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Inks as Instruments of Writing

Ibn al-Ǧazarī’s Book on the Art of Penmanship

Lucia Raggetti


A short treatise attributed to Ibn al-Ǧazarī (born Damascus 751/1351) deals with what was considered necessary knowledge about the art and craft of penmanship. Along with linguistic and antiquarian remarks, scribal practices, and social applications of writing, an entire section is devoted to the preparation of inks. The selection of recipes includes different ink typologies and technical approaches to ink making, with a preference for metallic compounds; the manipulation of metallic substances often absorbed technological aspects of alchemical practice. This article provides an edition and a commented English translation of the section on inks in the Book on the Art of Penmanship, as preserved by its unique manuscript witness, MS Berlin Sprenger 1918. A recipe for the distillation of an artificial golden ink has been replicated in order to better understand the interaction between the text and the chemical reality behind it.

Torsten Hylén


In this study the author examines some aspects of authority in the movement of the Shiʿite leader al-Mukhtār (d. 67/687). The notion of religious aesthetics as developed by Birgit Meyer is used as an analytical tool. It is argued that al-Mukhtār accomplished his political endeavour partly by introducing and controlling three “aesthetic forms” which functioned as “media” between the people and the deceased ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib: his claim to act on behalf of ʿAlī’s son Ibn al-Ḥanafiyya, whom he called al-mahdī, “the rightly guided”; his call to revenge for the killing of ʿAlī’s son Ḥusayn; and his exhibiting of a chair that he claimed had belonged to ʿAlī. The accounts of these three media, the author furthermore argues, have an historical foundation. Finally he holds that through these media al-Mukhtār was able to channel the needs and aspirations of many of the Shiites of Kufa into political action.

Therese Martin


By focusing on San Isidoro de León in the central Middle Ages, this study investigates the multiple meanings behind the presence of objects from other cultures in a royal-monastic treasury, suggesting a reconsideration of the paths by which such pieces arrived. The development of the Isidoran collection is reexamined through a close analysis of a charter recording the 1063 donation together with early thirteenth-century writings by Lucas of Tuy. Documentary evidence is further weighed against visual analysis and technical studies of several key pieces from the medieval collection. In particular, the Beatitudes Casket (now at the Museo Arqueológico Nacional, Madrid) is singled out to demonstrate how art historical, epigraphic, and historical research come together with carbon-14 testing, revealing that this object was assembled in a very different moment from those traditionally assumed.

Ana Cabrera Lafuente


This paper presents the first in-depth analysis of the textiles held by the Museo de la Real Colegiata de San Isidoro de León, providing a careful investigation of textile features and raw materials, in addition to carbon-14 dating and archival research. These new data have allowed us to redate the fabrics, placing them within their tenth- through early thirteenth-century Mediterranean and European contexts. The result is a more complex image than was previously assumed, and it offers a significant starting point for further research into the roles played by textiles in medieval Iberia.