Lot 5
  • 5


30,000 - 50,000 GBP
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  • 12.5 by 12cm.
Arabic manuscript on vellum, 37 leaves, 25 lines to the page, written in brown Andalusi script, diacritics in red and other orthographic signs in blue, the first 2 surah headings in white Kufic script against a gold ground within a cartouche, the other surah headings in gold Kufic ending with a palmette in the margin, verse markers in gold throughout the text or on the margins, f.1a  with left-hand side of a frontispiece consisting of a carpet page decorated with interlacing strap-work,  f.37b with a gold and polychrome carpet page consisting of a central roundel with interlacing patterns, f.36a and 37b with the last 4 surahs surrounded by bands of interlacing strap-work, unbound and incomplete


In reasonably good condition, the pages rubbed and the script occasionally faded with occasional areas of re-inking, the margins have been trimmed, losses to the illuminations and stains, loose and incomplete, 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 manuscript must have originally contained around a hundred pages and represents a rare example of a square 'pocket' Qur’an produced in Spain at the end of the twelfth or beginning of the thirteenth century. Thanks to Ibn al-‘Abbatar, who lived in Balansiyya (today’s Valencia) between 1199 and 1260 AD, we know that the region of al-Andalus was a prolific centre for manuscripts and in particular the city of Valencia, where there were several scriptoria and scribes, among whom was Ibn Ghattus, the 'Yaqut al-Mustasim of the West' (James 1992, p.89).

Around twenty Qur’ans produced between the 1130s and 1220s in this particular format have been attributed to Spain, either because of the name of the city is mentioned in the colophon (Cordoba, Malaga and Valencia) or due to strong similarities with attributed manuscripts (for a comprehensive list with dates and place of production please see James 1992, p.89.

It is worth noting that all of these Qur’ans have similar square dimensions (between twelve and nineteen centimetres square), a similar number of lines per page (between twenty-one and twenty-eight), are all written on vellum (except Christie’s London, 9 October 1990, lot 46, which is written on paper) and are all similarly illuminated. They are executed in a script which has been given the name 'Andalusi' (for an extensive discussion on this script please see Stanley in Quaritch cat.1213, pp.20-26) and are all in a single volume format (except one published in ibid, pp.112-4) no.19 which is described in two volumes, with a later seventeenth-century Ottoman binding, although each volume has a double-page frontispiece so it is likely this division was original).

The Qur’an now in the Nasser D. Khalili Collection dated 596 AH/1199-1200 AD and copied in Valencia bears close comparison to the current lot, leading to the hypothesis that they were both produced in Valencia around the same time (inv. no.QUR318, James 1992, p.92-93). The left-hand side of the frontispiece of the present manuscript is decorated with a fine interlaced labyrinthine pattern, interspersed with blue dots and framed by a band of interwoven motifs, similar to the example in the Khalili collection. In addition both manuscripts share the first two surah headings written in white Kufic script against a gold ground within a cartouche with intertwined geometrical designs. A Qur’an sold in these rooms in 1999, dated 556 AH/1160 AD, also copied in Valencia, has the opening two surah headings framed within cartouches and similarly distinguished from the others (which are in gold Kufic) extending into the margins with illuminated palmettes, similar to those in the current manuscript.

The carpet page at the end of the present Qur’an is even more spectacular as the same frame found in the frontispiece here surrounds a circle of interlinking lines forming a central star. Similar carpet pages, mixing round and square shapes are also found in two Qur’ans copied by Ibn Ghattus, Valencia (one dated 557 AH/1161 AD now in the Dar al-Kutub, Cairo, MS.196. and another dated 556 AH/1160 AD, Sotheby’s London 22 April 1999, lot 12). This pattern was to become very common during the fifteenth century  all across the Mediterranean, from Spain - see the underside of  a Nasrid inkwell now in the Instituto de Valencia de Don Juan, Madrid (inv. no13075, Lopez 2006, p.70) – to Mamluk Egypt (see for example lot 17 in the this catalogue).

