Lot 12
  • 12

Two Consecutive Kufic Qur'an Leaves On Vellum Forming a Double Page Finispiece, North Africa or Near East, 9th-10th Century

70,000 - 90,000 GBP
216,500 GBP
bidding is closed


  • 21.1 by 29.8 and 23 by 32cm.
text: surat al-nas (cxiv) vv: 2-6

two leaves, one leaf with 7 lines of elegant kufic script in brown ink on vellum with later interlinear Persian translation, vocalisation of red dots, single verse divisions marked by a pyramidal composition of 6 gold dots, fifth verse marked by a stylised gold 'ha'; the other leaf with three lines of kufic script on the recto within an illuminated panel on a reserve of a scrolling foliate motif outlined in blue, a border of a gold scrolling foliate motif, a circular palmette decorated in red and green extending into the margin; the recto and verso with gold rectangular panels of reticulated and foliate motifs set around a geometric motif of a diamond against a square with knotted border, the spandrels infilled with a foliate motif in outline, flanking rectangular panels with 3 ranks of rosettes connected by an interlocking trellis and decorated with blue and red dots, a palmette of leaves or tightly closed buds extending into the margin 

Catalogue Note

These two leaves originate from the same Qur'an as the following lot, identifiable by its elegant extended kufic and the interlinear Persian translation. These folios are an outstanding example of their type, providing an unusual opportunity to examine the final consecutive folios of a Qur'an juz' and a chance to examine the full page illumination of early manuscripts.

It is interesting to note that both the finispieces are decorated with the same motifs, and are comparable to one in the Bardo Museum (Carthage, no.342, p.258) with a central square diamond formed by an interlocking chain and flanked by panels of decoration in three serried ranks and joined by an interlocking latticework of dots. The plamette is also comparable, but is closer in style to that on the verso of the single leaf from this manuscript, the next lot in this sale, exhibiting a looser treatment of the leaves and sprays.

In his essay Manuscript Illumination in the Survey of Persian Art, Richard Ettinghausen draws a comparison with the format of the ancient Roman tabula ansata that consisted of a horizontal oblong field with a keystone-shaped handle at either end. This form was the basic shape of Hebrew, pre-Islamic and Egyptian writing tablets, and arguably influenced the manuscript producers of early Islam in the format of these illuminated panels; with their rectangular composition and the extending palmette referencing the key-stone handle of the writing tablet (Pope, vol iii. 1937, p.1943).

The colophon which mistakenly records the scribe as 'Ali ibn Abi Talib, was a common addition to early kufic manuscripts. It is not an attempt to mislead, rather it is in honour of both the man and the book.