Name of Object:



Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey

Holding Museum:

Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts

About Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, Sultanahmet

Date of Object:

Hegira Rajab 899 / AD April 1494

Artist(s) / Craftsperson(s):

Calligrapher: Sheikh Hamdullah (Hamd Allah, AH 840?–926? / AD 1437?–1520?).

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Finished (aharlı) paper, leather, ink, watercolour, gilding, tooling on the leather binding.


Height 33.5 cm, width 23.5 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Istanbul, Turkey.


The work in all its aspects reflects the full maturity of the style for its time. It was produced as 265 folios of finished (aharli) paper with 14 lines per page of naskhi script in black ink. The book's introduction features a double-page illumination. The chapter title frames, marginal rosettes and the colophon page are also illuminated. The illumination includes freely brushed cloud compositions placed side by side with traditional motifs like Chinese-inspired floral motifs (e.g. peonies), arabesques, palmettes and spiralling tendrils. The attempt to reach beyond traditional compositional formulas continues in the illumination, placed in between letters and in the flower and leaf compositions springing from the frames or letters.

The leather binding is dark-red on the outside and dark-green on the inside. The symmetrical layout on both the inner (doublures) and outer covers comprises an oval medallion ending in palmette-shaped pendants and half-pendant corner-pieces within a wide border. The medallion, corner-pieces and pendants are outlined in gold and filled with vegetal compositions in the hatayi (chinoiserie) style. The decoration on the binding is tooled to a depth of 2 mm on the outer covers and to 1 mm on the inner covers. The balance between decorated and undecorated surfaces, and the surface difference in the decoration, makes for incredible depth. In contrast to the other parts of the binding, the flap is inscribed with Qur'anic verses (56: 77–9).

Sheikh Hamdullah established a school in Ottoman calligraphy that was known by his name. He was also a teacher of Sultan Bayezid II (r. AH 886–918 / AD 1481–1512). This work, transcribed by Sheikh Hamdullah (Hamd Allah) in Rajab 899 (AD April 1494), is noteworthy for its surpassing of traditional models of illumination and especially for its masterful tooled binding and superb calligraphy. Thus, it is one of the most important works from the reign of Bayezid II, when Ottoman book arts started to assume their own identity.

View Short Description

This Qur'an was copied by Sheikh Hamdullah, who established a school of Ottoman calligraphy. Its calligraphy, illumination and exquisite binding make it a masterpiece of Early Ottoman period book arts.

Original Owner:

The name of the original owner is not known. However, the work bears the seals of both Sultan Mahmud I (r. AH 1143–68 / AD 1730–54), and the inspector of pious foundations (waqf), Derviş Mustafa, (in office during the first quarter of the AH 12th / AD 18th century). Although these seals do not identify the actual structure to which this Qur’an was dedicated, it is inferred that it was dedicated to a mosque or a tomb

How date and origin were established:

The colophon states that it was written in Rajab 899 / April 1494.

How Object was obtained:

The book was transferred to the Museum from the Library of the Ayasofya Mosque in Istanbul in 1914.

How provenance was established:

The high-quality calligraphy, illumination and binding of the work all suggest that it was produced in the Topkapı Palace workshops in Istanbul. Sultan Bayezid II was quite passionate about the art of calligraphy. When he was a prince governing Amasya, he was tutored in calligraphy by Sheikh Hamdullah (Hamd Allah). When he ascended the throne, he invited his tutor to teach calligraphy in Topkapı Palace. Thus, it is highly likely that this Qur'an was prepared for Sultan Bayezid II in the workshops of Topkapı Palace.

Selected bibliography:

Çığ, K., Türk Kitap Kapları (Turkish Book Bindings), Istanbul, 1971, Fig. IV.

Levenson, J. A. (ed), Circa 1492: Art in the Age of Exploration, Washington D.C., 1991, no. 81.

Ölçer, N. et al, Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art, Istanbul, 2002, pp.250–1.

