The inscriptions around the sides of this box are Qur'an II, sura al-baqara, v.255. The rosette at the centre of the lid is inscribed with the bismallah and Qur'an III, sura al-'umran vv.18-19 and v.25. Within the rosette is Qur'an LIX, sura al-hashr, v. 23 (part).
The late 19th century saw a strong fashion towards Mamluk revival work, in both crafts and architecture. Seen as a golden age in Egypt's history, the Mamluk era provided the basis for a new sense of territorial nationality. This new approach to representing modern Egypt appealed to both European officials active in Egypt and the Egyptian ruling élite.
A closely related Qur'an box to that offered here is in the Khalili Collection (Stephen Vernoit, Occidentalism, The Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, vol. XXIII, London, 1997, no.177, pp.228-29). The Khalili box was gifted to a Robert Hamilton Lang in 1897. He wrote in an album within the box that the box was the workmanship of a 'Mr. Parviss of Cairo' and that it was the exact copy of the box of 'an Egyptian Caliph of which the original I saw this year  in the Arab Museum Cairo' (Vernoit, op.cit., p.230). The box to which Lang refers was made in the name of Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad and is published in Islamic Art in Egypt, exhibition catalogue, Cairo, 1969, no. 9. As well as that example, another 14th century Mamluk Qur'an box which may have inspired our revival version is published in F.Sarre and F.R.Martin, Die Ausstellung von Meisterwerken Muhammedanischer Kunst in München 1910, London, 1985, Tafel 156. A similar box sold in these Rooms, 24 November 1987, lot 113.