Name of Object:

Writing box


Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey

Holding Museum:

Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts

About Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, Sultanahmet

Date of Object:

Reign of Sultan Abdülmecid I (r. Hegira 1255–78 / AD 1839–61)

Artist(s) / Craftsperson(s):

Es-Seyyid Ömer er-Recai (al-Sayyid ‘Umar al-Rija’i).

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Lacquered (Edirnekari) technique on wood.


Height 8.5 cm, depth 21 cm, length 40 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Istanbul, Turkey.


The object was prepared by painting with lacquer on wood, a technique known as Edirnekari . The whole outer surface of the box is decorated with bouquets of flowers on a red ground. The floral designs within the garland in the centre of the rounded cover, as well as in its corners and on the sides of the box, all reflect the Turkish Baroque-Rococo style. Within a small medallion on the bottom of the decorated lid is the name of the craftsman who made the box: 'es-Seyyid ömer er-Recai' (al-Sayyid ‘Umar al-Rija'i). On the inside of the lid is the tuğra of Sultan Abdülmecid I (r. AH 1255–78 / AD 1839–61) on a blue background.

Within the box is storage space for a reed pen, ink, and a sand-sprinkler, as well as a compartment for paper. Writing boxes were produced in response to calligraphers' desire to store their paper, reed pens, inkwells, pen-cutting slabs, knives and scissors in one place.

Writing boxes were functional rather than decorative objects. They were decorated according to the taste of the period, usually with mother-of-pearl, ivory, and tortoiseshell inlaid into wood. Sometimes, as with this example, they were made using the Edirnekari technique, which was common in the AH 13th / AD 19th century.

Calligraphy is one of the greatest fields in which Islamic art has expressed itself. The Ottoman sultans in particular took lessons in calligraphy and created their own examples. Among the sultans proficient in the art of calligraphy might be counted Ahmed III, Mustafa II, Mahmud II and Abdülmecid I, and this writing box was made for and personally used by Abdülmecid I.

View Short Description

Writing boxes were made to store the tools of calligraphers and scribes. They were decorated according to the taste of the period, in this case in a lacquer technique known as Edirnekari. Its owner was Sultan Abdülmecid I, who was himself a calligrapher.

Original Owner:

Sultan Abdülmecid I

How date and origin were established:

The tughra of Sultan Abdülmecid found on the inside of the lid shows that the box was made during his reign (1255–78 / 1839–61) and was made especially for him, as he was himself a calligrapher.

How Object was obtained:

Preserved in the Tiled Pavilion (Çinili Köşk) in Istanbul; transferred to the Museum in 1941.

How provenance was established:

A provenance of Istanbul is likely due to the high quality of the work, indicating that it was certainly made for the sultan, and the fact that the greatest patron of the art of calligraphy was the Ottoman court itself based in Istanbul.

Selected bibliography:

Ölçer, N. et al, In Pursuit of Excellence: The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, Istanbul, 1993, p.70.

Ölçer, N. et al, Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art, Istanbul, 2002, p.318.

Citation of this web page:

Şule Aksoy "Writing box" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020.;ISL;tr;Mus01;50;en

Prepared by: Şule AksoyŞule Aksoy

Şule Aksoy is Vice Director of the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts in Istanbul. She was born in Istanbul in 1947. She graduated from the Department of History and Art History of the Faculty of Letters, Istanbul University in 1970. She has been working at the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts in Istanbul since 1967, first as an expert, then as the Head of the Manuscripts Department until 2003, when she became Vice Director. She has participated in numerous projects and exhibitions organised by the museum and is the author of various publications.

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 80


Related monuments

 Artistic Introduction

 Timeline for this item

Islamic Dynasties / Period


On display in


As PDF (including images) As Word (text only)