φ. A Highly Important Il-Khanid Qur’an Section

Tabriz or Baghdad, circa 1310 AD
Size: 30 x 22 cm

The manuscript is the first juz’ of a 30-part Qur’an, containing Surat al-Fatihah and part of Surat al-Baqarah. It has 34 folios of high quality burnished cream-coloured paper, with the text written in 5 lines of outstanding Rayhani calligraphy in black ink. Each line of calligraphy is framed by blue and gold lines. The verse divisions are marked by six-petal gold rosettes embellished in red and light blue, and medallions in the margins mark the 5 and 10-verse divisions.

The manuscript opens with a magnificent double-page illuminated frontispiece; the following double page has the opening verses of the Fatihah replacing the geometric panels of the frontispiece within a similar illuminated frame. Overleaf, the chapter heading for Surat al-Baqarah is written in gold against blue scrolling vines within a gold border with a medallion extending into the border. The final page is illuminated, with a large panel of gold arabesques on blue beneath the final three lines of text.

The front panel of the binding and the flap are probably original to this section, and the back panel probably taken from another juz’ of the same Qur’an.

This manuscript belongs to the extraordinary series of Qur’ans commissioned by the Il-Khan Oljaytu in Tabriz, Hamadan, Mosul and Baghdad in the early part of the 14th century. The gold and blue framing lines for each line of calligraphy are identical to those found in the Hamadan Qur’an dated 1313 AD, written by Abdallah ibn Muhammad ibn Mahmud al-Hamadhani. The treatment of the Surah headings is also very similar. The calligraphy is remarkably expressive, of a type associated with either Suhrawardi or Sayrafi, but further analysis is required since there is no signature. The quality of the calligraphy, along with every other aspect of this manuscript, is outstanding.

David James, Qur’ans of the Mamluks, London, 1988.
Martin Lings, Qur’anic Art of Illumination and Calligraphy, London, 1976.