Inside one of the finest pieces in today's Sotheby’s Arts of the Islamic world auction

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Wednesday 01, May 2019

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In May, Sotheby’s holds its latest Arts of the Islamic World auction, featuring some of the finest pieces found across the Middle East, Southeast Asia and beyond, from various times since the founding of Islam.


The auction includes a number of rare Qur’ans, including one exemplary fine and rare miniature Qur’an on vellum, North Africa, Near East or Persia, 10th century CE, estimated to sell at GBP 70,000-90,000.


This fascinating miniature manuscript is an extremely rare and early example of Eastern Kufic script written in a vertical format on vellum.


The size of the manuscript made for a considerable degree of difficulty, especially due to its intricacy and exemplary design, which was very difficult to execute on a material such as vellum, which was incredibly special material to use in this manner at the in the 10th century.


 “Vellum is thicker than paper. Vellum was expensive—the moment you chose to write a Qu’ran on vellum meant you had a big budget,” said Chiara de Nicolais, Cataloguer at Sotheby’s.


As sheep were expensive at the time of the Qur’an’s production, the process of compiling the manuscript was done with extreme care, using a special folding technique that made use of the otherwise superfluous ends of the sheepskin, allowing the full skin to be utilised without anything being wasted, making it easier to make each folio and to sew together the different sections of the manuscript, ultimately giving it a stronger build.


“It was a very productive use of the vellum,” says de Nicolais.


The Qu’ran also has other rare features. Written in a special news script, it also adds dots to the script, which is rare for manuscripts of this kind, allowing the text to be read easier if the reader doesn’t know the Qu’ran by heart, according to de Nicolais.



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