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Building a Library: The Arabic and Persian Manuscript Collection of Sir William Jones

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 December 2020

University of


This article contributes to the established scholarship on Sir William Jones (d.1794) by providing a detailed overview and analysis of the Arabic and Persian manuscript collection that Jones acquired both before arriving in India in 1784, and during his time living in Kolkata. 118 manuscripts in Arabic, Persian and Urdu and 69 Sanskrit manuscripts, as well as nine Chinese manuscripts, were transferred to the Royal Society library by Jones in 1792. These were then transferred to the India Office Library in 1876 and are currently housed in the British Library. As well as an in-depth survey of these manuscripts, this article provides important information on the manuscripts which remained in the Jones's possession after 1792 and which were sold, along with the rest of Lady Jones's (d.1829) library, at auction in 1831 after her death. Within this overview of the Arabic and Persian manuscript collections, there will be a sustained focus on the methods of acquiring manuscripts and Jones's curatorial management of his library.

Research Article
Copyright © The Author(s), 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of The Royal Asiatic Society

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The research for this article was carried out whilst I was on a doctoral placement at the British Library, researching the Arabic and Persian manuscripts of Sir William Jones. I would very much like to thank Ursula Sims-Williams for her mentorship, guidance and support. I also thank the rest of the Asian and African Studies department at the British Library, who were always welcoming and supportive. Furthermore, I would like to thank Elizabeth Gow and her colleagues at the John Rylands Library, as well as Edward Weech at the Royal Asiatic Society, for their extensive help in accessing manuscripts in both libraries; thanks also to James White, whose insights were useful in the formulation of some of the ideas in this article.

Note on transliterations: I have used the Library of Congress Persian Romanisation and Arabic Romanisation systems. Where a text is in Persian but has an obviously Arabic title, I have continued to use Arabic transliterations. For names of authors, I have used the transliteration system corresponding to the language in which they produced their texts, regardless of where they were from; in the one instance when the name of an author, who wrote or produced texts across both languages, would be written differently in the two systems, I have opted for the Persian transliteration system.


1 Jones, William and Shore, John, Memoirs of the Life, Writings and Correspondence of Sir William Jones, by Lord Teignmouth (London, 1807; 3rd edition)Google Scholar and Jones, William and Jones, Anna Maria (eds.), The Works of Sir William Jones (London, 1807)Google Scholar.

2 See, for example, Cannon, Garland, The Life and Mind of Oriental Jones: Sir William Jones, the Father of Modern Linguistics (Cambridge, 1991)CrossRefGoogle Scholar, Michael Franklin, ‘Orientalist Jones’: Sir William Jones, poet, lawyer and linguist 1746–1794 (Oxford, 2011), and A. J. Arberry, Asiatic Jones: The Life and Works of Sir William Jones (London, 1946); Alan Jones has written about Jones the Arabist, importantly noting the limitations of what he was able to know about Arabic literature, in Alan Jones “Sir William Jones as an Arabist”, in Sir William Jones 1746–1794: A Commemoration, (ed.) Alexander Murray (Oxford, 1998), pp. 67–90; from the same volume, see Thomas Trautmann “The Lives of Sir William Jones”, pp. 91–122, and David Ibetson, “William Jones as a Comparative Lawyer”, pp. 17–42, for important discussions of Jones's life and legal scholarship; on Jones as a sinologist, see Fang, T. C.Sir William Jones's Chinese Studies”, The Review of English Studies 2, 88 (1946), pp. 304314Google Scholar; on Jones the Sanskritist, see Master, AlfredThe Influence of William Jones upon Sanskrit Studies”, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies. 11, 4 (1946), pp. 798806CrossRefGoogle Scholar; see also Cannon, Garland, “Sir William Jones, Persian, Sanskrit and the Asiatic Society”, Histoire Epistémologie Langage 6, 2 (1984), pp. 8394CrossRefGoogle Scholar, for Cannon's discussion of Jones's scholarship in these areas and the setting up of the Asiatic Society in Calcutta; for Jones's contributions to linguistics, see, for example, R. H. Robins “Jones as a General Linguist in the Eighteenth Century Context” in Objects of Enquiry: The Life, Contributions, and Influences of Sir William Jones (1746–1794), (eds.) Garland Cannon and Kevin R. Brine (New York, 1995), pp. 83–91.

