Museum of Islamic Art at the Pergamon Museum
Hegira late 8th century / AD late 14th century
Embossed, gilded and painted leather.
Height 95 cm, width 67 cm
Binding, Quran, leather
From its large size, this binding of a one-volume Qur’an, covered in geometric ornamentation, must have been associated with the court. It cannot yet be related to a specific Qur’an manuscript. It is thought that this Qur’an was a gift from the Mamluk Sultan al-Ashraf Sha‘ban II (AH 764–78 / AD 1363–76) to one of his pious foundations. Several handwritten Qur’ans commissioned by this same patron are now kept in the National Library in Cairo.
The central area of the binding is framed by a thin border, which encapsulates the ‘Throne verse’, Sura 2 verse 255. The inscriptions sit in long cartouches that alternate with quatrefoil motifs. The inner area’s geometric ornamentation is composed of five stars, each with 12 rays. The design was first embossed with precise stamps and then coloured with gilt and blue pigment. White borders tracing the edges of the stars highlight the geometric design. The large size of this binding probably required the collaboration of a calligrapher and a painter.
Special Qur’an stands (kursi) made from expensive materials were designed to support handwritten Qur’ans of this size; they were placed open on the stand for reading out.
Appropriately for a leather bookbinding of a Qur’an, an inscription from Sura 2 v.255 was chosen for the border. The middle field shows part of a repetitive geometrical pattern of 12-pointed stars typical of Mamluk works of art and architecture. Its large size indicates court associations.
This book cover has been dated to the Mamluk period through comparisons with other Mamluk book covers that were donated by the Mamluk Sultan al-Ashraf Sha‘ban, and which are now housed in the National Library of Cairo.
Probably through B. Moritz in Cairo, 1904.
The Qur’an’s binding was acquired in Cairo and is directly comparable to other similar Egyptian book covers, so it is very probable that it is from Egypt.
Atil, E., Renaissance of Islam: Art of the Mamluks,Washington, 1981, pp.2–27, no. 5–6.
Bosch, G., Carswell, J. and Petherbridge, G., Islamic Bindings and Bookmaking, Chicago, 1981, pp.112–13, no. 19.
Islamic Art in Egypt, Catalogue, Cairo, 1969, p.313, no. 299, plate 55.
Museum für Islamische Kunst, Catalogue, Mainz, 2001, pp.86–7, ill. 87.
Sarre, F., Islamische Bucheinbände,Berlin, 1928, pp.12–13, ill. 2.
Annette Hagedorn "Qur’an binding" in "Discover Baroque Art", Museum With No Frontiers, 2021. http://baroqueart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;de;Mus01;29;en
Prepared by: Annette Hagedorn
Translation by: Maria Vlotides, Brigitte Finkbeiner
Translation copyedited by: Monica Allen
MWNF Working Number: GE 37