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Brown Morocco book binding with flap laid flat open. Both sides are of the cover are a mirror image with a large rectangular panel gilt-stamped with floral motifs inside a gilt-stamped cloud band. The same gilt-stamped cloud band is also present on the spine connecting flap.
AKM384, Binding, outer covers and doublures: upper, lower, and flap, Front

© The Aga Khan Museum

Inside of a brown Morocco book binding featuring two gilt-stamped rectangular panels and flap with blue central medallion, blue corner pieces with a cloud band outlining the rectangular panel. Panel is further bordered by a reddish-blue embossed band with ovoid cartouches.
AKM384, Binding, outer covers and doublures: upper, lower, and flap, Inside

© The Aga Khan Museum

Interior of brown Morocco book binding, with flap flipped in towards the center, showing the exterior of flap with the gold gilt-stamping.
AKM384, Binding, outer covers and doublures: upper, lower, and flap

© The Aga Khan Museum

Front cover of a Morocco book binding, one large brown rectangular panel gilt-stamped with gold floral motifs inside a gilt-stamped gold cloud band as a boarder.
AKM384, Binding, outer covers and doublures: upper, lower, and flap

© The Aga Khan Museum

Back cover of a Morocco book binding, one large brown rectangular panel gilt-stamped with gold floral motifs inside a gilt-stamped gold cloud band as a boarder.
AKM384, Binding, outer covers and doublures: upper, lower, and flap

© The Aga Khan Museum

Click on the image to zoom

Binding, outer covers and doublures: upper, lower, and flap
  • Accession Number:AKM384
  • Place:Iran
  • Dimensions:31.2 cm × 18.8 cm
  • Date:ca. 1550
  • Materials and Technique:Dark chestnut-coloured leather, pasteboard, gold, lapis blue paint
  • Durable yet easily decorated, leather presented an ideal material for protecting Islamic manuscripts. Some particularly fine bindings executed in the 15th century even featured different designs on the upper and lower covers.[1] Delicate leather filigree was often reserved for inner covers (doublures), where it would be less susceptible to damage

Further Reading

 

The binding is thought to have belonged to a literary work and must have been produced in Shiraz during the Safavid period (1501–1722). Similar decoration is found on the covers of an illustrated Shahnameh (Book of Kings) whose verse—originally completed by Firdausi ca. 1010—was copied by Mursid al-katib al-Shirazi in Dhu’l-Hijja 945 (May 1539), likely in Shiraz.[2]

In the central field of each outer cover is a large medallion with pendants. Both the inside of the medallion and the space around it are filled with a two-tier design of floral scrollwork overlaid by disconnected cloud motifs tied like ribbons. Close examination of the corners of the cover reveals that the binder designed a cornerpiece here, as indicated by a slender curving band with knot and large rumi motifs (whose bulbous bodies with pointed ends resemble stylized leaves). There are flowers inside cartouches around the border. The short cartouches on the fore-edge flap are adorned with flowers and cloud bands.

Inside two long cartouches on the fore-edge flap can be found a Persian couplet in a talik hand. This couplet is by the Iranian poet Nizami (1141–1209) taken from the Mahzan al-asrar, which forms the first part of Nizami’s Khamsa:

Ta suhanest ez suhan avaze bad/Nam-i Nizami be-suhan taze bad
(May the fame of the word spread so long as it exists / Let the name of Nizami berefreshed by the word)

These lines suggest that the binding once protected a manuscript of Nizami’s Khamsa.

In the central field of the doublures is a medallion with pendants and cornerpieces decorated with dark chestnut-coloured leather filigree. The filigree decoration resembles that of the binding for another manuscript of Nizami’s Khamsa in the Aga Khan Museum Collection (AKM383). The area between the medallion and cornerpieces is slightly concave and decorated with stamped designs of scrolling branches and flowers—still bearing traces of pink and blue paint—overlaid by cloud motifs. Inside the broad border are cartouches decorated with light chestnut-coloured leather filigree.

- Zeren Tanındı

Notes

[1] Oktay Aslanapa, “The Art of Bookbinding,” figs. 38, 48, 51; Julian Raby and Zeren Tanındı, Turkish Book Binding in the 15th Century. The Foundation of an Ottoman Court Style, 106–25, cat. 1–4.

[2] Ernst J. Grube, Islamic Paintings From the 11th to the 18th Century in the Collection of Hans P. Kraus, 141, cat. 114–21. The cover design of a Qur’an dated Shaban 959 (July–August 1552) with a royal binding is similar to that of AKM384. See Thompson and Canby, eds., Hunt for Paradise. Court Arts of Safavid Iran 1501–1576, 174–77.

References

Aslanapa, Oktay. “The Art of Bookbinding.” The Arts of the Book in Central Asia, 14th–16th Centuries, ed. Basil Gray. Paris and London: UNESCO/Serindia Publications, 1979, 59–92. ISBN: 9780877731658 

Grube, Ernst J. Islamic Paintings From the 11th to the 18th Century in the Collection of Hans P. Kraus. New York: HP Kraus, 1970. 

Raby, Julian and Zeren Tanındı. Turkish Book Binding in the 15th Century. The Foundation of an Ottoman Court Style. London: Azimuth editions on behalf of l'Association Internationale de Bibliophilie, 1993. ISBN: 9781898592013 

Thompson, Jon and Sheila R. Canby, eds. Hunt for Paradise. Court Arts of Safavid Iran 1501–1576. Skira: Milan, 2003. ISBN: 9780878480937 
 

Note: This online resource is reviewed and updated on an ongoing basis. We are committed to improving this information and will revise and update knowledge about this object as it becomes available.

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