THE BRITISH LIBRARY

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Persian

Digital Access to Persian Manuscripts
(Click here to go straight to a list of all manuscripts digitised so far)

From the pocket miscellany (Add.27261), with its exquisite miniature illuminations, compiled in 1410-11 for Timur's grandson Sultan Jalal al-Din Iskandar, ruler of Fars, to unique historical documents and literary manuscripts, the Persian Manuscripts collection at the British Library is one of the most significant collections in the world in both size and importance. Consisting of over 11,000 works in almost as many volumes, it combines the two world-class collections of the British Museum and the India Office Library. These manuscripts originate from the whole of the Persianate world, in particular Iran, Central Asia and India and range in time from the 12th century to recent years, representing most of the traditional fields of humanities and religious studies. Many of the Persian manuscripts are copies of rare texts, with examples of some of the finest illustrated Mughal, Timurid and Safavid paintings.

Io_islamic_3540_f010r
Scene from the Shāhnāmah (Book of Kings): Bath scene, illustrating the story in the preface of how Firdawsī scornfully gave away to a bath house attendant half the paltry reward Sultan Mahmud gave him for writing the Shāhnāmah (IO Islamic 3540, f. 10r)
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Although printed catalogues exist for most of this material, only some of the catalogues are available online. Moreover, very little of the collection has been digitised. Our Persian manuscripts have, until recently, only been accessible onsite to those who can physically visit the British Library to study in the Asian and African Studies reading room. With limited access to  catalogue records, the collection has therefore been much underused.

The British Library is currently engaged in a program to enable digital access to the Persian collections and is now mid-way through a three-year partnership project with the Iran Heritage Foundation and other supporters. The project involves creating catalogue records for uncatalogued manuscripts,  standardizing existing print records and creating digital files to make them available online. At the same time we have digitised and put online some of the most significant manuscripts in the collection. By the end of the initial three-year partnership, records of nearly all acquisitions made after 1903 will be available online. Currently, details of over 2,500 works are searchable on Fihrist, a union catalogue of some of the major Arabic script manuscript collections in the UK. They will also be available within the Library's own online catalogue of archives and manuscripts.

To date we have digitised 50 manuscripts which are all available, cover to cover, at British Library's Digitised Manuscripts. See list below for details.

Our posts '15000 images of Persian manuscripts online' and 'Twenty more Persian manuscript treasures online' give a general description of the project with examples of the images, and several other blog posts describe manuscripts digitised as part of the project (search for 'Persian digital manuscripts' in the search box on the main blog page).

We have also published digital copies of over 1,500 previously unpublished descriptions of Persian manuscripts in the India Office Library compiled in the 1930s by C. A. Storey, A. J. Arberry and R. Levy. Details and guidance on how to use the catalogue are given in A newly digitised unpublished catalogue of Persian manuscripts.

We are currently seeking further funding to extend the project to include details of the manuscripts acquired by the India Office Library from the imperial Mughal Library in 1859 and to create digital records for all the manuscripts described in the groundbreaking catalogues of the late 19th century and early 20th century by Charles Rieu and Hermann Ethé. We also aim to digitise further selected Persian manuscripts. If you would like to support us or can help in any way please look here for more information.

We are grateful to our sponsors and partners for the financial support that has enabled this project:

Iran Heritage Foundation

Bahari Foundation

Barakat Trust

Friends of the British Library

Soudavar Memorial Foundation

Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute

Khayami Foundation

 

 

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List of digitised Persian manuscripts

Below we have listed the Persian manuscripts in the British Library which have been digitised up to the present time.  Click on the manuscript number at the head of each description to go directly to the relevant entry on the British Library's digitised manuscripts site. Once there, click on the thumbnail image of the manuscript to get to the full digitised version which will open in a new window (please note that all subsequent digitised manuscripts that you view will appear in this same window). You can choose to view one page at a time or two together in book format (i.e. as if you were reading it). Make sure, however, that you select 'Right to Left' in the 'Direction' box.

Also included in the list below are links to catalogue descriptions, blog posts and other related documents for each manuscript, where available.  If a manuscript is illustrated, the description will contain direct links to the illustrations.

The list will be updated regularly to reflect ongoing work.