3 See William Jones, The Letters of Sir William Jones, (ed.) Garland Cannon (Oxford, 1970), i, pp. 108, 271 and, ii, pp. 481, 522.

4 Ibid, ii, pp. 520–523.

5 Ibid, ii, p. 521.

6 Ibid, ii, pp. 521–522.

7 See, for example, his letter to James Bate referring to his study of Niẓāmī (d.608AH/1209AD) in W. Jones, Letters, i, pp. 90–92 or his letter to Viscount Althorpe (d.1834) in which he discusses becoming a Fellow of Cambridge University as well as a fellow at Oxford in order to have access to manuscripts in ibid, i, pp. 138–140. Equally, his entire correspondence with luminaries such as Count Reviczky (d.1793) and Henry (Hendrik) Albert Schultens (d.1793) are focused on works of Arabic and Persian literature, for which see ibid, passim.

8 I have been careful not to give an exact number of manuscripts here. Charles Wilkins (d.1836) numbers 170 manuscripts in total. However, some manuscripts are only fragmentary, whilst others are bound together, and some are catalogued twice by the cataloguers of the Royal Society collection, Dennison Ross, Browne, Tawney and Thomas. Furthermore, Tawney and Thomas did not provide each volume of a multi-volume manuscript with its own shelf mark. By contrast, Dennison Ross and Browne numbered each volume of an individual title as a new manuscript shelf mark. See E. Dennison Ross and E. Browne, Catalogue of Two Collections of Persian and Arabic Manuscripts Preserved in the India Office Library (London, 1902), C. Tawney and F. Thomas, Catalogue of Two Collections of Sanskrit Manuscripts Preserved in the India Office Library (London, 1903) and, for the catalogue by Wilkins, see Wilkins, Charles “A Catalogue of Oriental Manuscripts presented to the Royal Society by Sir William Jones and Lady Jones. By Charles Wilkins Esq. F.R.S.”, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society 88 (1798), pp. 582593Google Scholar (for the Sanskrit manuscripts) and 89 (1799), pp. 335–344 (for the remaining manuscripts).

9 In Wilkins's catalogue of Jones's library, he lists nine Chinese titles (some of more than one volume); see Wilkins, “Catalogue” (1799), pp. 335–336. Unfortunately, these manuscripts were left out of the two aforementioned catalogues. Because of this, they now have different shelf marks to the rest of the Royal Society holdings, which are now unknown, awaiting further curatorial work at the British Library. Only one manuscript is accessible via the British Library online search function, this being his Chinese-Latin dictionary, under shelf mark BL MSS EUR C119. By contrast, his one Urdu manuscript was catalogued by Dennison Ross and Browne, under shelf mark BL MS RSPA 118.

10 Cannon notes that Jones (naturally) did not realise he would never see the manuscripts again and so we cannot be certain that he did not intend to send them at a later date to the Bodleian upon his death. By a twist of fate, however, Jones never did see them again. See Jones, Letters, ii, p. 906, n. 2. See also Cannon, Garland, “Sir William Jones, Sir Joseph Banks and the Royal Society”, Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London 29, 2 (1975) pp 205–230Google Scholar for a discussion of the relationship between the two men and, in particular, pp. 225–226 for the discussion of these manuscripts and Jones's gift of them to the Royal Society.

11 Catalogue of the Library of the Late Sir William Jones (London, 1831); the Royal Asiatic Society archives contain the original sales ledger from the sale of the library, which includes the surnames of the buyers of the manuscripts, as well as the prices paid for them, presumably in the hand of the auctioneer, Mr. Evans. A version of this catalogue without the manuscript notes is available at (accessed 22 April 2020). Where the MS copy is needed for the reference, it is noted as (MS) specifically.

12 Gillian Evison, “The Sanskrit Manuscripts of Sir William Jones in the Bodleian Library”, in Murray (ed.), Commemoration, pp. 123–141.

13 See footnote 8.

14 For example, his Chinese-Latin dictionary, or his notebook containing the Dīvān-i Khusraw now held as BL MSS EUR 274. Otherwise, the manuscripts sold will require a detailed examination of archival records to trace their whereabouts. For example, Jones's copy of the Maitreya Upanishads (Evans lot 338) can be found (it would appear) in the Sanskrit collections of the British Museum. See, British Museum, “List of Additions to the Department of Manuscripts in 1844”, in Catalogue of Additions to the Manuscripts in the British Museum in the Years MDCCCXLI-MDCCCXLV (London, 1850), p. 3 for mention of some Sanskrit manuscripts acquired by the library that were once owned, or at least used, by Jones, including this one.

