Arts of the Book: Manuscripts, Folios, Bindings
Fragment From Juz’ 30 Of The Qur’an
Iraq or Iran
Seljuq, 11th century CE
Materials and technique
Ink and gold on paper
25.4 x 19.5 cm
Everything here is new: the support medium (paper has replaced parchment), the “portrait” format - that is, a vertical format, not a horizontal “landscape” one -, the script, which tends toward the cursive, the part now vividly meaningful with illumination. The first verses of “The Tidings” spread majestically over three lines per page. This beginning of the sura, or Qur’an chapter, is surrounded by an illuminated frame that occupies a great deal of the space on the page. On the left-hand page, the final nuns stretch their hooks into the decoration. The script does retain some characteristics of kufic manuscripts from the eighth and ninth centuries, in particular the use of naskh. This lengthening is especially noticeable on the third line of the right page, which consists of only one word, al-‘adhim. The treatment of the emphatic consonant dhal is the gesture of one who has mastered the geometry. Just opposite, the close linking of the lam and ‘alif introduces a soft curve into the writing. It is understandable that this script, which was prevalent in eastern Iran from the second half of the tenth century to the thirteenth, has defied classification. It marks a transition into the six classic styles of cursive writing (aqlam al-sitta). The stylistic effects on the page are such that they could explain why the anonymous scribe felt the need to clarify the reading of his copy by placing small blue letters above it. The contrast between the lengthening of the up and down strokes and the weight of the diagonal base letters, like a faithful imprint of the reed pen, is also striking. This script was used for notating Arabic and calligraphing Qur’an manuscripts, as well as for Persian and secular texts. It constitutes a radically different aesthetic feature and so is part of the stylistic distinction between the eastern and western parts of the Islamic world that was becoming established during the course of the tenth century.
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