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One side of identical single bookbinding cover, decorated with rows interval boarders of stamped leather, alternating leaf-like and stylized composite flower motifs, script and then medallions.
AKM1006, Leather folios: upper and lower

© The Aga Khan Museum

One side of identical single bookbinding cover, decorated with rows interval boarders of stamped leather, alternating leaf-like and stylized composite flower motifs, script and then medallions.
AKM1006, Leather folios: upper and lower

© The Aga Khan Museum

Click on the image to zoom

Leather folios: upper and lower
  • Accession Number:AKM1006
  • Place:Turkey
  • Dimensions:28.1 x 17.5 cm
  • Date:1817-18 CE/1233 AH
  • Materials and Technique:Leather
  • The earliest surviving royal style Ottoman Turkish bindings were produced in Bursa and Edirne around 1430. For centuries, the decorative composition on the covers and doublures of Turkish bindings decoration remained essentially unchanged, consisting of a medallion with pendants and cornerpieces at each corner of the central field. After 1460, the nakkaşhane or court art studio began to develop at Topkapı Palace in Istanbul, resulting in an increase in the production of fine books bound by master binders. These bindings with medallion and cornerpiece compositions were often beautifully decorated with tooled and stamped designs on leather. At other times, craftsmen faced the covers in Italian or Bursa velvet, or Ottoman, Mamluk, or Chinese brocaded silk fabric. [1]

Further Reading

Beginning in the 16th century, the materials used to face the bindings of royal books and the decorative techniques became more diverse, and included jewel-studded gold and silver plaques, embroidered silk fabric, and embroidered leather. Lacquer decoration with figures and flower motifs was used on both the covers and doublures of leather bindings.[2]

The most common type of binding decoration after 1500 was a central oval medallion and cornerpieces. These were recessed and filled with stamped decoration in high relief, consisting of broad curving and sometimes broken stems bearing large stylized composite flowers, composite buds arrayed from small to large, and large lanceolate leaves. In some cases, a second tier of cloud motifs overlaid this lower level of decoration. The broad border was also recessed and filled with similar high relief stamped lanceolate leaves and stylized composite flowers. A recessed medallion often adorned the flap.

On royal bindings of this type, huge stylized composite flowers like cartouches commonly filled the border. The medallion, cornerpieces, and borders were either entirely gilded or featured only a gilded ground, leaving the motifs in the natural colour of the leather. From archival documents we learn that this style was the invention of the binder Mehmed Çelebi. Since the stamps made of leather or metal that he used for the medallions, cornerpieces, and border decoration on his bindings from 1525–30 onwards were later passed from hand to hand, his designs lived on for many years. Bindings in this style became known as the “Mehmed Çelebi style.”[3] Even when renewing the worn bindings of early books, the new bindings were made in his style.

Binders who followed in the footsteps of Mehmed Çelebi elaborated on his design by adding borders, cartouches, and inscriptions to create beautiful, elegant, and monumental bindings.[4] Even today modern binders who continue to create traditional Turkish bindings still follow the style of Mehmed Çelebi.[5] In no other country where Islamic bindings are produced has the decorative style of any binder proved so lasting.

These leather folios in the Aga Khan Museum Collection belong to a cilbend or ciltbend, an Arabic term meaning a document case that in Turkish was used to mean a kind of document folder until the early 20th century. The folios were made using a metal or leather stamp with an engraved design. This type of folio involves covering a pasteboard skeleton with very fine shaved leather. The stamp is heated and then applied to the leather with the help of a press, leaving a raised design on the leather.

The design on both folios is identical. The main field is filled with a tiered central composition, with alternating leaf-like (rumi) and stylized composite flower motifs on the lower level. The spaces between these motifs are filled with radiating branches, leaves, and flowers. The second level of decoration consists of a narrow band that forms a rectangular area, with outward and inward projections at intervals. Over this is a third level of decoration consisting of a lobed medallion that encircles the central composition and is linked to lobed medallions above and below. Around the central field is an inner border containing a verse inscription in taliq script that starts at the top and continues anticlockwise. The inscription is written as a single line along the short sides and two lines along the long sides.

