Arts of the Book: Manuscripts, Folios, Bindings
Manuscript Of A Qajar Qur’an
Qajar, dated 1233 H/1817-18 CE
Materials and technique
Ink, opaque watercolour, and gold on paper; later leather binding
22.6 x 16.9 x 4.1 cm
Thanks to the political stability brought about by the first Qajar ruler, Muhammad Khan, in 1785 CE, the early Qajar period witnessed a cultural revival lasting over a century, demonstrated in particular by large-scale architectural and artistic patronage under the reigns of Fath 'Ali Shah (r. 1798-1834 CE) and his grandson, Nasir al-Din Shah (r. 1848-96 CE) (Diba 1998, p. 169). The production of illustrated manuscripts dwindled as the taste for life-size painting rapidly increased, never to recover from this decline (Diba 1998, pp. 169-70). As this Qur’an suggests, however, the production of illustrated and illuminated manuscripts did not come to a complete end. This manuscript includes the entire text of the Qur’an, copied in Arabic in a combination of naskh and thuluth scripts. On the double-page illuminated frontispiece shown here, verses from the first chapter and part of the second are highlighted by frames created with gilded cloud forms while interlinear Persian translations appear in the narrower bands in a dark pink nasta'liq. Central cartouches above the text frame on each page provide the name and number of verses contained in each chapter in red naskh script (seven for al-Fatiha and 286 for al-Baqara). A ruled pink lozenge scroll frames the text and is surrounded by polychrome gilded illumination composed of projecting polychrome half-medallions filled with heart-shaped knots and orange, pink, and blue floral rosettes set against a blue background. The colophon on folio 302r identifies “the humble scribe,” 'Abd al-Mudhnab al-Khati al-Jani 'Abd Allah and gives the date of 1233 H/ 1817-18 CE, but it appears that another colophon was added on the verso of the same folio, with a later date.
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