Arts of the Book: Manuscripts, Folios, Bindings
Qur’an Folio In Kufic Script
North Africa or Near East
10th century CE
Materials and technique
Ink, opaque watercolour, and gold on parchment
23.8 x 33.1 cm
With only three grand lines of elegant and carefully attenuated script per page, the Qur’an to which this folio originally belonged was surely a luxury commission produced at enormous expense. The present leaf relates to folios from two known dispersed manuscripts located in public and private collections, including the National Library, Tunis, Museum of Islamic Arts, Qayrawan, and the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, the Al-Sabah Collection, Kuwait, and the Nasser D. Khalili Collection, London. Brown ink was used to calligraph the text against a background of parchment, red to indicate vowels, and gold to illuminate the large medallions and to mark verse endings. The characteristic features shared by all of the folios in the codex include a type of kufic script notable for its dominant verticals such as the lam-alif combination, countered by an exaggerated width in the strokes of some letters. In the terminal nun letters, for instance, the calligrapher has changed the angle of his nib at the mid-point of the round letter, creating an aesthetically pleasing, symmetrical nun that maximises the width of the stroke. It is difficult to date and identify the geographical origins of kufic-script Qur’ans. A three-line Qur’an folio very similar to this one has been attributed to the first half of the tenth century somewhere between Qayrawan and Damascus (see Fraser and Kwiatkowski 2006, pp. 52-57; Déroche 1992, pp. 42 and 109).
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