A RARE LARGE QUR'AN LEAF IN LATE HIJAZI SCRIPT, NEAR EAST OR ARABIAN PENINSULA, LATE 7TH-EARLY 8TH CENTURY AD
- 38 by 28.5cm.
Arabic manuscript leaf on parchment, 21 lines per page of early Arabic script written in brown ink, letter-pointing (i‘jam) in the same brown ink, vocalisation of red and green dots possibly added slightly later, single verse divisions marked with vertical rows of three or four angled dashes in brown ink
The leaf is in vertical (portrait) format, a format associated with the earliest phase of Qur’an production, there is some unevenness in the lineal discipline and there are several features of individual letter forms that still show close affinity to Hijazi scripts. But the script itself and the layout on the page have an overall neatness and regularity that is moving towards early Kufic, and the letter pointing (i‘jam) is applied in a relatively full and consistent manner, another feature of the gradual formalisation of early Qur’anic scripts.
The letter forms that show early, Hijazi-style features are as follows:
The terminal or independent mim here is distinctive and unusual, having a short, sharply upturned tail at the end. This feature appears on a fragment in Hijazi script in the Oriental Institute, Chicago (no.A7000 (verso), see Abbott 1938, no.5, pl.XII), and slightly less emphatically in the Hijazi-script Qur’an ms. arabe 330a in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris (Déroche 1983, no.8, pl.VI). Other Hijazi scripts occasionally show a similar feature in almost embryonic form, with a very short upturned point at the end (for example, Chester Beatty Library, ms.1615, f.6r, lines 6, 8,10, f.20r, line 12, see James 1980, no.1, p.14, and a few instances on the well-known palimpsest Qur’an, see Sotheby’s, London, Oriental Manuscripts and Miniatures, 22 October 1993, upper script, recto, lines 1 and 15, verso, line 10).
The lam/alif on the present leaf has two forms. The predominant one is a neat and fairly consistent form with two straight diverging verticals and a neat triangular base (visible in many places on the recto and verso). However, at least one example (verso, line 13) has two curved verticals that converge at the top. There are two notable aspects in this context. Firstly, the fact that the scribe is not using exactly the same form of lam/alif consistently throughout indicates that the development and formalisation of the script are still in flux on the present leaf. Secondly, the lam/alif with inward-curving verticals appears in ms. Inv.00-28 in the Dar al-Makhtutat, Sana’a, a Qur’an in a more primitive Hijazi script (see Kuwait 1985, no.17, p.56), and in ms. arabe 330a in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris (whose script Déroche describes as Hijazi III), where both the curved and straight forms of the lam/alif are employed in a very similar manner to the present folio (the manuscript is illustrated in Déroche 1983, no.8, pl.VI, although the pages with the most similar letter-forms to the present examples are not shown).
The independent alif on the present folio has a relatively long horizontal tail, and a similar form appears in BNF arabe 330a in Paris (Déroche 1983, no.8, pl.VI), and a fragment in Dar al-Makhtutat, Sana’a (inv.00-30, see Kuwait 1985, no.24, p.53).
The leaf is very close in terms of its calligraphic style, size, layout and letter pointing to an early Qur’an manuscript in the Dar al-Makhtutat, Sana’a (inv.00-32 or 00-32) whose script has been described as late Hijazi, containing features common to both Hijazi and early Kufic (see Kuwait 1985, no.25, p.52). Indeed, the present leaf possibly comes from the same original manuscript, although the present example has only 21 lines of script per page, whereas the Sana’a Qur’an fragment predominantly has 22 lines per page, with at least one page having 18 lines.
Published folios of the Sana’s manuscript 00-32 show other letter forms that also exhibit early stylistic characteristics. One is a terminal qaf that droops very heavily below the line, which, in various forms, is a common feature of Hijazi scripts. The other is the terminal jim/ha/kha that has three different forms (all used within three lines of each other on one page), one with a short, flat tail, one with a narrow curved ovi-form tail and one with a wide and rounded tail. All these forms appear on coins of the 690s as well as several other Qur’an manuscripts in Hijazi script (see Fraser, forthcoming).