Lot 12
  • 12

A Qur'an in Eastern Kufic Script, Persia, Abbasid, circa 1000 AD

40,000 - 60,000 GBP
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  • Ink on Paper
Arabic manuscript on buff paper, 27 lines to the page written in eastern Kufic script in black ink, diacritics in red and green, surah headings in gold, marginal medallions comprising gold, red and green, opening folio with illuminated decoration consisting of a knotted ropework border enclosing two polygon cartouches filled with vegetal decoration, in later Ottoman morocco binding, with flap   


Formerly in the collection of Wilfrid Jasper Walter Blunt (1901-1987), who  was an art teacher, author, artist and curator of the Watts Gallery at Compton, Surrey. He taught art at Haileybury College and Eton College and helped start a revolution in the hand-writing of British school children, using the 15th century Italian Cancellaresca ('Chancery') script as a basis.


In fairly good overall condition, opening folios missing, some light water staining, as viewed.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

This rare and early Qur'an manuscript is written in a vertical format on paper. Whilst various Qur'ans were still being produced at this time on vellum and in a horizontal format (see lots one and two of this sale), the use of paper had already occurred earlier on in the eastern Islamic lands. This was due to the arrival of the technology for making paper through the capture at a battle near Samarqand in 751 AD of Chinese prisoners, including several who were paper-makers. Thus as early as the eighth century paper was used as a material for writing manuscripts in the lands east of Iraq. In the western Islamic lands (i.e. the Levant, North Africa and the Mediteranean basin), the use of paper took longer to establish, especially for the writing of Qur'ans, for which vellum was the favoured material until the eleventh century. In the far west, in Morocco and Islamic Spain, Qur'ans were written on vellum right up until the fifteenth century.

The illumination of the present Qur'an, which comprises compact and angular sura headings in gold, accompanied by marginal medallions composed of gold roundels with lobed borders, bears comparison to a further small Qur'an of roughly the same size sold in these rooms 12 October 2000, lot 10. In that instance, the Qur'an was written on vellum, but the decorative style and script (that of a small eastern Kufic with a slightly cursive quality) was remarkably similar to the manuscript at hand.

Three related manuscripts, which differ from the present in that they are executed on vellum, can be found in the Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, London, (See Déroche 1992, pp.152-3, nos.78, 80 & 82). Other comparable manuscripts and leaves exist in a number of institutions, including the Bibliotèque Nationale, Paris; the Nuruosmaniye Library, Istanbul (MS.23); the Tareq Rajab Museum, Kuwait (see N.F. Safwat, The Harmony of Letters, Singapore, 1997, pp.39-41); the Al-Sabah Collection, Kuwait (see M. Jenkins, Islamic Art in the Kuwait National Museum, London, 1983, pp.20-1); the Nasser D. Khalili Collection, London (see Déroche 1992, nos.79 & 81). A slightly later but comparable Qur'an folio in the Chester Beatty Library (see James 1980, p.31, no.17) displays a similar script and decoration to a further Qur'an dated 620 AH/1223 AD in the Mashad Shrine Library (84, see Lings 1976, pl.21). Related comparisons to the Qur'an at hand were sold in these rooms 18 October 2001, lot 23; at Christie's London 11 June 1986, lot 63 and 24 November 1987, lot 61.

This lot is accompanied by a radiocarbon dating measurement report, confirming the circa 1000 AD date of manufacture.