Note: These manuscripts are also available to read in our Asian and African Studies Reading Room (Registered readers only - see Registering for a Reader Pass) . Certain illustrated mss, however, are restricted, in which case special permission must be obtained first. Note also that there are some discrepancies between the numbering of the manuscripts and the form cited on the digitised manuscripts site. For example:

Add.6613 is Add MS 6613 in 'Search our Catalogue: Archives and Manuscripts' and in our Digitised Manuscripts Viewer, but Add.6613 is the way it is cited in our printed catalogues and the number by which it should be ordered in our Reading Room.

Reg.16.B.8 similarly becomes Royal MS 16 B viii in 'Search our Catalogue...' and in Digitised Manuscripts , but remains Reg.16.B.8 in our printed catalogues and for requisitioning purposes.

To keep in touch with new developments and current research, please subscribe to our blog and follow us on twitter @BLAsia_Africa.

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Add.6613

Niẓāmī, Khamsah, dated 1665-7, containing 41 miniatures. Restricted
Description of Add.6613
Link to Rieu p.572

Add.7628
Rashīd al-Dīn, Jāmi‘ al-Tavārīkh, Transcribed for Sulṭān Shāhrukh not later than 1433
Description of  Add.7628
Link to Rieu pp 74-8

Add.7735               
Farīd al-Dīn ʻAṭṭār, Manṭiq al-Ṭayr, ca. 1490, containing 9 miniatures, late Timurid/Herat style. Restricted
Description of Add.7735
Link to Rieu pp 577-8
Blogs: ‘The Speech of the Birds’: an illustrated Persian manuscript; Mantiq al-tayr ('the Speech of Birds'), part 2; Mantiq al-tayr ('the Speech of Birds'), part 3, part 4

Add.7801               
Qadrī. Jarūnnāmah, a masnavī on the taking of Jarūn (Hormuz) from the Portuguese by Imām Qulī Khān in 1622. 10 miniatures. Isfahan/Safavid style, 1697. Restricted
Link to Rieu p. 681

Add.16688            
Rashīd al-Dīn, Jāmi‘ al-Tavārīkh. Possibly 14th century
Link to Rieu p. 78

Add.18113             
Khvājū-i Kirmānī. Khamsah, dated 798/1396. 9 miniatures, 3 illuminations. Restricted
Blog: An illustrated 14th century Khamsah by Khvājū Kirmānī
Link to Rieu pp. 620-22

Add.18188
Firdawsī. Shāhnāmah without preface. Copied in 891/1486 by Ghiyās al-Dīn Bāyazīd Ṣarrāf and illustrated with 72 miniatures, Turkman/Timurid style. Restricted
Link to Rieu p. 535

Add.18579             
Ḥusayn Vaʻiẓ Kāshifī.  Anvār-i Suhaylī.  1019/1610-11.  36 miniatures , 1 illumination, Mughal. Restricted
Description of Add.18579
Link to Rieu pp. 755-6

Add.25900
Nizami. Khamsah. Copy dated 846/1442-3 containing 19 whole-page miniatures, three ascribed to Bihzād. Restricted
Description of Add.25900
Link to Rieu p. 570
Blog: A Khamsah ascribed to the painter Bihzad (Add. 25900)

Add.27254
Colonel James Skinner. Tazkirat al-umarā. Biographies of the princely families of Rajputana, Haryana and Punjab, written by Colonel James Skinner (1778-1841) before 1830. Restricted
Description of Add.27254
Link to Rieu pp. 302-3
Blog: James Skinner's Tazkirat al-Umara now digitised

Add.27261             
Miscellany containing 23 works, compiled for Jalāl al-Dīn Iskandar ibn ʻUmar Shaykh, a grandson of Timur.  S. Iran 813-14/1410-11. 42 miniatures. Restricted
Description of Add.27261
Link to Rieu pp. 868-71
Blog: The Miscellany of Iskandar Sultan (Add. 27261)
This manuscript is featured in our Turning the Pages

Add.27262
Saʻdī, Būstān dated at Agra, 26 Rabīʻ I 1039 (13 November 1629) and illustrated with ten miniatures. Copied in large elegant nastaʻliq by the well-known physician and poet Ḥakīm Rukn al-Dīn Masʻūd, known as Ḥakīm Ruknā, who went to India in the reign of Akbar and became one of Shah Jahan’s favourite poets. Profusedly decorated margins. Bound in original painted and glazed covers. Restricted
Link to Rieu p. 602

Add.27268             
Two Zoroastrian works dated 1677: 
1) Kay Kaʼūs ibn Kay Khusraw ibn Dārā. Zarātusht nāmah
2) Bahmān ibn Kaiqubād. Qiṣṣah-’i Sanjān.     

