Manuscript illumination and gilding are among the forms of ‘books art’ that flourished in the Islamic arts, whereby sultans and kings were patrons of calligraphers and illustrators. Specialized workshops and academies were built to practice and teach this craft, filling the decorative arts arena with expert artisans. This played a significant role in the emergence of the distinctive schools of illumination that later became renowned.
This exhibition showcases 60 examples of illumination and gilding from various types of Islamic manuscripts to offer visitors an aesthetic experience of this amazing craft.
With the development of the art of designing and decorating books and manuscripts, the decorative shapes used also evolved. The support and sponsorship of the major cultural centers effectively contributed to the flourishing of this expensive art form. Different elements were used to brighten the manuscripts, such as decorating and illuminating the first and last pages, as well as planning creative layouts for the text and the margins. The center of the first page of these manuscripts included a stamped or embossed circle or oval containing the author’s name.
Al-Sharh Al-‘Atwal’Ala Talkhis Al Muftah
By Ibrahim bin Arab Shah Al-Esfraini, d. 945 AH/1538 AD
Copied in Persia in the 12th c. AH/18th c. AD
All the pages are bordered with gold, and the top of the first page has a gilded header that is adorned with roses. The Basmala is written on golden background.
Muntakhab Min A’mal Zad al-Mu’ad
By Muhammad Baqer Al-Majlesi, d. 1111 AH/1700 AD
Copied in Persia in the 12 c. AH/c. AD
The pages have gilded frames and the lines are gilded in rectangles. The first two pages contain a Persian frontispiece that is decorated with gilded floral patterns.
Treasury manuscripts were commissioned by the royal seal of the kings’, sultans’, and princes’ treasuries, or the treasuries of the academies they established. Among the most famous of the treasuries that stored and accumulated texts was the Abbasid treasury in Baghdad, which overflowed with precious literature until it was attacked by the Tatars and destroyed by Hulago. The Fatimid treasury in Egypt, and Umayyad treasury in Andalusia were also renowned.
This type of manuscript decoration appeared during the Abbasid period. Among the manuscripts that were adorned decoratively were those known as the treasury manuscripts. One of the unique features of these manuscripts was that the title and author’s name were written at the beginning as well as a standardized formatting of the first and title pages.
At-Tasdiq bil-Nazar ‘ila Allah Ta’ala fil-Akhira
By Mohammad bin Al-Husein Al-Ojri, d. 360 AH/970 AD
Copied in Damascus in the 9 c. AH/15c. AD
There is a gilded and colorful decorative panel on the cover page, with the title and the author’s name written inside it.
Durar al-Hukkam fi Sharh Ghurar al-Ahkam
By Mohammad bin Faramouz bin Ali, known as Khisro Mulla d. 885 AH/1480 AD
Copied in Turkey in 1001 AH/1592 AD
There is a decorative panel on the cover page with the title and the author’s name inside it. The panel is gilded and colorfully illuminated.
The back of the first page is the appropriate place to start copying the text. The artist usually decorates this part to indicate that beginning. This decoration forms part of the beginning of the book, and has various styles: Sarloha, Torra, Toghra, or Dibaja. These are generally placed in the upper section of the page and are sometimes integrated into a simple frame containing the manuscript title. The Basmalah is also usually written in such a frame.
Sharh Calistan Sa’di Al-Shirazi
By Sodi Al-Bosnawi, d. 1007 AH/1598 AD
Copied in Persia in 1238 AH/1822 AD
The pages are framed with gold, and a gilded and floral header adorns the top of the first page.
Mashariq Al-‘Anwar An- Nabawiyya
By Al-Hassan bin Muhammad Al-Saghani, d. 650 AH/1252 AD
Copied in India in 1273 AH/1856 AD
All the pages are framed with gold. The top of the first page is decorated with a colorful header that contains floral patterns on a gilded background.
‘Arba’un hadithan wa-Tarjamatha wa Sharhaha bil-Farsiyya
Translated by Mohammed Mahdi bin Hajji Abdulhadi
Copied in India in the 12 c. AH/18 AD
The gilded frames are decorated with red and green flowers. The first page has a header that is gilded and adorned with colorful floral patterns.
‘Ijaza li Ahmed Al-Helmi Al-Tharawi
By Omar bin Mustafa Al-Tharawi
Copied in India in 12 c. AH/18 c. AD
The pages are framed in gold, with a gilded header that is colored and adorned with floral patterns.
Bahjat al-‘Asrar wa Ma’dan al-‘Anwar
By Ali bin Yousef Al-Shatanofi, d. 713 AH/1314 AD
Copied in Central Asia in 1103 AH/1691 AD
The pages are framed in gold; a gilded header, that is colored and adorned with floral patterns, decorates the first page.
Tafsir Al-Jalal Al-Syouti
By Jalal aldin Abdulrahman bin Abi bakr Al-Syouti
Copied in India in 11 c. AH/ 17 AD
The first two pages are framed with gold, and a gilded floral header adorns the top of the first page.
Since its inception, Arabic calligraphy has remained an important symbol in building the Arab -Islamic civilization and contributing to human civilization. Arab Muslim calligraphers excelled in this field, and gave the word a visual aesthetic function in addition to its auditory one. They also imbued the script with liveliness and movement, which gave it longevity and influence throughout the ages. They also transformed script into a true representation of civilizational interaction.
Here we record some of the pioneers and creators of calligraphy since the beginning of the Arab -Islamic civilization.
