This fine Qur’an is copied by the celebrated Ottoman calligrapher Mahmud Celâleddin. Born to a Daghestani family in around 1750, Mahmud Celâleddin Efendi (d.1829) is said to have taught himself calligraphy by studying the work of various masters. He developed a distinctive style, referred to by Derman as a 'hard and static' and relating more closely to the calligraphic mode of Ahmad Karahisari or Yaqut al-Musta'simi than to the cursive naskh of Sheikh Hamdullah that was favoured by his contemporaries. Some say that this diversion from the norm was reflective of Celâleddin's stubborn and obstinate character (M. Ugur Derman, Letters in Gold, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1998, p.108). Celâleddin wrote the inscriptions inside the foundation of the Eyüp Camii and on the tomb of Mihrishah Sultan. His wife Esa Ibret, a famous female calligrapher, was also his pupil (Sevket Rado, Türk Hattatlari, Istanbul, 1980, pp.199-200). Several levhas by Mahmud Celâleddin are in the Museum for Turkish and Islamic Art. Another, dated AH 1204/1789-90 AD, is in Konya (Mehdi Bayani, Ahval va Asar-e Khosh-Nevisan, Tehran, 1363/1984, p.1210). No other Qur’ans by this famous scribe are published, making this a rare and important survival.
A Qur’an with similar if somewhat simpler illumination was in the Ghassan I. Shaker collection (Nabil F. Safwat, Golden Pages, Oxford, 2000, pp.204-05, no.51). That Qur’an whilst unsigned was attributed to circa 1750-1800, indicating a similar date for ours. The illumination was used in a related format, with large ‘hasp-shaped’ motifs which project into the borders and are decorated in polychrome and two tones of gold with distinctive areas on blue ground. Another Qur’an with related illumination and copied by a contemporary of Celâleddin, Mehmet Vasfi Efendi in AH 1210/1795-96 AD supports this (M. Ugur Derman, Eternal Letters, exhibition catalogue, Sharjah, 2009, pp.158-59, fig.36a).
As indicated by a note on the final fly-leaf, this Qur’an was formerly in the collection of Nazime Sultan, the eldest daughter of Sultan Abdulaziz Khan (r.1861-76). In March 1924, when the family headed then by her brother Abdülmecid II, fled Turkey, she travelled to Lebanon where she lived for the rest of her life.
By repute the Qur’an is later said to have entered the collection of King Abdulaziz I of Saudi Arabia (r.1932-53), by whom it was then given to Rashid ‘Ali al-Gaylani, the three-time Prime Minister of Iraq who is chiefly remembered as an Arab nationalist who attempted to remove the British influence from his country. Between 1945 and 1958, al-Gaylani sought refuge in Saudi Arabia and it was during this period that the Qur’an was said to have been gifted to him. The illustrious provenance of this Qur’an indicates the high esteem in which it has been held since its creation. As the only Qur’an thus far published by this famous calligrapher, it represents a rare opportunity to acquire an important example of Ottoman calligraphy.