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One side of book binding containing fine ornamental gold work. Border is composed of blue and gold scrolls. The inner decoration is red, mint-green and blue with animal-like motifs within a thick blue border
AKM979, Binding, outer cover and doublure: upper or lower cover

© The Aga Khan Museum

One side of a book binding with intricate gold gilt-stamped floral motifs. Simple gold gilt-stamped border with a thin floral pattern.
AKM979, Binding, outer cover and doublure: upper or lower cover

© The Aga Khan Museum

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Binding, outer cover and doublure: upper or lower cover
  • Accession Number:AKM979
  • Place:Iran, possibly Herat
  • Dimensions:10.5 x 17.8 cm
  • Date:ca. 1550
  • Materials and Technique:Leather, pasteboard, gold, coloured paints
  • 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.  

This binding shares with AKM975, AKM388, and AKM387 a probable origin in the Khurasan region of Iran during the Safavid period (1501–1722). More specifically, it may have been produced in Herat, where bookbinding activity is known to have existed. 


The outer cover belongs to a chestnut-coloured leather binding. The central field is recessed, with a stamped two-tier design of slender scrolling branches and small rosette flowers below a second design of thick branches and unusual leaf-like (rumi) motifs. The recessed border has a stamped design of branches, leaves, and flowers.[2] The ground of the decoration and some of the motifs are gilded.  


As in AKM387, the doublure features lattice-style decoration over a polychrome ground, pointing to its origins in Safavid Iran. This curving lattice-like pattern divides the doublure’s central field into compartments. Those painted orange are overlaid with gilded leather filigree cut into a pattern of scrolling branches. Those painted turquoise and lapis blue are—quite unusually—decorated with gilded leather filigree animal figures. This rare feature [3] suggests that the binding once protected a manuscript with royal associations.  




[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] For a similar example, see Jon Thompson and Sheila Canby, eds., Hunt for Paradise. Court Arts of Safavid Iran 1501–1576, 170.  


[3] One example of a royal binding expertly decorated with leather filigree animal figures inside compartments on the doublures is a royal book binding produced in the late 15th century during the Akkoyunlu Turkoman period, probably in Gilan, and another produced in the early 16th century during the Timurid period in Herat. See Filiz Çağman, Kat’ı. Cut Paper Work and Artists in the Ottoman World, 30–31.  



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 


Çağman, Filiz. Kat’ı. Cut Paper Work and Artists in the Ottoman World. İstanbul: Aygaz, 2014. ISBN: 9786056353895  


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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