Grenville XLI       
Dīvān-i Ḥāfiẓ. Mughal, probably dating from 1600-05 and commissioned for Prince Salim (Jahangir). Restricted
Link to Rieu p. 629
Blog: What were the Mughals favourite books?

IO Islamic 132      
Anthology of Divans. Dated 713-14/1314-15, containing 53 miniatures in a simplified Mongol style. From the library of the Safavid ruler Shah Ismāʻīl. Restricted
Link to Ethé 903, 911-913, 1028-1030

IO Islamic 137
Sharaf al-Dīn Yazdī, Ẓafarnāmah, also called the Tārīkh-i jahāngushāʼī-yi Taymūr,  a biography of Timur by Sharaf al-Dīn Yazdī completed ca. 1424. Illustrated with 30 miniatures, 16th century Shiraz style. Restricted
Link to Ethé 175

IO Islamic 138
Jamālī, Khamsah. The only known copy of five masnavis composed by the poet Jamālī who lived at the beginning of the 15th century. Dated 1465 at Baghdad and illustrated with six miniatures. Restricted
Link to Ethé 1284

IO Islamic 843      
Kullīyāt-i Saʻdī , containing 18 miniatures. Shiraz/Safavid style. 1624. Restricted
Link to Ethé 1120        

IO Islamic 1026
Tarjumah-i Masālik va Mamālik
, 14th century copy of the Persian adaptation of Istakhrī's geography, containing  18 maps. Restricted
Link to Ethé 707  

IO Islamic 3043   
Sad dar
. 100 Zoroastrian rules in Persian prose, transcribed in Avestan script with an interlinear translation in Gujarati. 1575

IO Islamic 3214
Sindbādnāmah, an anonymous version of the adventures of Sindbad in Persian verse. This copy is believed to have been made in Golconda, India, around the year 1575. It contains 72 illustrations in Golconda style. Restricted
Link to Ethé 1236

IO Islamic 3442   
Fatḥ ʻAlī Khān Kāshānī Ṣabā. Shāhinshāhnāmah. Qajar. 1225/1810. 38 miniatures, 4 illuminations. Restricted
Link to Ethé 901

IO Islamic 3540
Firdawsi. Shāhnāmah. Shiraz, 10th/16th c. 57 miniatures, 4 illuminations. Restricted
Description of IO Islamic 3540
Link to Ethé 2992

IO Islamic 3558
Fatḥ ʻAlī Shāh Qājār. Dīvān-i Khāqān. A beautifully illuminated copy in calligraphic shikastah of the poems of  Fatḥ ʻAlī Shāh Qājār, Shah of Iran (r. 1797-1834), whose poetic name was Khāqān. Includes a floral painted lacquer binding with doublures containing portraits of Fatḥ ʻAlī Shāh. Restricted
Link to Ethé 2997

Or.166
Gulbadan Begam, Aḥvāl-i Humāyūn Pādshāh. Autobiographical account of the reigns of the Mughal Emperor Bābur and his son Humāyūn by Bābur’s daughter Gulbadan Begam (1523-1603). Although this copy probably dates from the early 17th century, it is the only known copy to have survived.
Link to Rieu p. 246-7

Or.343
Muḥyī Lārī, Futūḥ al-Ḥaramayn. A poetical description of the holy shrines of Mecca and Medina and the rites of pilgrimage by Muḥyī Lārī (d.1526 or 1527). Includes 17 miniatures, probably Persian, dating from the 17th century
Link to Rieu p. 655

Or.1362          
Jāmī. Nafaḥāt al-Uns copied for Akbar at Agra in 1603. Mughal, with 17 miniatures, some with attributions. Restricted
Link to Rieu p. 350

Or.2265
Nizami. Khamsah. Shah Tahmasb's copy. 1535-43, with additions. 17 miniatures, 6 illuminations, 2 cover illustrations. Restricted
Description of Or.2265
Link to Rieu p. 1072
Blog: Some paintings by the 17th century Safavid artist Muhammad Zaman

