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Explore a Manuscript

The purpose of the “Explore a Manuscript” section is to offer a detailed visual overview of Islamic manuscripts using a selection of works from Indiana University collections, thus introducing the viewer to some of the main formal elements of a variety of illustrated and unillustrated manuscripts. The six manuscripts from the collections selected to be featured in this section are representative of the wide artistic and thematic range of Islamic book art traditions. A number of these manuscripts are religious or devotional in nature while others are literary works. They also vary widely in content and size. The lengths of these works were a factor in the decisions made concerning their online presentation. The longer texts of manuscripts that are widely available today in printed form have been excluded, while formal and decorative elements that are unique to several specific manuscripts (such as bindings, illuminated frontispieces, chapter headings, and illustrations) have been highlighted in this section. 

Some of the selected manuscripts were short enough to be presented in their entirety. Such is the case with the fragment of a Kufic Qur'an (Allen mss. 8) and section 9 of a 30-part Safavid Qur'an (Allen mss. 10). Jami's “Haft Awrang” (Allen mss. 11) and the Ottoman illustrated prayer book (Adomeit mss. C16), on the other hand, are only partially displayed because of their more lengthy textual content. For these reasons, only the illustrations and illuminated chapter headings of these works have been made available here. The Shamshir Khani (Near Eastern mss Firdawsi Shahnama), however, is noteworthy for the great number of its illustrations (over 70 paintings) and, as such, a sizeable portion of its paintings has been selected for exploration. Finally, the miniature Qur'an displayed in this section possesses an appendix of several folios that include a terminal prayer as well as a small treatise explaining how to divine using the Holy Text. The exploration of this diminutive manuscript thus is limited to its casing, binding, decorative frontispieces, and its final extra-qur’anic texts.