15 See A. Jones. “Arabist”, pp. 69–70

16 Cannon, “Sir William Jones, Persian, Sanskrit and the Asiatic Society”, pp. 86–87.

17 Franklin, Oriental, p. 63. In the manuscript itself, there is no indication of this provenance.

18 W. Jones, Letters, i, 80; Jones did acquire a copy of this, now housed at the John Rylands Library, Persian MS 267.

19 BL MS RSPA 107, f. 0r; see also Jonathan Lawrence, “William Jones, al-Mutanabbī and Emotional Encounters”, British Library, Asian and African Studies (blog), 26 February 2020, available at for a further discussion of this manuscript and its possible contribution to a study of the history of emotions across cultures (accessed 22 April 2020).

20 The line may also be read idiomatically, “Like al-Ḥarīrī in eloquence, he is another Ḥātim in generosity” referencing al-Ḥarīrī of Basra (d.516/1122), author of the maqāmāt, and Ḥātim al-Ṭāʾīy (d.circa.578), the pre-Islamic Arab poet. I have chosen the less idiomatic rendering for ease of comprehension in English. The poem was also translated by Garland Cannon in his edition of Jones, Letters, i, p. 170.

21 See Jones, Letters, i, p. 159.

22 Ibid.

23 For this letter (in the original Latin and the translation), see Jones, Letters, i, pp. 163–170.

24 Jones, Letters, i, pp. 166–170.

25 All images were taken by the author who has received the appropriate permissions to use the images from the British Library in e-mail correspondence.

26 See Shore, Memoirs, i, p. 159.

27 BL MS RSPA 107, f.0r.

28 See Jones, Letters, i, p. 170.

29 BL MS RSPA 107, f.158r.

30 BL MS RSPA 107, f.158r. There are several pages at the end of the manuscript which detail recipes for scents and perfumes using quantities of herbs and spices and oils. These are written in what looks like the same hand as this ownership statement.

31 BL MS RSPA 107, f.1r.

32 The tracing is so fragile that the copy can no longer be viewed by the public, the only manuscript in the British Library collection that has restrictions upon it. Because of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, I have been unable to access the manuscript in question.

33 Cannon, Life and Mind, pp. 9–10.

34 The link between BL MS RSPA 117 and BL MS RSPA 106 was first noted by Charles Wilkins in Wilkins, “Catalogue” (1799), p. 344, in which he states that his manuscript number 167, “An Arabic manuscript traced on oil paper”, is likely the one mentioned in Jones's prefatory note in MS number 153 (now BL MS RSPA 106). This was later confirmed by Dennison Ross and Browne, Catalogue, p. 76.

35 BL MS RSPA 106 f.1v; see the section “Commissions” for a longer discussion of this man.

36 See BL MS RSPA 106, passim. Furthermore, the note also tells us that, despite the fragility of the manuscript, Jones did take at least some of his manuscript copies of Arabic manuscripts with him to India. This is important because it also has implications for BL MS RSPA 107 listed above; if Jones affirmatively took manuscripts with him to India and sent them back in 1792 as a group for the Royal Society, then he must also have taken BL MS RSPA 107 with him to India, given the collection it is found in. This means that whilst he intended to acquire manuscripts with him when he was there, he did not arrive with nothing.

37 See Evison, “Sanskrit”, p. 125.

38 Bodleian MS Caps OR.b.13, f1r.

39 See below for the purchase of manuscripts in India.

40 Catalogue of the Sale, p. 14.

41 For example, BL MS RSPA 103, BL MS RSPA 104, BL MS RSPA 105 and part of BL MS RSPA 110 are all copies of the Muʿallaqāt with different commentaries on them.

42 Catalogue of the Sale (MS copy), p. 17.

43 John Rylands Library, Arabic MS 264 [94], f.502r.

44 Shore, Memoirs, i, p. 47.

45 BL MS RSPA 97 f.1r.

46 See Alphonse Mingana, A Catalogue of the Arabic Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library Manchester (Manchester, 1934), pp. 426–428.

