The remarkable blue colour of this folio contrasts beautifully with the strong gold script making this one of the most distinct and aesthetically pleasing of all kufic Qur'an manuscripts. The now iconic status of these striking folios has generated much scholarly debate as to their origins. The scholar F.R. Martin suggested that the original manuscript from which this folio originates was commissioned by the Caliph al-Ma'mun for the tomb of his father Harun al-Rashid. F.R. Martin produced this theory after acquiring a group of leaves from this series in Istanbul in 1912. He summarized that blue was the colour of mourning and thus the connection with the death of the great Caliph. It is far more likely though, that the use of the indigo blue dyed vellum for this manuscript was intended to mimic the purple stained luxury of Imperial Byzantine manuscripts. At the time of the production of our manuscript however, there was no longer any direct access to the murex dye needed to produce the purple colour. As a result this was supplanted by the use of indigo imported at great cost from India, (see Sheila S. Blair, Islamic Calligraphy, Edinburgh, 2008, p. 126-27). The inventory of the library of the Great Mosque at Kairouan compiled in AH 693/1293-94 AD lists a Qur'an written in gold on blue vellum, (published in J.M. Bloom, 'Al-Ma'mun's Blue Koran?' in Revue des études islamiques, Vol. LIV, 1986, pp.59-65). Bloom proceeds to confirm this attribution to Kairouan through his analysis of the alphanumerical counting system employed on this manuscript to number the suras. In the case of this manuscript the usual abjad system is not used. Instead a slight modification of this alphanumerical system is used on folios from this manuscript, a system which was prevalent in the Maghreb, (see Sheila S. Blair, op.cit., p.127).
In terms of the calligraphy, this folio exhibits great strength and confidence of hand in its laterally extended letters or mashq . A further folio from the same manuscript held in the LACMA collection (inv. M86.196a) also beautifully illustrates this confidence of hand.
For further folios from this same manuscript which sold at auction see: Sotheby's London, 4 October 2011, lot 2; 5 October 2010, lot 7; and 24 October 2007, lot 7.