12th century CE
Materials and technique
Moulded copper alloy, chased decoration inlaid with silver
Height 8.5 cm; Ø 10.4 cm
Elaborately decorated metalwork inkwells are amongst the finest objects associated with writing in the mediaeval Islamic world. Along with the reed pen, the inkstand, called dawat (Baer 1981, pp. 203-04) or mihbara, is the quintessential attribute of the scribe and calligrapher. Here, decorative form and function are in harmony with each other, as writing (khatt) is also the main decorative theme of this object. The edge and top of the lid are decorated with an inscription in kufic script and an inscription in a cursive form that are successive wishes in Arabic. On the edge of the lid can be read, twice, “al yumm wa al-baraka” (good fortune and divine grace) and on the flat part: “al- 'izz wa’l-iqbal wa’l-dawla wa al-sa'ada wa’l-salama wa’l-'inaya” (glory and prosperity and good fortune and happiness and salvation and divine grace). On the body of the object, the composition is arrayed on three superposed levels: votive formulas in both Arabic and cursive, interrupted by the hanging rings, surround a frieze with figures. These good wishes twice repeat the following formula: “al- 'izz wa’l-iqbal wa al-dawla wa al-sa'ada” (glory and prosperity and / good fortune and happiness). The receptacle was intended to contain a glass ink bottle containing the ink, with black ink being used the most often. Three main types of black ink were made in the mediaeval Islamic world. They are known thanks to texts written by calligraphers or copyists, who gave the recipes. The first type of ink had a carbon base, the second, a base of oak galls and metal, and the third, a mixture of the other two (Déroche 2000, p. 120 ff.). Traditionally, inks of the first type were called midad and of the second type, hibr (ibid., p. 121).
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