Arts of the Book: Manuscripts, Folios, Bindings
Fatimid, 11th century CE
Materials and technique
Paper amulet; lead case
Amulet 7.2 x 5.5 cm; lead case 2.7 x 1.3 cm
This prayer amulet is a rare example of an early Arabic printing technique known as tarsh. The paper displays eighteen lines of kufic text on the page shown here and further lines on the reverse, which may have been offset from the recto when the paper was folded inside its lead case, also a very rare survival. The text contains excerpts from different suras or chapters of the Qur’an, including al-An'am (The Cattle), Al-i 'Imran (The Family of Imran), al-Hijr (The Rocky Tract), and al-Baqara (The Cow). The style of the kufic characters in the present example would indicate a Fatimid origin and no later, since this script was no longer used for manuscripts after the Fatimid period. The printing technique probably involved metal plates or woodblocks. The history of early printed amulets has yet to be written. What is known about them is based on a small group of extant printed amulets and literary sources. Bulliett cites poetry verses from tenth- and fourteenth-century authors referring to printed amulets from wooden blocks and cast tin plates (Bulliet 1987).
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