47 See Cannon, Life, p. 45.

48 John Rylands Library Persian MS 240, p. 734.

50 Franklin, Oriental, pp. 66–67.

51 See, for example, Jeremiah Losty and Malini Roy, Mughal India: art, culture and empire: manuscripts and paintings in the British Library (London, 2012), Francesca Orsini (ed.) The History of the Book in South Asia (Farnham, 2013), and Allysa B. Peyton and Katherine Anne Paul (eds.), Arts of South Asia: Cultures of Collecting (Gainesville Fl., 2019). See also Kenneth G. Zysk “The Use of Manuscript Catalogues as Sources of Regional Intellectual History in India's Early Modern Period” in Aspects of Manuscript Culture in South India, (ed.) Saraju Rath (Leiden, 2012), pp. 53–287 for a discussion of how we discuss intellectual history in this period of Indian manuscript history with a focus on Sanskrit materials rather than Persian or Arabic ones.

52 Table cells are shaded blue for Persian manuscripts, green for Arabic manuscripts and orange for Sanskrit manuscripts throughout.

53 35r being 35 rupees. The subdivision used by Jones, the anna (a), was 1/16 of a rupee.

54 The record for this manuscript can be found at (accessed 22 April 2020).

55 See Antoine Louis Henri Polier and Muzaffar Alam (eds.), A European Experience of the Orient: the Iʿjāz-i-Arsalānī (Persian letters, 1773–1779) of Antoine-Louis Henri Polier (Delhi and Oxford, 2007), and Subrahmanyam, Sanjay, “The Career of Colonel Polier and Late Eighteenth Century Orientalism”, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 10, 1 (2000), pp. 4360CrossRefGoogle Scholar, for detailed discussions of this French orientalist.

56 BL MS RSPA 30, f.0v; see, for example, his letter to Sir John Macpherson (d.1821), dated 1785, in which he describes the “dry soil and pure air” of the town, W. Jones, Letters, ii, p. 687.

57 Two possible contenders are Mīr Muḥammad Bāqir Dāmād Astarābādī (d.1040/1630), the Iranian philosopher who lived in Najaf, or Mīr Muḥammad Bāqir Khātūnābādī (d.1127/1715), who lived in Isfahan, a confidant of Shāh Sulṭān Ḥusayn (d.1139/1726), and scholar of tradition and religious lore.

58 For a similar argument, see Daniel A. Lowe, “Performing Authority: the ‘Islamic’ Seals of British Colonial Officers”, British Library, Asian and African Studies (blog) 26 March 2014,

59 BL MS RSPA 40, f.1r and BL MS RSPA 61, f.0v.

60 BL MS RSPA 71, f.1r.

61 William Jones, Notebook, Yale University, Beinecke Library MS Osborne c400, pp. 38–39.

62 Jones, Notebook, p. 71.

63 See Ras Baras, Shams al-Aṣvāt: The Sun of Songs by Ras Baras (an Indo-Persian Music Theoretical Treatise from the Late 17th Century), (eds. and translators) Mihrdād Fallahzādah and Maḥmūd Ḥasanābādī (Uppsala, 2012) for a scholarly edition and English translation of the text and a discursive introduction. On the authorship of the Sangīt Darpān, see “Sangeet Darpaṇ (treatise)” in Oxford Encyclopaedia of the Music of India, available at (accessed 23 April 2020).

64 This is not the place to enter into the thorny debate over the text's authorship. See Asghar Dadbeh, “Joseph i. in Persian Literature” in Encyclopedia Iranica, available at (accessed 22 April 2020), for a discussion about this particular version's authorship.

65 Jones, Letters, ii, p. 734, n.3.

66 Franklin, Oriental, p. 66.

67 W. Jones, Notebook, p. 47.

68 For a caricature portrait of this man, see Robert Dighton, Matthew Day: A gloomy day, taken on the Steyne at Brighton, hand-coloured etching, 1803, National Portrait Gallery D13303, available at (accessed 22 April 2020).

69 Catalogue of Sale, p. 8

70 Jones, Notebook, p. 7

71 Ibid, pp. 4–5 A copy of this text, it would appear, had been owned by a man called Ṣadr al-Dīn, whom Jones lists as the munshī (secretary and scribe) to Richard Barwell (d.1804), see W. Jones, Notebook, 2–3. At a later date, Jones added in pencil that Vansittart lent a manuscript of it; whether or not these were the same manuscript is unclear.

