The manuscript currently preserved in our library under the shelfmark Isl. Ms. 350 has a fascinating history that can be traced in internal owners’ marks and external documentary sources. The compact volume carries a richly illuminated copy of a selection of Persian poetry gathered under the title Ganj al-maʻānī, or Treasure trove of Sublimities.
Passing through the hands of a series of owners, primarily by gift or bequest, the manuscript made its way from Delhi to London and from London to Istanbul before eventually reaching Ann Arbor by means of Italian and Egyptian book dealers. In this first of two posts, we'll explore how the manuscript reached Istanbul.
The manuscript's story begins in Delhi, formerly known as Shāhjahānābād, where according to its colophon (p.346-7), it was transcribed (and possibly compiled) by a certain Riz̤ā who completed the copy on Tuesday, 24th of Dhū al-Ḥijjah 1156 [ca. 8 February 1744] on the order of one Nawāb Shīr Jang Bahādur.
This Shīr Jang is most likely Nis̲ār Muḥammad Khān, nephew of the first Nawab of Oudh (i.e. Awadh), Saʻādat Khān (r. 1722-1739), and cousin of his successor Ṣafdar Jang (Mirzā Muḥammad Muqīm, r. 1739-1754). Shīr Jang served both his uncle and nephew in battle as a skilled general. He also served as Ṣafdar Jang’s deputy in Kashmir.  Apparently he was also a bibliophile who commissioned and collected several magnificent manuscripts, Isl. Ms. 350 among them.
Another manuscript of Persian poetry produced on his order has been recorded among the Persian manuscript holdings of the Khuda Baksh Library in Patna.  Further, at least ten manuscripts now residing in the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) were either commissioned by Shīr Jang or presumably collected by him. 
Francis Richard has noted several of these manuscripts among those acquired by the French collector Jean-Baptiste Gentil (1726-1799), including the famous album of calligraphic specimens and paintings now preserved in the BnF under the shelfmark Smith-Lesouëf 247.  According to a note entered in this album by Gentil or his secretary, the 60 pieces were collected and bound together for a certain Shīr Jang, identified as governor of Kashmir under the Mughal emperor Muḥammad Shāh (r. 1719-1748) and as of 1768 retired at Faizabad near Patna in the region of Awadh. The dates and context certainly suggest the Shīr Jang who commissioned Isl. Ms. 350. 
Most of the other BnF manuscripts in question can be associated with Shīr Jang by way of dated seal impressions in the name of Muʻizz al-Dawlah Shīr Jang Bahādur. Dates in the seal impressions range from 1162 [1748 or 9] -- just a few years later than the date of Isl. Ms. 350 -- to 1172 [1758 or 9], still earlier than the 1768 date of Shīr Jang’s retirement provided by Gentil.  Many of these seal impressions are accompanied by inspection notices dated Rabīʻ I 1177 [September 1763] in the name of one Muḥammad Shahriyār. 
Once again, the compatible dating and context allow us to associate the seal impression (which further supplies the honorific Muʻizz al-Dawlah) with the Shīr Jang of Isl. Ms. 350.
From the library of its patron Shīr Jang, the manuscript eventually made its way to London in the hands of James Caulfeild (1783-1852), a soldier and political officer in British India who later served as Director of the East India Company (1848-1851) and briefly as a Member of Parliament (MP) for Abingdon (July-November 1852).  His bookplate appears on the final flyleaf of the volume.
It is unclear how and when Caulfeild acquired the manuscript, though it was likely sometime during his service in India between 1799 and 1841. Gentil's acquisitions suggest that Shīr Jang's library was being dispersed (at least in part) from the second half of the 18th century,  and Caulfeild may have been able to purchase the manuscript just as Gentil had done with other holdings from the collection of Shīr Jang. What is clear is that Caulfeild eventually gifted the volume to another. An inscription on the opening flyleaf indicates that on 2nd October 1851, while serving as Director of the East India Company in London and just before his promotion to Lt. Gen. in November 1851,  he presented the volume to one “Prince Ickbaloodaulah.”
This “Prince Ickbaloodaulah” is very likely Iqbāl al-Dawlah Burhān al-Mulk Muḥsin ʻAlī Khān Bahādur (b.1808), author of the Icbal-e-furung (Iqbāl-i Farang) and claimant to the throne of Oude. 
He was apparently present in London from the year 1838 in order to make his case as claimant.  It is certainly plausible that he stayed on and eventually encountered Maj.Genl. Caulfeild in 1851, likely in the context of the latter’s role as Director of the East India Company.
The manuscript apparently did not remain with Iqbāl al-Dawlah for long, however. Yet another inscription on the opening flyleaf indicates that he himself later gifted the volume to “H.E. ʻAlee Pasha.”
This “ʻAlee Pasha” is presumably Mehmet Emin Âli Paşa (1815-1871), an important Ottoman statesman of the Tanzimat era who was also a highly respected diplomat in European circles. Like Iqbāl al-Dawlah, he also made his way to London in 1838, in the company of the Ottoman ambassador. He returned in 1841 as ambassador himself, a post which he held until 1844. He served in various positions thereafter, including Minister of Foreign Affairs and Grand Vizier on multiple occasions. It may have been during any of his numerous stints as foreign minister after October 1851 that he had occasion to encounter Iqbāl al-Dawlah and receive from him the manuscript. 
Âli Paşa almost certainly brought the manuscript back to Istanbul where he may have later gifted or bequeathed it to his son Mustafa Reşit. At least seven other manuscripts now in our holdings apparently once belonged to Mustafa Reşit, bearing a statement and/or seal impression in his name. 
With these and several hundred other manuscripts gathered in Istanbul, the volume eventually made its way to Ann Arbor.
More on that in the next post!
In the meantime, feel free to browse or download this manuscript in its entirety via the HathiTrust Digital Library.
You can also see it in person in our exhibit “Storied Acquisitions: Highlights from the University of Michigan Library Collections” (on display through 30th August) or in our reading room!