Raby, J. and Tanındı, Z., Turkish Bookbinding in the 15th Century, London, 1993, pp.196–9.

Roxburgh, D. .J. (ed), Turks: A Journey of a Thousand Years, 600–1600, London, 2005, p.441.

Citation of this web page:

Sevgi Kutluay "Qur’an" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020.;ISL;tr;Mus01;20;en

Prepared by: Sevgi KutluaySevgi Kutluay

Sevgi Kutluay is the Head of the Calligraphy and Manuscripts Section at the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts in Istanbul. She graduated from the Department of Archaeology and Art History at Hacettepe University, Ankara, in 1985 with the thesis “The Complexes of Kayseri Huand Hatun and Afşin Eshab-ı Kehf and the Development of Complexes in the Anatolian Seljuq Period”. She completed her Master's at the same department with a thesis entitled “Divriği Great Mosque and Its Decorative Programme” in 1989. She started working at the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in 1988 and has worked as an expert at various museums and departments of the ministry. She quit her Ph.D. entitled “The Diwan of Hüseyin Baykara and the 15th Century Manuscripts of Herat”. She participated in restoration projects on the wall paintings of Göreme Dark Church and Sumela Monastery in Trabzon and in the display designs of various museums.

Translation by: Barry WoodBarry Wood

Barry Wood is Curator (Islamic Gallery Project) in the Asian Department of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. He studied history of art at Johns Hopkins University and history of Islamic art and architecture at Harvard University, from where he obtained his Ph.D. in 2002. He has taught at Harvard, Eastern Mediterranean University, the School of Oriental and African Studies, and the Courtauld Institute of Art. He has also worked at the Harvard University Art Museums and the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. He has published on topics ranging from Persian manuscripts to the history of exhibitions.
, İnci Türkoğluİnci Türkoğlu

İnci Türkoğlu has been working as a tourist guide and freelance consultant in tourism and publishing since 1993. She was born in Alaşehir, Turkey, in 1967. She graduated from the English Department of Bornova Anatolian High School in 1985 and lived in the USA for a year as an exchange student. She graduated from the Department of Electronic Engineering of the Faculty of Architecture and Engineering, Dokuz Eylül University, Izmir, and the professional tourist guide courses of the Ministry of Tourism in 1991. She worked as an engineer for a while. She graduated from the Department of Art History, Faculty of Letters, Ege University, Izmir, in 1997 with an undergraduate thesis entitled “Byzantine House Architecture in Western Anatolia”. She completed her Master's at the Byzantine Art branch of the same department in 2001 with a thesis entitled “Synagogue Architecture in Turkey from Antiquity to the Present”. She has published on art history and tourism.

Translation copyedited by: Mandi GomezMandi Gomez

Amanda Gomez is a freelance copy-editor and proofreader working in London. She studied Art History and Literature at Essex University (1986–89) and received her MA (Area Studies Africa: Art, Literature, African Thought) from SOAS in 1990. She worked as an editorial assistant for the independent publisher Bellew Publishing (1991–94) and studied at Bookhouse and the London College of Printing on day release. She was publications officer at the Museum of London until 2000 and then took a role at Art Books International, where she worked on projects for independent publishers and arts institutions that included MWNF’s English-language editions of the books series Islamic Art in the Mediterranean. She was part of the editorial team for further MWNF iterations: Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean Virtual Museum and the illustrated volume Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean.

True to its ethos of connecting people through the arts, MWNF has provided Amanda with valuable opportunities for discovery and learning, increased her editorial experience, and connected her with publishers and institutions all over the world. More recently, the projects she has worked on include MWNF’s Sharing History Virtual Museum and Exhibition series, Vitra Design Museum’s Victor Papanek and Objects of Desire, and Haus der Kulturen der Welt’s online publication 2 or 3 Tigers and its volume Race, Nation, Class.

MWNF Working Number: TR 35


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