Lot Content

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QUR'AN
No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VA… Read more PROPERTY FROM THE HISPANIC SOCIETY OF AMERICA, DEACCESSIONED BY ORDER OF THE TRUSTEES TO BENEFIT THE ACQUISITIONS FUND THE EARLIEST KNOWN COMPLETE DATED QU'AN WRITTEN IN GOLD
QUR'AN

SIGNED YAHYA BIN MUHAMMAD IBN 'UMAR, PROBABLY MESOPOTAMIA, DATED 17 RAMADAN AH 599/6 JUNE 1203 AD

Details
QUR'AN
SIGNED YAHYA BIN MUHAMMAD IBN 'UMAR, PROBABLY MESOPOTAMIA, DATED 17 RAMADAN AH 599/6 JUNE 1203 AD
Arabic manuscript on buff paper, 280ff. plus 2 fly-leaves, each with 15ll. of black-outlined gold thulth within blue-ruled panels, with silver/black and red diacritics and gold rosette verse markers, sura headings in thick white thulth on gold ground issuing palmettes into the margins, further illuminated roundels and palmettes in the margin indicating every fifth and tenth verse, some panels in the margins containing white naskh on gold ground between blue rules and indicating further verse numbers, many marginal notes written in silver, with three finely decorated blue and gold geometric carpet pages at the beginning of the manuscript and two at the end, the first double page of text with each side heavily illuminated in three panels of two colour gold, colophon signed Yahya bin Muhammad bin 'Umar and dated 17 Ramadan 599, many pages with waterstaining, generally confined to the margins, much of the silver tarnished, in later Ottoman brown morocco with flap and stamped medallions and spandrels
Text panel 4 x 2 5/8in. (10.2 x 6.7cm.); folio 5½ x 4in. (14 x 10.2cm.)
Provenance
With E.Hatoun, Cairo, from whom purchased on 14 June 1905 by
Archer Milton Huntington, New York, held in his private library until his death in 1955 when it was left to
The Hispanic Society of America, accession noted on 15 February 1956.
Literature
Mitchell A. Codding and John O'Neill, The Hispanic Society of America. Illuminated Manuscripts, New York, 2006, pp.152-53, (illustation inverted with the Quran in lot 10).
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Lot Essay

David James writes that the period between the 11th to the 13th centuries was one which saw the flowering of the small cursive scripts, naskh and rayhan as well as the larger muhaqqaq and thulth in Qur'anic calligraphy (Qur'ans and Bindings from the Chester Beatty Library, 1980, p.32). One of the most exceptional features of the present Qur'an is the script used throughout. Whilst it may have a different feel to the more attenuated elegant later cursive calligraphy, it must have been extremely difficult to achieve. Writing script where both the gold and the black outlines create a harmonious flow requires great skill and is here achieved magnificently. Throughout the manuscript the calligraphy is executed in gold outlined in thin black lines while the marginal notes are in silver outlined in red.

Another Qur'an of similar date where gold script is similarly executed with the level of sophistication visible here is in the Khalili Collection (David James, The Master Scribes, London, 1992, no.7, pp.469). That is dated AD 1198-1219 and attributed to Sinjar or Nisibin on the basis of a record on the opening folio saying that it was made for a Zangid prince, the ruler of Sinjar, Khabur and Nisibin in the Jazira. James writes there that there is only one other example noted where the gold thuluth is used throughout (a Mamluk Qur'an now in the British Library, Add.22406-13, dated much later than ours at AH 704-5, attributed to Syria, and made for Baybars al-Jashnikir.

The earliest known surviving Qur'an written in a script similar to ours is the famous Ibn al-Bawwab Qur'an in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, which is dated AH 391/1001 AD (David James, op. cit. 1980, no.19, p.34). Both the script and in particular the sura headings in our Qur'an show considerable similarities. With time the condensed cursive script of the Ibn al-Bawwab Qur'an was developed into a much more attentuated script which became the norm for the best later mediaeval Qur'ans. The script found in our Qur'an, developed from the Ibn al-Bawwab style, is very close to that used in the ura headings for Qur'ans of the next great generation of scribes, even by Ya'qut al-Musta'simi, as in a Qur'an in the Museum of the Shrine, Mashhad (Martin Lings, The Quranic Art of Calligraphy and Illumination, Westerham, 1976, no.28, p.55).

The lavish use of gold that is found in the calligraphy of the manuscript is demonstrated also in its double carpet pages both at the beginning and the end. As with the script, the illumination on the carpet pages resembles those of the Ibn al-Bawwab Qur'an and the example already noted in the Khalili Colection. The interlocking circles in gold are surrounded by similar strapwork frames. The central interstices are filled with mirrored two-tone gold palmettes with the others containing similar scrolling vines as seen in the Ibn al-Bawwab Qur'an. The gold scrolls on blue ground and the kufic inscription are reminiscent of the Khalili example. All of the panels have borders of interlacing strapwor and issue floral palmetes into the margins.

The script used in this Qur'an was developed in Mesopotamia. The one comparable Qur'an written in gold that has ben published was written for a prince in the Jazira region. The similarities shown to both by the present spectacular Qur'an makes it probable that it too was produced in the same region, almost certainly as a personal Qur'an for a very wealthy emir or prince.
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