Along the upper and lower parts of this border are single lines taken from the Subhat al-abrar, a work in the masnavi form by Iranian poet Jami (d. 1492):
Above: Der-kef-i nağz-ı hat-ı hûb-rakam (The master of calligraphy in one hand)

Below: Rızk-râ turfe kilîdîst kalem (The pen is a key that opens the door to the necessities of life)

To the right and left of the inner border are couplets by Omar Khayyam (d. 1131):
Right: Der dil netüvân dıraht-ı endûh nişând / Hemvâre kitâb-ı hurremî bâyed hând
(Prevent sorrow from flowering in your heart / By always reading the book of joy)

Left: Mey bâyed hord u kâm-ı dil bâyed rând / Peydâst ki çend der cihân hâhî mând
(Is it certain how long you will remain in this world? / So you should drink wine and enjoy the pleasures of the heart.)
There are rosette flowers in three corners of the inner border and the date 1233 (1817–18) in the lower left corner. Since the letter lam is equivalent to the number three in gematric chronograms, the two numbers following the number 12 are replaced by two lams instead of 33, giving the date 1233. The broad border around this is decorated with rows of leaf-like (rumi) motifs, the next narrow border with rows of tiny palmettes and the outermost broad border with a repeated geometrical pattern. Apart from the outermost border, whose geometrical pattern is tooled, all the decoration has been made by a block stamp made by a skilled binder. The artist who has drawn the template for the binder’s stamp was evidently inspired by the decoration on bindings and illumination produced in Herat in the late 15th-century Timurid or Shaybanid period and by bindings produced at the court art studio in Istanbul in the early 16th century.[6] Consequently, the closest example is the cover decoration of the unpublished leather binding of the Divan of Shaybak Khan dating from the early 16th century.[7]

The practice of using the letter lam on a leather folder to write the date of production is not unique to AKM1006. It can be found in three examples sharing a decorative scheme and bearing dates between 1815 and 1822.[8] In one example, the name of the binder has been written in the form Ası Ahmed Şaşı b. Şeyh Ali Karataşı. Although AKM1006 does not share this decorative scheme, it must be the work either of the binder Ası Ahmed, who made the other three leather folders, or of his assistant.

- Zeren Tanındı

 

Notes
[1] See Julian Raby and Zeren Tanındı, Turkish Book Binding in the 15th Century. The Foundation of an Ottoman Court Style.

[2] Zeren Tanındı, “Books and Bindings,” 840–63.

[3] Ibid., “Rugani Türk Kitap Kaplarının Erken Örnekleri,” 223–53, 241, 243; JM Rogers, Empire of the Sultans. Ottoman Art From the Collection of Nasser D. Khalili, 220; Esin Atıl, Süleymanname: The Illustrated History of Süleyman the Magnificent, 81; Tanındı, “Books and Bindings,” 847, 849–50.

[4] Followers of Mehmed Çelebi and his family who flourished in the late 16th century and early 17th century are the binders Kara Mehmed, Süleyman, and Abdi b. Şaban. See Museum für Kunsthandwerk, Turkische Kunst und Kultur aus osmanischer Zeit. Ausstellungskatalog, 106, cat. 1/87; Massumeh Farhad and Simon Rettig, eds. The Art of the Qur’an. Treasures from the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, 15 October 2016–20 February 2017, 340–41, cat. 62. For late examples, see Kemal Çığ, Türk Kitap Kapları, 48; and Mine E. Özen, Türk Cilt Sanatı, 61.

[5] Uğur Derman, Doksandokuz İstanbul Mushafı, 373; Ahmet Akçan, ed., International Book Binding Meeting, İstanbul 28 November–14 December 2014. Symposium Papers and Exhibitions Catalogue, vols. I-II.

 

[6] Topkapı Saray Library, no. A.2436: for the illumination, see Zeren Tanındı, “Başlangıcından Osmanlı’ya Tezhip Sanatı,” 270–71.  

