Folio from a Qur'an Manuscript, Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on parchment

Folio from a Qur'an Manuscript

Object Name:
Folio from a non-illustrated manuscript
9th century
Attributed to Central Islamic Lands
Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on parchment
H. 1 1/2 in. (3.8 cm)
W. 2 7/8 in. (7.3 cm)
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1962
Accession Number:
Not on view
This small-scale Qur'an was used as an intimate personal object, probably worn or carried as an amulet during travel. Despite its diminutive size, it shares many features with other early Qur'ans, which were often much larger and used as memory guides for public recitations. Here, densely packed writing in kufic script is lengthened horizontally, and red dots mark short vowels.
In many periods and regions, small-scale copies of the Qur’an served as amulets, worn or carried in special cases, and the manuscript
from which this folio derives may have been made for such a purpose. The page contains verses 22–40 of Sura 25 (al-Furqan, “The Criterion”); the side illustrated here bears verses 32–40. The history of copying the Qur’an has yet to be reconstructed, but this particular page from a manuscript on parchment has distinctive features linking it to versions that are much larger in size. Among these are the even number of lines on each page (fourteen in this case) and a script that exaggerates the horizontal elongation of letters while compressing their vertical elements. Imparting a marked density, which accentuates the horizontality of the page, these characteristics link the Metropolitan Museum folio with a group of Qur’an fragments studied by Estelle Whelan and designated by her as Group 2.[1]

Perhaps because of the small size of the folio, the only diacritical signs employed are red dots to indicate the short vowels. The manuscript is also notable for the translucency of its ink, which is brown rather than the opaque black seen on most early copies; later manuscripts from North Africa and Spain are written in the same ink. Other folios from this manuscript are now in the collection of the New York Public Library.[2] Those folios contain the last sections of Sura 4 and the beginning of Sura 5 and mark the transition between the two with a gold inscription written over the text. The presence of such an addition demonstrates that Sura headings were not part of the original design of this manuscript.
Priscilla Soucek in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
1. Blair 2006, pp. 111–16; Whelan 1998.
2. Schmitz et al. 1992, p. 251, fig. 296; Q 4:172–76, 5:1–7.
Inscription: On verso (flesh side) - Sura 25:32-41; On recto (skin side): Sura 25:22-31

In Arabic language,
Kuran in Kufic scrip 25:32-40

William Ivins, Jr., New York (until d. 1961); his daughter, Barbara Ivins, Milford, CT (1961–62; sold to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Celestial Pen: Islamic Calligraphy," September 28, 1982–February 7, 1983, no catalogue.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Balcony Calligraphy Exhibition," June 1, 2009–October 26, 2009, no catalogue.

Schmitz, Barbara. Islamic Manuscripts in the New York Public Library. New York and Oxford, 1992. p. 251, ill. fig. 296, Q4:172–76, 5: 1–7.

Grabar, Oleg. "1989 Andrew W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts." In Intermediary Demons Toward a Theory of Ornament. Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., 1989. ill. pl. 6 (color).

Schimmel, Annemarie. "Islamic Calligraphy." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., vol. 50, no. 1 (Summer 1992). (v) pp. 4-5, ill. fig. 4 (b/w).

Blair, Sheila S. Islamic Calligraphy. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006. pp. 111–16.

Ekhtiar, Maryam, Sheila R. Canby, Navina Haidar, and Priscilla P. Soucek, ed. Masterpieces from the Department of Islamic Art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1st ed. ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011. no. 3, p. 27, ill. p. 27 (color).

Ekhtiar, Maryam, and Claire Moore, ed. "A Resource for Educators." In Art of the Islamic World. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012. p. 44, ill. fig. 7 (color).