72 BL MS RSPA 3 and BL MS RSPA 69 both, for example, have seals bearing names of people attached to the court of ʿĀlamgīr (d.1118/1707). Likewise, BL MS RSPA 32, as already mentioned, bears the seal of Muḥammad Qulī Quṭb Shāh of the Quṭb Shāhī dynasty.

73 Dennison Ross and Browne, Catalogue, p. 62.

74 For the catalogue of Tīpū Sulṭān's personal library, see Charles Stewart, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Oriental Library of the Late Tippoo Sultan of Mysore: To Which Are Prefixed, Memoirs of Hyder Aly Khān, and His Son Tippoo Sultan (Cambridge, 1809). Ursula Sims-Williams has also written extensively for the British Library Asian and African Studies blog on Tīpū Sulṭān's library, some of which is now held at the British Library. See, for example, Ursula Sims-Williams, “Making his Mark: the Seals of Tīpū Sulṭān” British Library, Asian and African Studies (blog), 5 April 2018, on seals or Ursula Sims-Williams, “Some Bindings from Tīpū Sulṭān's Court”, British Library, Asian and African Studies (blog), 17 July 2017, on bindings; (both accessed 22 April 2020).

75 Richard Cannon, Historical Record of the Seventy-Fourth Regiment (Highlanders), containing an account of the formation of the Regiment in 1787 and of its subsequent services to 1850 (London, 1850), p. 124.

76 W. Jones, Letters, ii, p. 689, n.2.

77 BL MS RSPA 9, f. 1r.

78 BL MS RSPA 9, f.262r.

79 James Fitzjames Stephen, Selected Writings of James Fitzjames Stephen: the story of Nincomar and the impeachment of Sir Elijah Impey, (ed.) Lisa Rodensky (Oxford, 2013), i, p. 64.

80 Guenther, Alan M., “Seeking Employment in the British Empire: Three Letters from Rajah Gubind Ram Bahādur”, Fontanus 12 (2010), p. 130Google Scholar.

81 Joshua Ehrlich, “The East India Company and the Politics of Knowledge” (unpublished PhD Dissertation, Harvard University, 2018), p. 63, available at (accessed 23 April 2020).

82 See Cotton, Evan and Pattullo, H. “The Melville Papers: Letters from Major John Morrison relative to Bengal and Persia”, Journal of The Royal Central Asian Society 17, 4 (1930)CrossRefGoogle Scholar, in particular pp. 507–508 and pp. 513–517 for his connection to Jones. See also John Hayhurst, “Major Morrison: Loyal British Servant or Political Mercenary?”, British Library, Asian and African Studies (blog), 22 May 2014, (accessed 23 April 2020). In this blog, Hayhurst discusses Morrison's life in the 1780s and early 1790s when, still in the employ of Shāh ʿĀlam, Morrison journeyed to Iran in 1786 to try and strike a pact between Shāh ʿĀlam and Jaʿfar Khān Zand (d.1203/1789), at the time one of the contenders to the Persian throne and later Shāh of Iran. Hayhurst mentions a letter sent from Morrison to Lord Grenville in 1792, the latest date found connected to Morrison.

83 Cotton and Pattullo, “Melville Papers”, pp. 513–517.

84 BL MS RSPA 9, f.1v; Dennison Ross and Browne, Catalogue, p. 6.

85 See James White, “On the Road: The Life and Verse of Mir Zeyn al-Dīn ʿEshq, a Forgotten Eighteenth-Century Poet”, Iranian Studies, published online 12 August 2019, available at (accessed 22 April 2020).

86 W. Jones, Notebook, p. 2–3; John Rylands Library, Persian MS 219, f.1r.

87 W. Jones, Notebook, p. 25.

88 See Sims-Williams, Ursula, “The strange story of Samuel Guise: an 18th-century collection of Zoroastrian manuscripts”, Bulletin of the Asia Institute 19 (2005), p. 204Google Scholar, for a different collection of Persian manuscripts that also passed between these two figures.

