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Doublure of Turkish book binding laid flat, edges and spine are brown leather whereas the inner is black pasteboard. Corner decorations are golden, with hints of red and blue. The centre motif is prominently gold, both sides are a mirror image of one another.
AKM975, Binding, outer covers and doublures: upper and lower

© The Aga Khan Museum

Outer cover of brown leather Turkish book binding laid flat, with ornamental floral corner decorations in navy blue, teal and gold. Centre decoration has similar motifs with extra white florals, both sides are a mirror image of one another.
AKM975, Binding, outer covers and doublures: upper and lower

© The Aga Khan Museum

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Binding, outer covers and doublures: upper and lower
  • Accession Number:AKM975
  • Place:Iran
  • Dimensions:
  • Date:ca. 1560
  • 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 AKM388 and AKM387 a probable origin in the Khurasan region of Iran during the Safavid period (1501–1722), likely the second half of the 16th century. 

 

The dark chestnut-coloured leather covers are decorated with a central composition of an oval medallion and cornerpieces. The medallion is divided into four segments, each decorated with a two-tiered design of flowering leafy branches below, overlaid by cloud and drop motifs. The bands that divide the oval medallion are extended to form a cartouche above and below the medallion, therefore creating a very unusual variation on the usual central composition. The cornerpieces are filled with large flowers on branches. The stamped decoration is in high relief. The ground of both the cornerpieces and the central composition is painted lapis blue and the flowers are gilded, with some of the motifs and outlines painted white and green. The dark chestnut-coloured leather doublures have cornerpieces and an oval medallion with large pendants. The medallion is decorated with gilded leather filigree flowers and the cornerpieces and pendants with gilded scrolling branches in gilded leather filigree. The ground of the medallion is unpainted, but the ground of the cornerpieces and pendants is painted in pink, lapis blue, red, and black. 

 

This binding is unique for two reasons. First, central compositions are rarely used on outer covers of Islamic bindings. Second, using colourful designs on outer covers—that is, painting the groud or motifs in colours other than gold—is also rare, since those areas were most vulnerable to wear and tear. The use of such colourful designs on leather covers is found principally on bindings produced in Safavid Iran during the 16th century.[2]  

 

- 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] Zeren Tanındı, “Safavid Bookbinding,” 173; Seracettin Şahin, The 1400th Anniversary of the Qur’an. Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art Qur’an Collection, 290–91, cat. 71; 352, cat. 89.  

 

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 

 

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 

 

Şahin, Seracettin. The 1400th Anniversary of the Qur’an. Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art Qur’an Collection. İstanbul: Antik A.Ş. Cultural Publications, 2010. ISBN: 9789757843177     

 

Tanındı, Zeren. “Safavid Bookbinding.” Hunt for Paradise. Court Arts of Safavid Iran 1501–1576, eds. Jon Thompson and Sheila R. Canby. Skira: Milan, 2003, 155–83. 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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