Dated Qur’ans from the Maghrib, listed by James 1992, p.89:

1. Spain/N Africa, 483 AH/1090 AD, inv. no.MS.O. BJ.48, Uppsala University Library, Sweden.

2. Malaga, 500 AH/1106-7 AD, inv. no.Arab.1397, Escorial Library, Madrid.

3. Spain/N Africa, 534 AH/1139-40 AD, Christie's London, 9 October 1990, lot 46.

4. Cordoba, 538 AH/1143 AD, inv. no.Ms.A6755, Istanbul University Library.

5. Valencia, 557 AH/1161 AD, National Library Masahid no.196/National Library/General Egyptian Book Organization, Cairo, no.76

6. Valencia, 564 AH/1168 AD, inv. no.Ms. Al-Ahmadiyya 13727, Tunis National Library.

7. Spain/N Africa, 565AH/1170 AD, on loan to the V&A, Collection of Marquess of Bute, London.

8. Valencia, 578 AH/1182 AD, inv. no.Ms.A6754, Istanbul University Library.

9. Probably Valencia, 580 AH/1184-5 AD, inv. no.Ms.A6752, Istanbul University Library.

10. Ceuta, 587 AH/1191 AD, inv. no.MS.R27, Topkapi Palace Library, Istanbul.

11. Spain/N Africa, 591 AH/1195 AD, inv. no.MS.O. VET.77, Uppsala University Library, Sweden.

12. Valencia, 596 AH/1199 AD, inv. no.QUR318, Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, London.

13. Ceuta, 596 AH/1199 AD, inv. no.MS.R36, Topkapi Palace Library, Istanbul.

14. Valencia, 598 AH/1202 AD, inv. no.MS.R31, Topkapi Palace Library, Istanbul.

15. Marrakesh, 599 AH/1202-03 AD, inv. no.MS.R33, Topkapi Palace Library, Istanbul.

16. Seville, 624 AH/1226 AD, inv. no.Cod.Arab.1, Munich Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

17. Marrakesh, 635 AH/1238 AD, inv. no.MSS21-24, Topkapi Palace Library, Istanbul.

Dated Qur’ans from the Maghrib not recorded in James’s list:

18. Valencia, 556 AH/1160 AD, Sotheby's London, 30 April 1992 lot 336 and 22 April 1999, lot 12.

19. Valencia, 559 AH/1163 AD, inv. no.N.01, Great Mosque of Tetouan (mentioned in the catalogue of the exhibition Al-Andalus, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1992, p.125).

20. Probably Spain, 593 AH/1196 AD, Tareq Rajab Museum, Kuwait (Tareq Rajab Museum catalogue 1994, p.27).

21. Spain/N Africa, 672? AH/1273 AD, inv. no.E.H.40, Topkapi Palace Library, Istanbul (Lings 1976, pl.99).

22. Probably Granada, 703 AH/1303 AD, inv. no.MS.385, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris (Lings 1976, p.205).

23. Cordoba, 470 AH/1078 AD, Christie's London, 7 October 2008, lot 97.

24. Probably Granada, 713 AH/1313 AD; Sotheby's London, 23 April 1997, lot 48.

Contemporaneous comparable Qur’ans lacking date:

25. Spain/N Africa, 12th/13th century, inv. no.cat.1213, n19, Quaritch no.19 (published in the sale catalogue).

26. Valencia or Cordoba, 13th century, inv. no.Or.1270, British Library, London (Lings & Safadi 1976, p.38).

27. Spain/N Africa, 13th century, Sotheby's London, 3 April 1978, lot 129.

28. Probably Valencia, mid-12th century, Christie's London, 27 April 1993, lot 28.

29. Spain, late 12th century, Christie's London, 15 October 2002, lot 53.

30. Spain, late 12th century, Sotheby's London, 12 October 2000, lot 11.

31. Spain/N Africa, 13th/14th century, Christie's London, 28 April 2017, lot 80.