89 Catalogue of Sale (MS), p. 20.

90 See Baker, William, “The early staffing of the London Library: a note on John George Cochrane and others”, Library Review 38, 3 (1989), pp. 3641CrossRefGoogle Scholar

91 This is a subject that has been discussed at length by biographers of Jones and scholars of his legal work. See, for example, Rosane Rocher, “Weaving Knowledge: Sir William Jones and the Pandits”, in Objects of Enquiry, (ed.) Cannon, pp. 51–81 Rocher, Rosane, “The Career of Rādhākānta Tarkavāgīśa, an Eighteenth-Century Pandit in British Employ”, Journal of the American Oriental Society 109, 4 (1989), pp. 627633CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Mukherji, Abhijit, “European Jones and Asiatic Pandits”, Journal of the Asiatic Society 27 (1985), pp. 4358Google Scholar.

92 Catalogue of Sale, p. 17; Kerney, Catalogue, p. 100.

93 W. Jones, Notebook, pp. 2–3. This, like so much about Jones's network of Indian colleagues, cannot be proved with any certainty. ʿAbd al-Raḥīm appears several times in the Notebook and will be spoken about in some detail later in this article. Incidentally, much later in his Notebook, in 1788, Jones also notes that he met a different Mīr ʿAbd al-Raḥīm, a traveller from Resht, who dined with Jones on 30 August, W. Jones, Notebook, p. 115.

94 See, for example, F. Lehmann, “ʿALĪ EBRĀHĪM KHĀN,” Encyclopædia Iranica I, 8, pp. 860–861; Shāʾistah Khān, A biography of ʿAlī Ibrāhīm Khān (circa 1740–1793): a Mughal noble in the administrative service of the British East India Company (Patna, 1992); Chatterjee, Nandini, “Hindu city and just empire: Banaras and India in ʿAlī Ibrāhīm Khān's legal imagination”, Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History 15, 1 (2014)CrossRefGoogle Scholar, published online at (accessed 22 April 2020)

95 W. Jones, Notebook, p. 27.

96 Ibid, p. 47.

97 W. Jones, Letters, pp. 658–659.

98 W. Jones, Letters, ii, pp. 622, 677, 684 and passim. This has also been surveyed by Roseane Rocher in Rocher, “Weaving”, pp. 54–56, and by Gillian Evison in Evison, “Sanskrit”, pp. 126–130. Evison makes the important observation that Jones, just like the rest of the British administration, failed to understand the intricacies of the methods and practices of the Sanskrit-Hindu legal system and that this failure led to the distrust Jones felt for the court pandits.

99 Jones mentions his Persian munshī in W. Jones, Letters, ii, p. 637 in a letter to the second Earl Spencer, calling him “my Persian” and noting that he and “my Arab” (al-Ḥājj ʿAbd Allāh al-Makkī) had just left the room so he could continue writing his letter. See also, W. Jones, Notebook, pp. 2–3.

100 W. Jones, Notebook, p. 14–15.

101 Ibid, pp. 14, 43.

102 Ibid, pp. 2–3.

103 Ibid, pp. 21, 53.

104 BL MS RSPA 112, f.1r.

105 Ibid, (pages before foliation).

106 He mentions several of al-ʿĀmilī's works in W. Jones, Notebook, pp. 45–46, 52–53.

107 BL MS RSPA 112, f.iiv.

108 W. Jones, Notebook, p. 17.

109 W. Jones, Notebook, p. 3. Should this be correct, this would make the man exceedingly old; Jones may have mixed up Ghāzī al-Dīn with his son, the grandson of Niẓām al-Mulk Āṣaf Jāh, also called Ghāzī al-Dīn, who was born in 1148/1736 and who died 1215/1800.

110 See Dennison Ross and Browne, Catalogue, pp. 2–3, p. 65.

111 Dennison Ross and Browne refer to it as al-Maṭālib al-Ḥusaynī, but the correct Arabic should be read Husaynīyah; compare Dennison Ross and Browne, Catalogue, p. 65 with Brockelmann, “Chapter 7. India”, in Second Supplement of Brockelmann in English: The History of the Arabic Written Tradition Online (Leiden, 2018), available at (accessed 22 April 2020).

112 See W. Jones and A. M. Jones, Works, viii, pp. 199–324.

113 W. Jones, Notebook, pp. 4–5.

114 A later reader has helpfully annotated the manuscript in pencil, marking off the individual sections.

115 W. Jones, Notebook, pp. 12–13 and again on p. 14.

116 Ibid, pp. 7, 41.

117 Ibid, p. 15.

118 Ibid, p. 43.

119 Raḍavī et al., Catalogue Raisonné of the Persian Manuscripts in the Bûhâr Library (Calcutta, 1921), 1, p. 119 (No. 156).

