Change, Continuity and Rupture: Qur’an Manuscript Production in the Central and Eastern Islamic Lands of the 11th century

The production of Qur’anic manuscripts was revolutionised after the collapse of the Abbasid Empire in the 4th/10th century. The replacement of parchment with paper, the use of the vertical format instead of the horizontal one and the adoption of new scripts formed the basis on which new visual languages developed. The talk approaches this period of change by identifying continuities and ruptures from older traditions of Qur’anic production in the Central and Eastern Islamic Lands. While the new Qur’anic scripts were emerging from already existing types, local preferences were shaping up. A similar pattern happened on the level of illumination whereby many decorative features that belonged to a large common mashriqi repertoire remained in use while others were locally stylised. It was the continuous movement of people across geographic boundaries that allowed the mobility of motifs and fluidity of styles but it was the agency of the artists that created local schools of script and illumination. Some of these stylistic trends were manifested on various surfaces, from ceramics to architecture, revealing the continuous engagement of the Qur’an as an object in its wider artistic context.

Free mini-bus service to Wolfson College departing every 20 minutes from Blackwells, Broad Street, and Keble College, Parks Road. For more information and a real-time tracker, please visit: