This masterfully written Qur'an bifolio shows a very rare type of maghribi script for which our study has found no direct comparable example. It follows the general characteristics of the maghribi script as described by N. van den Boogert - the final alif is drawn from top to bottom, the stems of alif, lam, lam-alif and ta/za have club-like extensions to the left of their top point, the stem of ta/za is drawn diagonally, qaf and fa have unconventional diacritical points, final and separate dal/dhal are very similar to initial and medial kaf (Some notes on Maghribi Script). http://www.islamicmanuscripts.info/reference/articles/boogert_notes_mag hribi_script.PDF). However, the present bifolio clearly surpasses the enunciated features. The variations in the thickness of the letters, the ligatures between the lam-alifs, the overlapping between letters of two separate lines, the thin line reserved within the length of upstrokes, simulating the passing of the qalam up and down the upstroke, show a high level of inventiveness and mastery.
The first examples of maghribi script can be dated to the 10th century. The script is not identified in Qur'an copies before the beginning of the 11th century however and the earliest known dated Qur'an in maghribi script was copied in 1090 AD (Uppsala University Library, Inv.nr. O.Bj.48, see Sam Fogg, The Illuminated Word, The Qur'an, 650-1930, London, 2008, cat.18 and F.Déroche in L'art du livre arabe, exhibition catalogue, Paris, 2001). Those of the 11th to 13th centuries are often written on folios of vellum very similar to ours, and with a curious purplish staining that affects some of the margins.
Maghribi Qur'ans are also known for their format which is always nearly square. Although very popular during the 13th and 14th century, it starts to be used during the Almoravid period (1069-1147 AD) as shown by the Uppsala university Qur'an, dated 1090 AD and written in a vertical (or square) format. Copyists from the Maghreb will use this format until the 19th century. A copy of al-Jazuli's Dala'il al-Khayrat in the Bibliothèque Nationale written by the Moroccan calligraphier Muhammad ibn Abi'l-Qasim al-Qandusi al-Fasi (d. 1861 AD) and dated 1828-29 AD offers the closest comparable to our Qur'an bifolio. The script, although less controlled, shows almost identical features - thickness, curious ligatures, thin lines reserved within the upstrokes and thickle-like curves (Sheila S. Blair, Islamic Calligraphy, Edinburgh, 2006, p.570). Al-Qandusi is praised for his incredibly modern script but there is almost no doubt that he had access to the Qur'an from which our bifolio comes from before writing the Dala'il al-Khayrat. It must have been highly regarded example of mediaeval calligraphy to serve as a source for the 19th century calligrapher.