Name of Object:



Raqqada, Kairouan, Tunisia

Holding Museum:

Museum of Islamic Art

 About Museum of Islamic Art, Raqqada.

Date of Object:

Hegira 4th century / AD 10th century

Museum Inventory Number:

C.U. 1

Material(s) / Technique(s):

Black leather with a grainy surface.


Length 17.6 cm, width 11.5 cm, thickness 0.5 cm

Period / Dynasty:





Back board. Italian format. In the centre of the panel is a magnificent nine-lobed fleuron, enclosed within three rings. From these rings emerge two symmetrical spear motifs set along the longitudinal axis and four furled, tri-lobed leaves pointing towards each corner. There is a simple border of lines, each 4 mm wide. This type of floral design is found on many funerary stones in Kairouan from the AH mid-4th / AD 10th century to the middle of the 5th / 11th century and probably gives us a first clue to the date of the binding. The stylised, multi-lobed vine-leaf motif, furled or spread, is one of the most typical elements of the decorative repertoire of mediaeval Kairouan, which confirms that the panel belongs to the Kairouan School of bookbinding. Moreover, during the 4th and 5th centuries (10th and 11th) Ifriqiya was a great centre of book production, exporting to Egypt, Syria and Spain. The leather is most probably goatskin and the relief is obtained by applying thin wire under the leather at the places where the ornamentation is drawn. The whole panel is then placed on a piece of wood covered in copper. This technique may well have been inherited from Copts living in the Muslim world.

View Short Description

Decorated in relief with ridges formed by string tracing the line of the motifs. The poly-lobed stylised vine leaf, furled or opened, is one of the most characteristic elements of the Kairouanese decorative repertoire of the Middle Ages.

How date and origin were established:

Other identical bindings have been found still glued to the volumes of the Qur'ans to which they belonged. Palaeographic study of their writing dates them very accurately to the 4th / 10th century.

How Object was obtained:

After the abolition of the habus foundation in Tunisia, this binding was obtained by the Museum of the Great Mosque of Kairouan in 1963. It has been displayed in the Museum of Islamic Art at Raqqada since 1986.

How provenance was established:

This binding was certainly produced at Kairouan which was an important centre for book production at that time.

Selected bibliography:

30 ans au service du patrimoine (exhibition catalogue), 1986, p.224.
De Carthage a Kairouan (exhibition catalogue), 1982, p.239, cat. no. 324.
Marcais, G. and Poinssot, L., Objets Kairouanais, I, Tunis-Paris, 1948, p.233, plate 26.
Tunez, Tierra de Culturas (exhibition catalogue), Valencia, 2004, p.227.
Ifriqiya: Thirteen Centuries of Art and Architecture in Tunisia, pp.159–62, 182–3.

Citation of this web page:

Mourad Rammah "Binding" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020.;ISL;tn;Mus01;7;en

Prepared by: Mourad Rammah
Copyedited by: Margot Cortez
Translation by: David Ash
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez

MWNF Working Number: TN 11