1-Qutbah Al-Muharrir, d. 154 AH/770 AD
2-Ishaac bin Hammad Al-Katib, d. 154 AH/770 AD
3-Al-Khalil bin Ahmed Al-farahidi, d. 175 AH/791 AD
4-Mohammed bin Alibin Muqla, d. 328 AH/939 AD
5-Ali bin Hilal-al-Baghdadi, Ibn Al Bawwab, d. 413 AH/1022 AD
6-Yaqoot bin Abdullah al-Musta’smi, d. 696 AH/1296 AD
7- Hamdallah Amassi, d. 936 AH/1529 AD
8-Hafiz Osman, d. 936 AH/1529 AD
9- Mustapha Raqem, d. 1181 AH/1767 AD
10-Mohammed Mo’annis Effendi Zadeh, d. 1290 AH/1873 AD
Various Prayers and Sermons
Written by Calligrapher Mustafa Al-ayoubi
Copied in Turkey in the 11 c. AH/17 c. AD
Written in Thuluth and Naskh script on gilded panels that are colorfully illuminated with floral patterns.
Wasaya Ali bin Ali Talib
By Ibrahim Haqqi Bin Othman, d. 1194 AH/1780 AD
Copied in Turkey in 1234 AH/1818 AD
The first page is adorned with a Manluk header and gilded cloud bands between the lines. The pages have gold borders and have been cut and framed with blue paper.
Some artists, such as calligrapher Hamadallah Al-Amassi (833 AH-927 AH/1429 AD - 1520 AD), who worked during the rule of Sultan Bayazid II, were interested in expanding the size of this decorated area of the book and innovative decorative elements to culminate their work, such as the shape of the dome in the Ottoman era. To achieve a balance between the left and the right sections of the facing pages, a frame made of a lines that were gilded or colored surrounded the text.
Turjuman Al-Dustur Fi hawadith Al-Azman wal-Duhur
By Muhhamad Kamal, known as Balati Zadah, d. 992 AH/1584 AD
Copied in Turkey in 1241 AH/1825 AD
The first page has an Ottoman header and the artisans skills are evident in the gilded cloud bands and the masterful calligraphy.
By Zain Al-Din bin Ibrahim, known as Ibn Najim Al-Masri
Copied in Turkey in 1129 AH/1716
The pages are framed with gold and the top of the first page is illuminated with an Ottoman header that is gilded and adorned with floral patterns.
Zubdat Al-Urfan fi-Wujuh Al-Qur’an
By Ahmad bin Abd-Alfattah Al-Balawy, d. 1264 AH/1847 AD
Copied in Afghanistan in 1264 AH/1847 AD
The first two pages have gilded frames and a colorful header that is decorated with flowers and plants.
By Ibrahim Haqqi bin Othman, d. 1194 AH/1780 AD
Copied in Turkey in 1234 AH/1818 AD
The first two pages are framed in gold, with gilded spaces between paragraphs. The first page is decorated with a gilded Ottoman header.
Taysir Al-Wusul ila Jami’Al-Usul
By Abdulrahman bin Ali Al-Yemeni as ibn Al-Daiba, d. 944 AH/1537 AD
Copied in Tunisia in 1285 AH/1868 AD
The first page is framed with gold and illuminated with a Moroccan header that is gilded and colored in green and adorned with vegetal patterns.
These manuscripts are characterized by the use of Shamsas as a decorative element. Shamsas are interlaced circular, oval or bracket shapes that are placed in the margins and contain the author’s name. They sometimes include the name of the king or sultan or other important individuals. Decorative rectangular panels often accompany the Shamsa, in which titles are written. These manuscripts are also distinguished by the use of Andalusian-Moroccan script, which was developed from Kufi Script.It is called Qairawani script after the Moroccan center of craft and is known for its curved letters.
By Malik bin Anas Al-Asbahi Al-Madani, d. 179 AH/ 795 AD
Copied in Morocco in the 13 c. AH/19 c. AD
The book title is written in gold within a gilded decorative rectangular panel on the first page that is attached to a shamsa.
Diwan Ali bin Abi Talib
Copied in Morocco in the 13 c. AH/ AD
The first two pages have gold borders and a gilded Moroccan header that is colorfully decorated with vegetal patterns.
The stage of decorating the manuscript begins after finishing the stage of writing by the calligrapher, who leaves void spaces to be painted later. The manuscript is then submitted to the illuminator, another artist who gilds the margins, the first and last pages, and the chapters’ titles and beginnings. The art of gilding was one of the finest book arts after calligraphy. Artists prized being named in the book with the title “Gilder”. There is no doubt that the most gilded and decorated manuscripts were of the Holy Qur’an, especially copies that were made between the 8th c. and 12th c. AH (14th c. 18th c. AD).
By Mohammad bin Isma’il Al-Bukhari, d. 256 AH/870 AD
Copied in 1245 AH/1829 AD
This first and last pages of this manuscript contains beautiful illuminations. It was gifted by Rif’at Al-Ayubbi Al-Ansari to King Faisal when he was the Crown Prince in 1381 AH/1962 AD
Al-Shifa bi-Ta’rif Huquq Al-Mustafa
By Ayyad bin Musa Al-Andalusi Al-Sabti Al-Qadi, d. 544 AH / 1149 AD
Copied in Turkey in 1141 AH/1728 AD
All the pages are framed with gold. The top of the first page is decorated with a colorful header that contains floral patterns and gilded cloud bands between the text.
By Mohammad Aref Dori Zadah, d. 1215 AH /1800 AD
Copied in Turkey in 1212 AH/1800 AD
The pages have gold borders and the first two pages are illuminated with vegetal patterns in the margins. The top of the first page also has a gilded Ottoman header.