Name of Object:



London, England, United Kingdom

Holding Museum:

Victoria and Albert Museum

About Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Date of Object:

Probably late hegira 9th / 15th century

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Gilded and painted leather over paper.


Height 31.2 cm, width 21 cm

Period / Dynasty:



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.

How date and origin were established:

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).

How Object was obtained:

Purchased by the Museum in 1983.

How provenance was established:

Cairo and Damascus were the two most important centres of art production under the Mamluks.

Selected bibliography:

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.

Citation of this web page:

Barry Wood "Bookbinding" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2021.;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 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: UK2 19


Related monuments

 Artistic Introduction

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Islamic Dynasties / Period


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