Or.2780
A collection of epic poems. Shiraz?/Timurid style, 800/1397-8. 11 miniatures, 3 illuminations. 
Restricted  
Contents:
1) Asadī Ṭūsī. Garshāsbnāmah
2) Aḥmad Tabrīzī. Shāhanshāhnāmah
3) Bahmānnāmah
4) Kūshnāmah
Link to Rieu Supplement no. 201

Or.2839
Nawʻī Khabūshānī, Sūz va Gudāz. ‘Burning and melting’, a poem by Muḥammad Riz̤ā Nawʻī Khabūshānī (d. 1609 or 1610‏), commissioned for the Mughal Prince Danyāl (1581-1614). Contains three miniatures, Mughal dating from the 17th century. Restricted
Link to Rieu Supplement no. 313

Or.2933  
Niẓāmī. Khusraw Shirin. An abbreviated copy dated 1726, with 63 paintings. Mughal
Link to Rieu Supplement no. 231

Or.3714
Mīrzā ʻAbd al-Raḥīm Khān, Vāqiʻāt-i Bāburī. The Memoirs of the Mughal Emperor Babur (r. 1526-30), originally written in Chaghatai Turkish and translated into Persian at his grandson Akbar’s request by Mīrzā ʻAbd al-Raḥīm Khān in 1589. This imperial copy, containing 143 illustrations mostly by attributed artists, was completed c. 1590-93. Restricted
Link to Rieu Supplement no. 75
A selection of highlights from this manuscript is available as part of British Library Turning the Pages
E. S. Smart, Paintings from the Bāburnāma: a Study of Sixteenth Century Mughal Historical Manuscript Illustration, PhD thesis submitted SOAS, July 1977

Or.4110          
An anonymous 15th century anthology of Persian poets (including Indian poets) assembled in the reign of the Sharqi Sultan Mubārak Shāh of Jaunpur (1399-1402)
Link to Rieu Supplement no. 374

Or.4615          
Abū Ṭāhir Ṭarsūsī. Dārābnāmah. An imperial copy containing 157 miniatures, mostly attributed. Mughal. c. 1580-1585. Restricted
Description of Or.4615
Index of artists in Or.4615
Link to Rieu Supplement no. 385
Blog: The tales of Darab: a medieval Persian prose romance

Or.5302
Saʻdī. Gulistān copied in 975 (1567/68) in Bukhara (Uzbekistan) and ascribed in the colophon to the famous calligrapher Mīr ʻAlī Ḥusaynī. Includes six Bukhara-style paintings which were commissioned apparently at Akbar's request. The manuscript was 'improved'  in India in Jahangir's reign when seven more paintings were added, probably between 1605 and 1609. Restricted
Blog: What were the Mughal’s favourite books?

Or.5637
Jahānārā Begam, Muʼnis al-arvāḥ, an autograph copy by Princess Jahānārā (1641-81), daughter of Shāh Jahān, of her biography, composed in 1049/1640, of Muʻīn al-Dīn Chishtī with notices of some of his disciples
Blog: Princess Jahanara’s biography of a Sufi saint

Or.6525          
Khvājah Mas’ūd-i Bek. Mir’āt al-‘ārifīn. 18th century

Or.6810
Nizami. Khamsah. Late 15th century copy containing one double and 20 single miniatures ascribed to Bihzād, Mīrak and others. Restricted
Description of Or.6810
Blog: The Khamsah of Nizami: A Timurid Masterpiece

Or.7043
Luqmān, Salīm Khānnāmah, a poetical history of the reign of the Ottoman Sultan Selim II (r.1566-1574) composed in 1580. Copy dated 1099/1687-88 contains 8 miniatures, Ottoman

Or.7573
Ḥāfiẓ. Dīvān, containing eight miniatures and text decorated throughout with birds. Imperfect at end. Copied by ‘Abd al-Ṣamad Shīrīn-qalam in 990/1582-3 for Asaf Khan in Akbar's reign and subsequently enhanced by Jahangir c. 1611 with nine illustrations, eight of which are preserved here. Restricted
Blog: Jahangir’s Hafiz and the Madrasa Jurist

