Date: 18th–19th century

Geography: Attributed to Turkey

Medium: Steel, bronze, and gold

Dimensions: H. 1/4 in. (0.6 cm)
W. 9 15/16 in. (25.2 cm)
D. 1 3/4 in. (4.4 cm)
Wt. 2.9 oz. (82.2 g)

Classification: Metal

Credit Line: Bequest of Susan Dwight Bliss, 1966

Accession Number: 67.55.127


These shears, and a matching pair of tweezers, come from a desk set presented as a gift; in the nineteenth century, sets of calligraphers' tools–scissors, penknife, and makta' (penrest, for cutting the nib)–were commonly ordered by the court for such a purpose. The shears here have hollowed steel blades with intricate damascene inlaid gold ornament. Hollowed shears are said to be used specifically for cutting paper for letters to create an elaborate form of calligraphy. When the cut-out letters are pasted onto a separate sheet of paper, the form is known in Turkish as kat'i. When the page from which the letters have been excised is preserved and placed over a sheet of a differently colored paper, the form is called découpage (from the French meaning "cutting away" or "cutting out"). Shears were also used for cutting evenly-sized sheets from larger pieces of paper. The design of the finger loops, with a scrolling outline, and the floral pattern on the blades are common features of nineteenth-century Turkish shears.