Between the Foreign and the Familiar

A Qurʾan Manuscript and Its Later English Annotations at the East India Company

In: Journal of Islamic Manuscripts
Zahra Kazani University of Victoria Department of Art History and Visual Studies Canada Victoria

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A Qurʾan manuscript (British Library Add 5548–5551), attributed to fifteenth-century India, features a curious case of English annotations within its folios. The annotations take the form of interlinear translations superimposed onto its Persian counterpart. This article takes the contents of the English annotations and its physical placement within the body of the text as a platform to investigate the socio-cultural contexts of the manuscript’s circulation. In doing so, it illustrates the life of its owner, Charles Hamilton, an eighteenth-century military official and Orientalist at the East India Company. The content of the annotations suggests the manuscript’s function as a tool for language acquisition in the midst of Orientalist attempts at colonizing Indian knowledge; its physical placement, an embodiment of British encounters in India. The article builds on the nature of manuscript collecting by Company officials and the role that objects can play as they intersect with intellectual history.

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