120 Carl Brockelmann, “Chapter 7. India”, Book Three of Second Supplement, History, available at (accessed 22 April 2020)

121 Unfortunately, due to the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, I have been unable to consult Bodleian MS Elliott 395, a copy of the Makhzan al-gharā'ib, which, according to Sachau, contains one figure named only Mīr Ḥusaynī who might also be a potential candidate for the Mīr Ḥusaynī who authored these texts; see A. F. L. Beeston et al., Catalogue of the Persian, Turkish, Hindûstânî, and Pushtû manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, Oxford (Oxford, 1889–1953), p. 328. I thank James White for the suggestion to look in this catalogue for the reference.

122 W. Jones, Notebook, pp. 3–4.

123 Ibid, p. 3.

124 Ibid,, p. 29.

125 Ibid,, p. 18.

126 Ibid,.

127 Ibid,, p. 31.

128 For a discussion of the seals and previous owners of Jones's copy of al-Fatāwā ‘l-ʿĀlamgīrīyah, see Jonathan Lawrence, “Sir William Jones's Manuscript Copy of al-Fatāwā ‘l-ʿĀlamgīrīyah”, British Library, Asian and African Studies (blog), 20 April 2020,ʿĀlamgirīyah.html (accessed 22 April 2020),

129 BL MS RSPA 94, f.82v.

130 BL MS RSPA 96, f.iir.

131 Khān, an honorific of Turkish origin, is a surname most commonly associated with Indian muslims and is not used to any great extent in Arabic as a name. See J. A. Boyle, “Khān”, Encyclopaedia of Islam (Second Edition), available at (accessed 22 April 2020).

132 BL MS RSPA 3, f.xr.

133 See Brockelmann, Chapter 6 “Iran and Tūrān” in Book Three of Volume II and Chapter 5 “Iran and Tūrān” in the Book Three, Second Supplement, both in History, available at (accessed 22 April 2020); see also Āqā Buzurg al-Ṭihrānīh, al-Dharīʿah ilā taṣānīf al-Shīʿah (Beirut, 1983), iv, pp. 208–210 for a long biographical sketch of the author. For a smaller biographical sketch that includes several poems and a long list of works (albeit missing Ṭayf al-Khayāl), see Muḥsin al-Amīn al-Ḥusaynī al-ʿĀmilī Aʿyān al-Shīʿah (Beirut, 1983), x, p. 45.

134 See Alphonse Mingana, “A Page of Indian History”, Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 8 (1924), pp. 150–153, available at (accessed 22 April 2020).

135 W. Jones, Letters, ii, p. 802.

136 BL MS RSPA 36, f.1r; W. Jones, Notebook, p. 29.

137 BL MS RSPA 101, f.1v; in the introductory paragraph, the author notes the full title.

138 W. Jones, Letters, ii, p. 637. This is a topic which I have discussed with James White in personal communication, whom I thank for his insights.

139 BL MS RPSA 35, f.1r.

140 See BL MS RSPA 92 and BL MS RSPA 1 passim.

141 See, for example, the folios in BL MS RSPA before the beginning of the textblock.

142 BL MS RSPA 106 passim.

143 BL MS RSPA 103 passim.

144 BL MS RSPA 20, f.1r.

145 BL MS RSPA 35, f.iiv; see, for example, W. Jones, Letters, ii, p. 735, n. 1.

146 BL MS RSPA 109, f.44r and BL MS RSPA 106, f.1r.

147 BL MS RSPA 32, f.1v; another, perhaps more unusual, note of a seemingly unrelated text is the copied-out extract about the donkeys of Basra from Pietro Della Valle's “Lettere da Basra” in BL MS RSPA 92, f.165v. In his letters, Jones notes that he was reading Della Valle's Viaggi in 1791 at about the same time as this manuscript was produced, W. Jones, Letters, ii, p. 884.

148 On learning Arabic in the early-modern period, see Feingold, Mordechai, “Learning Arabic in Early Modern England”, in The Teaching and Learning of Arabic in Early Modern Europe, (ed.) Loop, Jan et al. (Leiden, 2017), pp. 3356Google Scholar, and on the use of literature as a learning method, see Jan Loop “Arabic Poetry as Teaching Material in Early Modern Grammars and Textbooks”, pp. 230–251, in the same volume.