(K. Brent Tomer),
THE Arabic letters in the Koran, angular and erect in shape, are transcribed in light-brown ink. Written in hijazi style, the earliest script used in the holy book, the two-section volume was copied on almost square sheets of parchment, a rarity for such volumes transcribed before 750CE. Visitors to the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery peered at the rare copy, displayed in a glass case, with its unusual motifs—a palm tree, multi-coloured rows of diamonds and pomegranates—separating the Koran’s surat, or chapters.
Though the book’s text is identical to almost 60 others on display, the copies—arguably the rarest and finest in the world—are distinguishable by size, colour and calligraphy. The exhibition tells tales of how the books were created in Turkey, or sent there from the Arab world, Iran and Afghanistan. The collection of lavishly-illuminated Korans, travelling outside of Istanbul for the first time, make up the first major American exhibition focusing on Islam’s holy book.
For Julian Raby, director of the Freer and Sackler, the exhibition is decades late. At the British Museum’s World of…Continue reading