Name of Object:

Album of Ahmed Karahisari


Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey

Holding Museum:

Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts

About Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, Sultanahmet

Date of Object:

Hegira 10th century / AD 16th century

Artist(s) / Craftsperson(s):

The calligrapher was Ahmed Karahisari (AH 875–963 / AD 1470–1556).

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Finished (aharlı) paper, ink, gilding, leather (binding).


Height 50 cm, width 34 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Istanbul, Turkey.


The Album of Ahmed Karahisari is in two sections and contains the sixth sura of the Qur'an (al-An'am), a series of hadiths, and a section of the Qasidat al-Burdah ('Poem of the Mantle') by the AH 7th- / AD 13th-century poet al-Busiri. The album that contains samples of Ahmed Karahisari's writing including kufic, naskhi, thuluth, and muhaqqaq scripts and which expands the boundaries of the art of calligraphy, is carefully pasted together in 15 leaves. The leather binding is not original. This shows that these samples, which were originally written in scroll format, may have been cut down later and brought together in this album.

The album opens with a page featuring the words 'Praise be to God' in square kufic script at the top, the basmala in the centre, and sura 92 in square-kufic script at the bottom, all written in black ink and gold. On the other pages, the page layout shows different characteristics according to the style and dimensions of the writing.

In the colophon on the last page Ahmed Karahisari describes himself as a student of his teacher Asadullah Kirmani with whom he studied, rather than with the school of Sheikh Hamdullah, in order to learn to write in the style of the great calligrapher Yaqut al-Musta'simi (AH 7th / AD 13th century). Karahisari breathed new life into 16th-century Ottoman calligraphy and left his mark on it. The school he founded was continued by his student Hasan çelebi (d. AH 1002 / AD 1594) but was abandoned at the end of the 10th / 16th century.

These writings are models of Ottoman calligraphy, and in addition to showing the peak that was achieved in the art of writing their beauty inspires a great many artists even today.

View Short Description

Calligrapher Ahmed Karahisari left his mark on Ottoman calligraphy of the AH 10th / AD 16th century through the school he founded. This album contains samples of his works which expand the boundaries of calligraphy in the 'layering' of letters.

Original Owner:

The original owner is unknown. The work bears a seal of Sultan Mahmud I (AH 1143–68 / AD 1730–54), as it was given by him as a pious endowment (waqf) to the library he founded in his own name

How date and origin were established:

Although the colophon does not include a date, the dates of the calligrapher Ahmed Karahisari (AH 875–963 / AD 1470–1556) are known with certainty, and so the work can be dated to the period of his life.

How Object was obtained:

The album was transferred to the Museum in 1914 from the Library of Sultan Mahmud I at Ayasofya Museum.

How provenance was established:

The calligrapher Ahmed Karahisari is known to have lived in Istanbul and thus the work is thought to have been made there.

Selected bibliography:

Aksoy, Ş., “Türk ve İslam Eserleri Müzesinden Bir Osmanlı Hat Sanatı Klasiği: Karahisari Albümü”, P, Sanat, Kültür, Antika Dergisi, 21 (Spring 2001), pp.66–75.

Alparslan, A., Osmanlı Hat Sanatı Tarihi, Istanbul, 1999, p.56.

Ölçer, N., et al, In Pursuit of Excellence: The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, Istanbul, 1993, p.42, plate 18A-B, pp.50-1.

Ölçer, N., et al, Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art, Istanbul, 2002, pp.264–5.

Citation of this web page:

Sevgi Kutluay "Album of Ahmed Karahisari" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020.;ISL;tr;Mus01;34;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 62


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