A peek at a 15th century scroll of the Koran


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These photographs of a 15th century Ottoman scroll of the Koran come from historian Rachel Leow, who took them at the Asian Civilizations Museum in Singapore. This is how she describes what you’re seeing:

There are two levels of wording on the scroll. The large Arabic letters, unravelling in perfect thulth script across the scroll, form a prayer, beginning with the invocation of Allah’s blessings on Muhammad, followed by the names of the twelve Shiite Imams and an invocation to ‘Ali. But those letters are shaped from smaller words: in fact, no less than the words of the entire Qur’an, painstakingly inscribed in tiny tiny ghubar script according to the design of the larger prayer...


It’s an incredible work of art, and it must have been tremendously difficult to execute. How much planning would it take to get the entire Koran spaced out just right so that it spelled out the initial prayer and invocation? Not to mention the years of training to be able to write with such tiny calligraphy.

Leow collects and shares photos of extraordinary books and book environments -- bookstores and libraries -- on her blog.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photos by Rachel Leow