Lot 8
  • 8


70,000 - 90,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • 8.5 by 6.5cm.
Arabic manuscript on vellum, 135 leaves plus 2 fly-leaves, 28 lines to the page written in naskh in black ink, vocalisation in green and red, verses separated by a yellow dot, surah headings written in gold, gold and polychrome marginal medallions marking fifth and tenth verses, illuminated double page, incomplete, in brown leather binding, with flap

Catalogue Note

Miniature Qur’ans on vellum from the tenth century are rare and generally attributed to Persia or Mesopotamia. This small volume doesn’t have a colophon, but it is interesting to note that the 'New Style' script which characterises this Qur’an became popular and used all across the Mediterranean as well as in Central Asia. This fascinating manuscript is a rare example of eastern Kufic script written in a vertical format on vellum, as the vast majority of such Qur'ans are written on paper (see, for example, two sold in these rooms, 6 October 2010, lot 12 and 6 April 2011, lot 178). The use of paper occurred earlier in the eastern lands of Islam due to the arrival of paper-making technology in the eighth century.

The Qur’an was rebound at a later date, probably by a non-Arabic reader as many pages have been misbound and are not in the correct order, for example f.3, with the beginning of surah al-Baqarah (II) being moved towards the end of the volume (f.124). However, some sections are still in their original structure, which allows us to study the codicology of the volume in more depth, and compare it to a manuscript in the Khalili Collection (inv.no.QUR430, published in Déroche 1992, pp.152-3). The Khalili Qur’an is made of quaternions, consisting mainly of bifolia arranged in groups of four. The current Qur'an is composed of quinions, mainly bifolia arranged in groups of five. Although this difference might seem irrelevant, it is worth nothing it as quinions are considered a more conservative structure, found for example in the Palermo Qur’an (of which two quires are now in the Khalili Collection inv.no.QUR261 and QUR368, published in Déroche 1992, pp.146-151; the rest is in the Topkapi Palace Library).

An important aspect of this volume is also the choice of illumination found on the first two bifolia: as discussed in the foot note of lot 1 of the present sale, the shift from a horizontal to a vertical format affected not only the script but also the decoration. On f.2b of the current Qur’an the beginning of the text is surmounted by an illuminated geometric band. The same band, in better condition, is also present on what originally was f.2a (now f.124a), consisting of a blue star-shaped motif against a gold ground. The Khalili Qur’an (inv.no.QUR430), on the other hand, seems to have retained a more conservative structure with no geometrical bands but only the first two surahs' titles written in white Kufic against a gold ground within a cartouche. Both these cartouches are on the folio (f.2.b), while its opposite (f.3a) bears just text. The display of two mirroring geometrical bands at the beginning of the text becomes common later and it is definitely an innovative feature of the current lot (it is also visible in a later 11th/12th century Qur’an in the Khalili Collection, inv.vo.QUR155, published in Déroche 1992, pp.166-7).

The last important feature worth mentioning for this volume is the script and the colour scheme used by the calligrapher. The Qur’an is written in black ink, bearing diacritic dots and more importantly the Shadda (in modern form) is marked in green. Vocalisation is in red and every verse is divided by a yellow dot. The Khalili Qur’an (inv.no.QUR430) on the other hand is written in black, with only red marks for vocalisation, no diacritical dots or Shadda, and no single verse markers, only rosettes marking every ten verses. Interestingly the Shadda (either in the modern shape or in the form of a semi-circle) is found in the Palermo Qur’an, which also bears vocalisation in red and single verse makers, as with our example.

Although it is impossible to prove the exact area of production of this Qur’an, it is worth noting that similar manuscripts have been copied in the Mediterranean, providing a potentially broader range of location for manuscript production in the tenth century. Other comparable manuscripts are as follows: Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris (F. Richard, Splendeurs Persanes, Paris, 1997, p.30, no.8); Nuruosmaniye Library, Istanbul, Ms.23; Tareq Rajab Museum, Kuwait, TRMS.20; Al-Sabah Collection, Kuwait (M. Jenkins, Islamic Art in the Kuwait National Museum, The al-Sabah Collection, London, 1983, pp.20-21). Two comparable manuscripts were sold in these rooms, 12 October 2000, lot 10 and 26 April 1995, lot.17.