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Miniature Qur’an

Accession Number: Lilly Library, Allen mss. 13

Date and location: 19th century, probably Iran

Dimensions of container: 5 cm in diameter x 1.8 cm

Number of folios: approximately 250, unbound

Dimensions of folios: 4.4 x 4.4 cm

Dimensions of written surface: 3.6 x 3.6 cm

Average number oflines of text per folio: 16

Color of ink: Black

Allen mss. 13 is the only miniature Islamic manuscript in the Lilly Library not from the collection of Ruth E. Adomeit but instead that of William Edward David Allen (1901–1973). While most miniature Qur’ans are contained in cases manufactured from lightweight materials that enhance their portability, this case is constructed from thicker metal and is unusually heavy, perhaps indicative of a stationary function. Two small holes, each approximately 0.7 centimeters wide, have been punched partially through two of the container’s eight sides. The inside edge of one of these holes is visibly grooved, raising the possibility that two projecting brackets once embellished the case, in a similar fashion to those affixed to the bazuband inventoried as Adomeit mss. C9. Nevertheless, even if brackets did once attach to a chain or cord, the box lacks any mechanism to secure the miniature Qur’an within it: the lid of the case simply rests atop the base.

The surface of the container is painted black and is replete with gold-painted inscriptions and pious invocations, including the underside. The most prominent inscription is the opening phrase of Surat al-Fath: “Verily We have granted you a manifest victory” (Q 48:1). The militaristic tenor of this aya evokes the Ottoman Turkish tradition of the sancak Qur’an, wherein miniature Qur’ans encased in boxes or pouches were attached to the shaft or finial of the military standards that accompanied the Ottoman army to the battlefield. Conversely, the selection of this aya may reflect an owner with military affiliations. Characteristic of countless Qur’ans of reduced scale, this manuscript’s folios have not weathered the ravages of time without damage. The original binding has been dismantled and its covers do not survive. All folios (some still lightly sewn together, others loosely stacked) are made of smooth beige rag paper prone to crumbling. The naskh script nonetheless remains legible. Equally visible is the gold paint used to execute verse markers and to frame the written surface.

Another example of a 19th-century octagonal metal case featuring Q48:1 is published in James, Qur’ans and Bindings, 137 (cat. 114, bottom). This specimen is described in the Union List of Arabic Manuscripts, cat. no. 29.