London, England, United Kingdom
Victoria and Albert Museum
Probably late hegira 9th / 15th century
Gilded and painted leather over paper.
Height 31.2 cm, width 21 cm
Cairo or Damascus.
A tooled leather bookbinding with ornament added in gold. The front and back covers feature a design composed around a central circular medallion. Within it, an arabesque pattern grows out of a geometric interlace to fill the circular space; on the other side of a wide border decorated with linked flowers, 12 scallops form a sunburst motif. Large spade-like motifs project from the top and bottom scallops. The corners of the front and back covers are filled with related arabesque designs, as is the binding's flap, itself further ornamented with a dense field of freely rendered flowers. The gilded tooling is further highlighted in some areas by the addition of light-blue pigment, creating a subtle and pleasing contrast. This binding was thought for many years to be a work of early Ottoman times but recently it has been re-attributed to the late Mamluk period. It is unknown which book this binding was used to protect, but given the quality of the workmanship it seems likely that it was a Qur'an.View Short Description
A tooled leather bookbinding with ornament in gold and light-blue pigment. Details of the design are similar to other bookbindings from the late Mamluk period. Such a fine binding was most likely used to cover a Qur’an.
Details of the decoration are similar to those on bindings known to have been made for the Mamluk Sultans Qatbay (r. 872–901 / 1468–96) and Qansuh al-Ghuri (r. 906–22 / 1500–1516).
Purchased by the Museum in 1983.
Cairo and Damascus were the two most important centres of art production under the Mamluks.
Haldane, D., Islamic Bookbindings in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1983, pp.142–3 (listed as early Ottoman).
Raby, J. and Tanındı, Z., Turkish Bookbindings in the Fifteenth Century, London, 1993, p.11.
Barry Wood "Bookbinding" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2018. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;uk;Mus02;18;en
Prepared 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.
Copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: UK2 19
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)The Mamluks | The Wider World: Diplomatic Contacts and International Trade Geometric Decoration | Geometric Decoration and the Art of the Book
Virtual Visit Exhibition Trail
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