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Fragment of a Kufic Qur’an

Complete Kufic Qur’an manuscripts from the early centuries of Islam are rare. This example consists of verses from several chapters. The fragment bears two chapter headings transcribed in gold ink. The folios are made of parchment as it was produced before paper was introduced as the primary material for manuscripts.

Accession Number:

Lilly Library, Allen mss. 8

Date:

9th–10th century (ʿAbbasid)

Number of Folios:

14

Dimensions of Folios:

11.8 x 18.4 cm

Dimensions of Written Surface:

8.3 x 14 cm

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Description

These fourteen folios bear an assortment of verses from suras 69, 70, 72, and 73. The sharp Kufic calligraphy is executed with brown ink in seven lines per page.

Other ink colors used throughout the text are gold, red, and green. Most significantly, gold is used in this example to highlight chapter headings and verse markers. Folio 2r bears the first two words of the beginning of chapter 70 (“So the Inquirer Asked”) in gold with a decorative finial sprouting out into the margins. This finial includes the chapter’s number of verses (44). The gold chapter heading on folio 11r bears the title of chapter 73 “The Enwrapped,” which also includes a decorative gold finial.

The verse markers vary in intricacy, although all are executed in gold. In many horizontal Kufic Qur’ans from this period, verses numbered in increments of tens are typically marked with circular medallions with their numbers inscribed within. The Lilly example displays a verse marker on folio 3v with the word ʿashr (ten) in the medallion; folios 4v and 8v each possess medallions containing the word ʿashrun, marking the twentieth verses; finally, folio 2r has a marker for the fiftieth verse (khamsun). Another commonly used verse marker is a golden ha letter, marking the fifth verse, one of which appears on folio 11v.

Red dots mark short vowels, vocalizations, and nunnations (tanwin, usually in the form of two red dots), while occasional green dots in this text are used to indicate the vocal assimilation of certain sounds coming after the article al-, resulting in a duplication of the consonant (tashdid).

Although letter pointing is non-existent for most of the text, there are occasional traces of some experimentation with letter pointing on some of the nuns in the form of the thin and short diagonal lines (one representing a single dot, on the nun (ن); and two representing two dots, on a kaf (ق) for instance) visible in other examples of early Kufic Qur'ans.

On Kufic Qur’ans, see inter alia: Baker, Qur’an Manuscripts, 20-21 (image 7); Déroche, The Abbasid Tradition, 85 (cat. 35), and 99 (cat. 46); Ettinghausen et al, Islamic Art and Architecture 650-1250, 99 (image 153); Gruber, Selections of Arabic, Persian, and Turkish Calligraphy, specimens AL-7, 1-89-154.186 and 1-84-154.28a; and Lings and Safadi, The Qur‘an, plate 2 (cat. 17), 22 (cat. 3).