Lot 4
  • 4

A monumental Qur'an leaf in Kufic script on vellum, North Africa or Near East, early 9th century AD

15,000 - 25,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • ink on vellum
text: surah al-inshiqaq, (LXXXIV), part of verse 11 to the last verse; surah al-buruj (LXXXV); surah al-tariq (LXXXVI); surah al-a'la, (LXXXVII) verse 1 to part of verse 19
Arabic manuscript on vellum, 18 lines to the page, written in elongated Kufic script in black ink, verses separated by large red dots, surah headings in red

Catalogue Note

The present Kufic Qur'an leaf, and that of the following lot, are very rare examples of early Abbasid Qur'an production in the ninth century. What marks these leaves as particularly unusual is their sheer size, which, to the best of our knowledge, eclipses that of all other known leaves from the corpus of Kufic Qur'ans on vellum, with the one exception of the huge leaves of the eighth-century so-called 'Tashkent Qur'an'.

The calligraphy of the leaves corresponds to Déroche's 'group B' in his categorisation of early Arabic scripts used for copying the Qur'an (see F. Déroche, The Abbasid Tradition, London, 1992, pp.34-47). However, whilst other manuscript leaves on vellum share a similar script (see, for example, a single folio in the Nasser D. Khalili Collection, London (No. KFQ28), ibid, p.54, no.8), nothing is known of this monumental size from the 9th century onwards. Even the so-called 'Nurse's Qur'an', arguably the most magnificent example of western Kufic, is only half the width of the present leaves, although roughly the same in height. Perhaps the closest comparable known in the canon of Kufic Qur'ans on vellum is that of the eighteen-line manuscript whose leaves measure roughly forty by fifty-four centimetres. Although the pages share the same number of text lines as the present leaves, the text is more cramped with a less obvious stretching of the individual letter forms (mashq). Various leaves from that particular manuscript are known, including one exhibited in the exhibition Ink and Gold - Islamic Calligraphy at the Museum für Islamische Kunst in Berlin in 2006 (see Fraser and Kwiatkowski 2006, pp.34-37, no.6), whilst others were sold in these rooms 14 April 2010, lot 3; 6 April 2011, lot 166; 1 April 2009, lot 3 and 8 October 2008, lot 7.