Single-volume Qur’an

ink, gold and opaque watercolour on paper; contemporary lacquer-painted binding

main text, marginal text and prayers copied in naskh script, incidentals in riqa‘; 14 lines to the page

287 folios; 50.5 x 31.5cm

This Qur’an was copied in Shiraz for a former governor of Fars, Mirza Abu’l-Hasan Khan, by Muhammad Shafi‘, the most accomplished Persian calligrapher of the later 19th century, who was also a talented illuminator. It is the largest 19th-century Persian Qur’an known, and its calligraphy, illumination and covers represent the highest achievement of the arts of the book in the Qajar period. The manuscript opens with a double-page spread of illumination bearing a list of surahs. The main text is followed by five different prayers and a long, flowery colophon in Arabic with eulogies in Persian verse.

The lacquer covers are decorated with a bird, flower and butterfly composition. The doublures bear Arabic prayers in naskh script within a fine scrollwork border.

N.D. Khalili, B.W. Robinson & T. Stanley, Lacquer of the Islamic Lands, The Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, volume XXII, Part Two, London 1997, cat.377, pp.163–5.

M. Bayani,T. Stanley & J.M. Rogers, The Decorated Word. Qur’ans of the 17th to 19th Centuries, The Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, volume IV, Part Two, London 2009, cat.28, pp.138–43.

J.M. Rogers, The Arts of Islam. Masterpieces from the Khalili Collection, London 2010, cat.262, p.227.