The Ilkhanid Qurʾan: An Example from Maragha

in Journal of Islamic Manuscripts
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This essay examines a dispersed Qurʾan manuscript transcribed at Maragha by ʿAbdallah ibn Ahmad ibn Fadlallah ibn ʿAbd al-Hamid al-Qadi al-Qazwini between Shawwal 738 and Shawwal 739 (April 1338–April 1339). It takes the codex as an exemplar to show first how scriptoria in the Ilkhanid period codified features such as paper size, page format, calligraphic style, and multi-color illumination to rapidly produce so many of these sublime works of art. It then uses the manuscript’s codicology to investigate broader questions such as who commissioned these Qurʾan manuscripts, who were the calligraphers and illuminators that produced them, how were these manuscripts used, how was the court style formulated at the turn of the century under Yaqut al-Mustaʿsimi and his followers disseminated to provincial cities such as Maragha in northwest Iran, and how did these manuscripts in turn serve as models for others made a century later for the Timurids who willfully copied Ilkhanid styles to promote their dynastic legitimacy.



The former is discussed in Blair, Islamic Calligraphy, pp. 242–245; the latter in Barbara Schmitz, Islamic Manuscripts in the New York Public Library. New York (Oxford University Press) 1992, no. V.8.


James, Qurʾāns of the Mamluks, pp. 78–92, p. 235, no. 39.


James, Qurʾāns of the Mamluks, pp. 235–236, no. 40. He called it “Uljaytu’s Baghdad Qurʾan.” (pp. 92–98).


Blair, Islamic Calligraphy, p. 253.


James, Qurʾāns of the Mamluks, pp. 247–248, no. 69.


André Godard, “Notes complémentaires sur les tombeaux de Marāgha,” Āthār-é Irān 1 (1936), pp. 125–160; and Wilber, Architecture of Islamic Iran, nos. 78 and 82. Ibn Battuta mentions Qarasunqur; The Travels of Ibn Battuta, A.D. 1325–1354. Ed. and trans. H.A.R. Gibb, vol. I. London (Hakluyt Society) 1958–2000, pp. 107–109 and his appointment as governor of Maragha.


Blair, “Yāqūt and his followers”, p. 42.


Blair, “Calligraphers”, pp. 178–179 gives other pairs; on Sayf al-Din, see James, Master Scribes, p. 106. For the six followers of Yāqūt, see Blair, “Yāqūt and his followers”.


On Muhammad ibn Sayf al-Din, see James, Qurʾāns of the Mamluks, pp. 158–159. For apt comparisons, see especially no. 66.


James, Qurʾāns of the Mamluks, pp. 173–174; Master Scribes, pp. 97, 176, 200. As François Déroche presciently noted, such rosettes had already been used in Qurʾan manuscripts made during the Umayyad period, such as the one with a double-page architectural frontispiece (illustrated in Alain George, The Rise of Islamic Calligraphy. London [Saqi Books] 2010, fig. 55), and another at the end of a similar manuscript in Qayrawan Musée des Arts islamiques, R38; drawing in François Déroche, Qurʾāns of the Umayyads: A First Overview. Leiden (E.J. Brill) 2014, fig. 43.


Wright, Islam, pp. 134–135. Folios 1b–2a have facing rosettes inscribed with Qurʾan 17:88, saying that all of mankind and the jinns together could not produce the like of this Qurʾan. The verse is one of the few references in the text that uses the verbal noun qurʾān, a term that has become the accepted name for the revelation; see Mustansir Mir, “Names of the Qurʾān”, EQ vol. 3, pp. 505–515.


James, Qurʾāns of the Mamluks, p. 244, nos. 59–60; discussion on pp. 173–177.


James, Qurʾāns of the Mamluks, p. 244, no. 58.


Zeren Tanındı, “Konya Mevlnâna Müzesindie 677 ve 655 Yillik Kurʾanʾlar: Karamanli Beyliǧiʾnde Kitap sanati,” Kültur ve Sanat 12 (1991), pp. 42–44. Also mentioned in James, Qurʾāns of the Mamluks, p. 176 and note 34. A rosette with the number of the volume is also found in a dispersed thirty-volume manuscript that has recently been attributed to Anatolia 1280–1320 (Khalili QUR228); James, Master Scribes, no. 49.


Sheila Blair, “Ilkhanid architecture and society: an analysis of the endowment deed of the Rabʿ-i Rashidi,” Iran 22 (1984), pp. 67–90.


James, Qurʾāns of the Mamluks, pp. 238–239, no. 45. James discusses (pp. 111–126) it as “the Hamadan Qurʾan of Uljaytu” but in the revised edition (p. 114) corrects the place of production given as the Dār al-khayrat al-rashidiyya from “the Abode of Orthodoxy” to the Rashidiyya Foundation.


Blair, “Ilkhanid architecture and society”, p. 81 and n. 76, citing the text of their endowment deeds published in Iraj Afshar, Yādgārhā-yi Yazd, 3 vols. (Tehran, 1348–1354/1969–1975), II: 473. Shams al-Din was Rashid al-Din’s son-in-law.


Welch, Calligraphy and the Arts of the Muslim World, p. 124; for a detailed description of these events see Charles Melville and ʿAbbas Zaryab, “Chobanids,” EIr, vol. 5/5, pp. 496–502.


Richard Ettinghausen, “An Illuminated Manuscript of Ḥāfiẓ-i Abrū in Istanbul”, Kunst des Orients 2 (1955), pp. 30–44. Reprinted in Islamic Art and Archaeology Collected Papers, ed. Myriam Rosen-Ayalon. Berlin (Gebr. Mann Verlag) 1984, pp. 494–508.


  • Figure 1

    Cover of juzʾ 13 with blind tooling and traces of goldBoston, Museum of Fine Arts 29.58

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  • Figure 2

    Opening rosette to juzʾ 13, inscribed with Qurʾan 12:59Boston, Museum of Fine Arts 29.58

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  • Figure 3

    Opening double page to juzʾ 13, with Qurʾan 12:53–57 (middle)Boston, Museum of Fine Arts 29.58

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  • Figure 4

    Typical double page spread with heading to Qurʾan 14 (Surat Ibrahim)Boston, Museum of Fine Arts 29.58

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  • Figure 5

    Heading to Qurʾan 14 (Surat Ibrahim)Boston, Museum of Fine Arts 29.58

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  • Figure 6

    Colophon to juzʾ 24 by ʿAbdallah b. Ahmad b. Fadlallah b. ʿAbd al-Hamid, dated end Ramadan 739 (beginning April 1338), copied in Maragha Boston, Museum of Fine Arts 29.57

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  • Figure 7

    Chapter heading to Qurʾan 13 (Surat al-Raʿd)Boston, Museum of Fine Arts 29.58

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