Or.8193
The 'Yazd Anthology', a collection of Turkish works written in calligraphic Uighur script in Yazd in 1431 with the addition of the Persian Dīvāns of Kamāl-i Khujand and Amīrī in the margins. The Uighur scribe was Mansur Bakhshi who was working for Mir Jalal al-Din the governor of the city. Ornamented throughout with geometric floral and other designs.
Article: G. L. M. Clauson, “A Hitherto Unknown Turkish Manuscript in "Uighur" Characters”, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, No. 1 (Jan., 1928), pp. 99-130

Or.11846
Hāfiẓ Saʻd. Dīvān, copied by Shaykh Maḥmūd Pīr Būdāqī at Shiraz for the library of Pīr Būdāq (d.1466), son of the Jahānshāh Qaraqoyunlu. Restricted

Or.12208
Niẓāmī, Khamsah. An imperial copy of the Khamsah by Niẓāmī Ganjavī (1140 or 41-1202 or 3), dated between 1593 and 1595 and copied by ʻAbd al-Rahīm ʻAnbarīn-qalām. It contains 38 illustrated folios attributed to the major artists of the imperial Mughal studio. Original lacquered binding. Restricted
Barbara Brend, The Emperor Akbar’s Khamsa of Nizami. London, 1995

Or.12857
ʻAbd al-Karīm al-Qādirī Jawnpūrī, Javāhir al-mūsīqāt-i Muḥammadī a musical treatise dedicated to Muhammad ‘Adil Shah (r.1626-56), being a refurbishment and expansion in Persian dating from the 17th century of an earlier (c. 1570) illustrated manuscript, a translation into Dakhini of the Sanskrit musical treatise Saṅgītaratnākara, by the 13th century author Śārṅgadeva. Contains 48 Deccani miniatures dating from around 1570. Restricted
Blog: Indian Music in the Persian Collections: the Javahir al-Musiqat-i Muhammadi (Or.12857). Part 1 and Part 2

Or.12985                
Asadī Ṭūsī. Garshāsbnāmah.  981/1573. Safavid/Qazvin style. 8 miniatures, 1 illumination. Restricted

Or.12988
Abu'l-Fazl ibn Mubārak, Akbarnāmah. Volume 1 of Abu'l-Fazl's history of the reign of Akbar, describing Akbar's Timurid ancestry and the reigns of Babur and Humayun, completed ca.1602 with 39 paintings. Contains ownership notes (subsequently pasted over) on the flyleaf by Jahangir and Shah Jahan. Restricted

Or.13506        
Naṣr Allāh. Kalīlah va Dimnah.  Persian translation of the Tales of Bidpai. Shiraz (?), 707/1307. 67 miniatures, 3 illuminations. Restricted 
Article: M.I. Waley and Norah M. Titley, “An illustrated Persian text of Kalīla and Dimna dated 707/1307-8”, British Library Journal 1/1 (Spring 1975) pp. 42-61

Or.14139
Ḥāfiẓ. Dīvān, copied at Herat or Mashhad ca. 1470 by, according to Shah Jahan’s note of 1037/1628 (f. 1r), the famous calligrapher Sulṭān ʻAlī Mashhadī. The whole work was refurbished and remargined at the Mughal court ca. 1605 with cartouches containing images of animals, birds, musicians, workmen, soldiers etc. Restricted
Article: J. P. Losty, “The ‘Bute Hafiz’ and the development of border decoration in the manuscript studio of the Mughals”, The Burlington Magazine 127 no. 993 (Dec. 1985), pp. 855-56; 858-71.

Reg.16.B.1     
Two Zoroastrian works:
1) Zartusht Bahrām Pazhdū. Ardā Virāf nāmah. The story of Arda the Just's visit to Heaven and Hell.
Blog: Zoroastrian visions of heaven and hell
2) Īrānshāh ibn Malikshāh. Sad dar. A Zoroastrian book of 100 rules in Persian verse. In Persian with interlinear Avestan script, dating from the 17th century. Belonged previously to Thomas Hyde
Description of Reg.16.B.1
Link to Rieu p. 49

Reg.16.B.8     
Kay Kāʼus ibn Kay Khusraw ibn Dārā. Zarātusht nāmah. A life of Zoroaster in Persian verse. 17th century. Thomas Hyde's copy Link to
Description of Reg.16.B.8
Link to Rieu pp. 46-7