A monumental Qur'an leaf in Kufic script, Near East or North Africa, late Umayyad or early Abbasid, circa 750 AD
What is guaranteed?
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 clusters of diagonal dashes, khamsa markers in the shape of a red ha', 'ashr marked by a red circle, surah headings in red
42.5 by 58.5cm.
Some minor restoration to the lower edge and just into the bottom line of text in small areas. Small spots of restoration in the upper half of the folio. One edge with a series of small holes, probably from previous binding. Minor staining. Recto with slight fading, typical of kufic Qur'ans, 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.
NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."
Sold in these rooms, 20 April, 2016.
Ex-private collection, France.
This impressive folio comes from one of the largest Kufic Qur’ans of the eighth century. Both in scale and style, this folio shares many features with its early counterparts, and to the best of our knowledge, only the so-called 'Tashkent Qur'an' (55 by 70cm) surpasses the scale of this leaf (see, for example, the MET, New York, acc. no.2004.87).
A single leaf of this impressive manuscript would have required an entire animal skin which only the wealthiest of patrons would have been able to afford. The generous scale suggests that a patron of great importance with little concern for the expense involved in creating such a commission. The space it would occupy would indicate that it was intended for display in a mosque (Evans and Ratliff 2012, p.272, no.190).
The simplistic ornamentation that gives focus to the text is typical of the earliest period of Kufic Qur'ans in the eighth century. The verse divisions of this manuscript are marked by clusters of diagonal lines which feature on the earliest Qur’ans including the ‘Tashkent’ Qur’an, attributed to the early eighth century (ibid, p.272, no.190).
Similarly, the calligraphy of this manuscript corresponds to Déroche's 'group B.1b' in his categorisation of early Arabic scripts used for copying the Qur'an, an early derivative of the Hijazi script with similar style used in architectural inscriptions in the second half of the seventh century (see F. Déroche, The Abbasid Tradition, London, 1992, pp.34-47). A large Qur’an section in vertical format in the Institute of Oriental Studies, St. Petersburg attributed to the last quarter of the eighth century (inv. no.E20, 50 by 32cm), displays a comparable script to this leaf (Déroche 1999, p.70).
Only a handful of manuscripts have survived that parallel the size of this leaf. These include the Sana’a Qur’an (51 by 47cm) and leaves from a manuscript measuring approximately 40 by 54cm, 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. Although the pages share the same number of text lines as the present leaves, the text is more cramped with a less generous stretching of the individual letter forms (mashq).
A folio from the same manuscript as the present lot was sold at Millon, Paris, 15-16 June 2022, lot 128. A recent carbon-14 test for that folio supported with 95% probability a 649-778 AD dating for the vellum.