Arts of the Book: Manuscripts, Folios, Bindings
Manuscript Of A Sulawesi Qur’an
dated 25 Ramadan 1219 H/28 December 1804 CE
Materials and technique
Ink, opaque watercolour, and gold on European paper, leather binding
35.5 x 20 cm
Although the spread of Islam reached the Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia as early as the thirteenth century, the earliest surviving manuscripts of the Qur’an from the region date to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The present example has been identified as one of only three core exemplars in a group of eighteen Qur’ans illuminated in the “Sulawesi geometric style”; the other fifteen represent localised variations. They are characterized by a few distinct features, including double illuminated frames formed from geometric shapes and appearing on the manuscript’s initial and ultimate bifolia as well as by a bold and dark colour palette. This Qur’an is one of the most impressive of this group in size, quality, and condition; it survives in its complete form and contains a full colophon identifying its scribe and attesting to a production in south Sulawesi. It was written in thuluth script with explicatory glosses added in naskh. The sura heading appears at the top of the right-hand page in an oval cartouche painted in black, while the number of verses in the chapter (110) is given in the matching cartouche at the bottom of the same page. The cartouches on the opposite page provide the numbers of verses (110) and words (1877) in the sura, as well as the number of letters (6360) in the chapter and its order of revelation to the Prophet (67th), respectively. Some of the commentators who have added explanations have been identified in the margin on the left-hand page. The extraordinary amount of artistic variation among these manuscripts and the fact that they reflect far-flung provenances and locations has led some scholars to propose the existence of a diasporic artistic idiom rather than one restricted to south Sulawesi.
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