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 is related to folios from two known dispersed Qur’an manuscripts located in public and private collections including the National Library, Tunis, Museum of Islamic Arts, Kairouan, 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. For instance, in the terminal nun letters, 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 text folio very similar to this one has been attributed to the first half of the tenth century somewhere between Kairouan and Damascus (see Déroche 1992, pp. 42, 109; Fraser and Kwiatkowski 2006, pp. 52-57).
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