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Or Ms 161: الآثار الباقيه عن القرون الخاليه al-Āthār al-bāqiyah ‘an al-qurūn al-khāliyah, 707 A.H., 1307 C.E.

Identifier: Or Ms 161
[Please click twice to see the full volume]
[Please click twice to see the full volume]

Scope and Contents

This important work by the Persian polymath Muḥammad b. Aḥmad, who is better known as Abū Rayḥān "al-Bīrūnī" al-Khwārazmī (d. 440 A.H., 1048 C.E.) was written originally in circa 390 A.H. (1000 A.D.). The manuscript has a distinct multi-ethnic and multi-confessional flavour. Al-Bīrūnī, who calculated on the basis of measurements he took in the Punjab plain that the world was round, describes the systems of calculating time used by the known races of the world, and their associated festivals.

The present copy is one of the oldest and is an important example of medieval Persian book painting. Its text and 26 illustrations breathe a spirit of tolerance and open-eyed curiosity about the world at large. Christian scenes (the Baptism and the Annunciation) complement Islamic images including scenes from the life of the Prophet Muḥammad, as well as others of Zoroastrian, pre-Islamic Arabian, Jewish and Hindu origin, and even one of the birth of Julius Caesar.

The title page decoration and illustrations feature both gold and colour.


  • Creation: 707 A.H.
  • Creation: 1307 C.E.


Language of Materials

Arabic (Script: naskh)

Physical Description

Shelved separately on 9.3.3

Conditions Governing Access

Open. Please contact the repository in advance.


1 volume

Other Finding Aids

Hukk, Mohammed Ashraful; Ethé, Hermann; and Robertson, Edward, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Arabic and Persian Manuscripts in Edinburgh University Library (Hertford: Stephen Austin & Sons Ltd., 1925).

Exhibition information

Or Ms 161 (full volume) was loaned to the Royal Academy, London for the International Exhibition of Persian Art, from the 7 January 1931 to 7 March 1931. It was mentioned by the Illustrated London News of 10 January 1931, pp.36-37: "outstanding pieces in an unprecedented exhibition".

Or MS 161 f.48v was on loan to the University of St Andrews from the 25th of January until the 13th of May 2024 for their exhibition "Iran: Wonders of Nature".

Physical Description

Shelved separately on 9.3.3

Processing Information

Annotation uses legacy data from Mohammed Hukk et al. A Descriptive Catalogue of the Arabic and Persian Manuscripts in Edinburgh University Library.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Edinburgh Library Heritage Collections Repository

Centre for Research Collections
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