 

[7] For designs with concave and convex circles formed by bands between them as used in late 15th to early 16th century illumination and binding decoration see: Tokyo National Museum, The Middle Eastern Culture Center in Japan, and Asahi Shimbun, eds., The Splendour of Turkish Civilization. Ottoman Treasures of the Topkapı Palace, Tokyo National Museum, August 23–October 2 1988, 38, cat. 8; Fondation Art restoration for cultural heritage (ARCH) et al., eds., De Baghdad à Ispahan. Manuscrits islamiques de la Filiale de Saint-Pètersburg de l’Institut d’Etudes orientales, Acadèmia des Sciences de Russie. Musèe du Petit Palais 14 octobre 1994–8 janvier 1995, 202, cat. 41; Déroche, François and Almut von Gladiss, Der Prachtkoran: Buchkunst zur Ehre Allahs im Museum für Islamische Kunst, 75; Zeren Tanındı, “Arts of the Book: The Illustrated and Illuminated Manuscripts Listed in ʿAtufi’s Inventory,” 217–18. 

 

[8] There are two published examples, one in the Mevlana Museum in Konya (no. 1363) and the other in the Koyunoğlu Museum in Konya (no. 3421). See Erdoğan Erol, “Türk Sanatında Cil-bend’ler ve İki Örnek,” 69–74. A third unpublished example is in the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art in Istanbul, no. 3987, 25 x 17 cm, dated 1231 (1815–16).  

 

References
Akçan, Ahmet, ed. Uluslararası Cilt Sanatı Buluşması. İstanbul, 28 Kasım–8 Aralık 2014. Sempozyum Bildirileri ve Sergilerin Kataloğu, c.I-II. İstanbul: Istanbul Büyüksehir Belediyesi, 2014. (International Book Binding Meeting, İstanbul 28 November–14 December 2014. Symposium Papers and Exhibitions Catalogue, vols. I-II. İstanbul: Istanbul Büyüksehir Belediyesi, 2014.) ISBN: 9786058523500

Atıl, Esin. Süleymanname: The Illustrated History of Süleyman the Magnificent. Washington, DC and New York: National Gallery of Art/Harry N. Abrams, 1986. ISBN: 9780894680885

Çığ, Kemal. Türk Kitap Kapları. Ankara: Yapi ve Kredi Bankasi, 1971

Derman, Uğur. Doksandokuz İstanbul Mushafı. İstanbul: Avrupa Kültür Başkenti, 2010. ISBN: 9786058815322

 

Déroche, François and Almut von Gladiss. Der Prachtkoran: Buchkunst zur Ehre Allahs im Museum für Islamische Kunst. Berlin: Museum für Islamische Kunst, 1999. ISBN: 9783886092765

Erol, Erdoğan. “Türk Sanatında Cilbend’ler ve İki Örnek.” Kültür ve Sanat 7 (1990): 69–74


Farhad, Massumeh and Simon Rettig, eds. The Art of the Qur’an. Treasures from the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, 15 October 2016–20 February 2017. Washington, DC: The Freer Gallery of Art, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, 2016. ISBN: 9781588345783 

 

Fondation Art restoration for cultural heritage (ARCH) et al., eds. De Baghdad à Ispahan. Manuscrits islamiques de la Filiale de Saint-Pètersburg de l’Institut d’Etudes orientales, Acadèmia des Sciences de Russie. Musèe du Petit Palais 14 octobre 1994–8 janvier 1995. Paris: Paris-Musées, 1994. ISBN: 9782879001852


Museum für Kunsthandwerk. Turkische Kunst und Kultur aus osmanischer Zeit. Ausstellungskatalog. Frankfurt: Aurel Bongers, 1985. ISBN: 9783764703691

Özen, Mine E. Türk Cilt Sanatı. Ankara: Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, 1998. ISBN: 9789754581287

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

Rogers, JM. Empire of the Sultans. Ottoman Art From the Collection of Nasser D. Khalili. London: Arts Services International, Alexandria, Virginia, & The Nour Foundation, London, in association with the Khalili Family Trust, 1995. ISBN: 9782830601206

Tanındı, Zeren. “Rugani Türk Kitap Kaplarının Erken Örnekleri." Kemal Çığ'a Armağan. İstanbul: Topkapı Müzesi Müdürlüğü Yayınları, 1984, 223–53

“Books and Bindings,” Ottoman Civilization, eds. H. İnalcık and G. Renda. Ankara: Milli Kütüphane Yayınları, 2003, 840–63. ISBN: 9789751730725

 

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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