)




The manuscript at present contains 16 miniatures (though there must have been about 25 miniatures originally, as some pages with miniatures have been removed) in the Shiraz style of c. 1575 , in good condition for the most part.

Richly illuminated double title-page on folios 2b and 3a, as well as richly decorated illuminated headings on folios 40b (Layla wa Majnun), 94b (Haft Paykar), 144b (Iqbal Nama Iskandari) and 192b (Sharaf Nama Iskandari).


Nineteenth-century oriental binding of red leather (rebacked) with medallions and pendants inlaid with gilt paper.


Origin: 16th century AH

Provenance and Acquisition

A completely uninformative colophon on folio 222a and others at the end of each poem.

Pencil note on a front fly-leaf gives the price £14.14s.

Formerly part of the collection of Duncan Forbes (1798-1868), orientalist, whose collection of manuscripts was acquired by Alexander Lindsay, 25th Earl of Crawford in 1866 through W. H. Allen.

Purchased by Enriqueta Rylands, on behalf of the John Rylands Library, in 1901 from James Ludovic Lindsay, 26th Earl of Crawford.

Record Sources

Bibliographical description based on an index created by Reza Navabpour circa 1993. Identification of provenance based on manuscript catalogue by Michael Kerney, circa 1890s.

Manuscript description based on B.W. Robinson, Persian Paintings in the John Rylands Library: A Descriptive Catalogue (London, 1980).


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.

A digital facsimile is available via the University of Manchester LibraryImage Collections

Funding of Cataloguing

Iran Heritage Foundation

The John Rylands Research Institute


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