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Work Double folio from a Qur’an

Department of Islamic Art: The Caliphate Period, Birth and Unity of an Empire (632–1000)

Double-feuillet de Coran

© 2012 Musée du Louvre / Raphaël Chipault

Islamic Art
The Caliphate Period, Birth and Unity of an Empire (632–1000)

Many of the early copies of the Qur’an have come down to us in fragments. This double folio comes from a manuscript that appears to have been charred by fire. The compact text, copied on parchment, is written in brown ink and embellished with colored punctuation marks and gold ornamentation.

The practice of copying the Qur’an soon led calligraphers to explore the aesthetics of Arabic writing and the layout of manuscripts. The Qur’anic manuscripts of the first centuries are distinguished by an angular, somewhat hieratic script associated with rules of proportion governing the size of letters in relation to the page. They were written on parchment; paper gradually came into use for copies of the Qur’an from the 10th century onward. The written surface of this double folio is particularly dense; the script and text justification are a little awkward. Diacritical marks (in brown ink, like the script) distinguish letters of the same shape, while dots of colored ink are used to avoid mistakes and misinterpretations: red dots mark certain vowels, blue dots indicate hamzas (glottal stops), and yellow-orange shaddas indicate the doubling of a letter. The verses are separated and numbered by vegetal ornamentation, while a gold-decorated horizontal band ending in a vegetal motif marks the beginning of each sura.
The vertical folio format used for the earliest copies of the Qur’an reappeared in the 10th century, while 8th–9th century manuscripts tended to adopt the horizontal “landscape” format.

folio 1, recto: beginning of sura 56 up to verse 9.
folio 1, verso: sura 56, verses 9 to 20.
folio 2, recto: sura 57, verses 9 to 11.
folio 2, verso: sura 57, verses 11 to 13.


Juvin C., “L’unité par l’écriture”, In: Makariou S. (ed.), Les Arts de l’Islam au musée du Louvre, Paris, 2012.

Technical description

  • Double folio from a Qur’an

    9th–10th century

  • Ink and gold on parchment

    H. 23.3 cm; W. (open) 30.3 cm

  • Gift of J. Sauvaget, 1946

    MAO 5 e

  • Islamic Art

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