Inkwell with Zodiac signs, Seljuq period (1040–1196), early 13th century
Brass; cast, inlaid with silver, copper, and black compound; H. 5 7/8 in. (14.9 cm), H. without lid 3 5/8 in. (9.2 cm), Diam. 4 9/16 in. (11.6 cm)
Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1959 (59.69.2a,b)
The inscriptions on the lid of this inkwell convey generic blessings for the owner, and are "animated," that is, parts of letters are transformed into animal or human figures. The base of the inkwell is decorated with signs of the Zodiac, including Cancer (al-saratan, "the crab") with its Planetary Lord the Moon. This association is usually emphasized in images of the Cancer crab, whose claws hold a disk with the crescent Moon.
Said the Wise Abu Macshar: "Those who are born in this decade have a white complexion with a tendency to redness. They are tall and plump and have a small neck. They are quick and playful. They suffer from vertigo when they stand in high places. They like men of science and study constantly. They often change jobs. They have marks on their head and chest. They have good manners and are intelligent. Allah knows more..."