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The Variety of Arabic scripts

The Variety of Arabic scripts

2023-03-26 22:39:04

We not too long ago had the pleasure of internet hosting a go to from Dr Borna Izadpanah, Lecturer in Typography & Graphic Communication on the College of Studying, collectively along with his college students, to have a look at a number of the extremely various supplies in our collections. Right here Borna highlights a number of the objects we checked out which not solely present a supply of inspiration but additionally act as a short historical past of the event of Arabic script typography.

1. Typology visit 9 March 2023
Borna Izadpanah, his college students and Asian and African Collections employees. Photograph credit score Hidetaka Yamasaki

My goal on this session was to focus on the stylistic and linguistic range within the Arabic script world via a number of manuscripts and publications from totally different intervals and areas. My notes under goal to summarise vital features of particular person objects contextualising them from a historic and stylistic perspective.

The handwritten script

2. Or.6573 Qur'an 11th-12th century
Qurʼān. Iran or Iraq, eleventh or twelfth century (Or.6573, ff. 3v-4r)

Beginning with manuscripts, the earliest displayed merchandise was Or.6573, an eleventh or twelfth century Qur’ān written on paper with a commentary in Persian. It demonstrates the efficient use of two writing programs to create a dynamic and well-defined textual content hierarchy. The Qur’anic verses are highlighted within the Qarmatian fashion of japanese Kufic script, and the extra compact Persian commentary consists in a constant and – even at the moment a superbly legible – naskh hand.

3. Beginning of Surat Maryam. Daghestan  19th century
The start of Surat Maryam, with the ‘mysterious letters’ framed on the left-hand web page. Qur’ān, Daghistan, ca. Nineteenth century (Or. 16058, ff. 274v-275r)

This Nineteenth-century Daghistani Qur’ān in a number of totally different naskh kinds represents a inventive method to manuscript manufacturing. It shows a exceptional stage of creative impressions utilizing daring and intertwined textual content compositions and a selected use of colors and ornaments.

4. IO Islamic 383 Majnun Layla copied by Sultan ʻAli Mashhadi
The opening to Majnūn va Laylā by Amir Khusraw. Copied by Sultan ʻAli Mashhadi. Herat? 1506 (IO Islamic 383, ff.1v-2r)

This copy of the well-known romance of Layla and Majnun by the Thirteenth-14th century poet Amir Khusraw comprises beautiful illuminations and specimens of nastaʻlīq script by certainly one of its best masters, the ‘King of Calligraphers’ (Sulṭān al-Khaṭṭātīn), Sultan ʻAli Mashhadi who labored in Herat and Mashhad within the late fifteenth and early Sixteenth centuries. This can be a luxurious fairly than a studying copy which was designed to impress via uncompromising illuminations and excellent penmanship.

5. Add MS 26139 Rasm al-khatt
A quantity containing three works on calligraphy by the early Sixteenth century poet Majnun ibn Mahmud al-Rafiqi. seventeenth century  (Add MS 26139, ff. 36v-37r)

On this treatise on the foundations of the ‘six-pen’ calligraphic kinds (aqlām-i shishgānah) and Persian penmanship, a extra informal nastaʻlīq hand and minimal decorations produce studying copy. The marginal sketches illustrating the writing kinds and letterform traits are of explicit curiosity.

6. Or.11042 Sabab-i taqviyat
Sabab-i taqviyat al-taḥṣīlva najāt-i tasnīʻ al-vaqt, by Muhammad al-Bulghari. Kazan?, Nineteenth century (Or. 11042)

This Nineteenth-century Chagatai-Persian-Arabic glossary was supposed to help ‘Bulgarian,’ i.e. Tartar, college students touring to Bukhara to be taught the humanities of rhetoric and translation in Arabic and Persian. It shows a fancy textual content association in these languages composed in a regional flavour of the nastaʻlīq fashion and demonstrates the efficient use of rubrication to differentiate phrases in numerous languages. Additionally, notice that the marginal commentaries are simply identifiable with their diagonal configuration.

7. Risalat hukum kanun  the Malay code of laws. Singapore  1821. Add MS 12397  f. 1v
Risālat hukum kanun, the Malay code of legal guidelines. Singapore, 1821 (Add MS 12397, f 1v)

This Nineteenth-century Malay Risalat hukum kanun within the fluid and superbly composed jawi script represents a high-quality instance of certainly one of Southeast Asia’s regional flavours of modified Arabic script.   

Some examples of Arabic script printing

Kitab salat al-sawai title page
Kitāb ṣalāt al-sawā’ī. Fán 1514 (Or.70.aa.11)

We transfer from written types of the Arabic script to early printed types with movable metallic kind. Exploring beautiful examples of writing kinds is useful to raised situate the printed types in Arabic incunables, starting with the earliest printed Arabic e book with movable metallic kind Kitab salat al-sawaʼi with its crude and extremely irregular characters.

9. T6547 Alphabeticum 1592
Alphabetum Arabicum. Rome, 1592 (T 6547)

A highpoint of Sixteenth-century Arabic type-making is displayed within the publications of the Medici Oriental Press, the place the famend French punchcutter Robert Granjon produced numerous fonts of Arabic kind based mostly on the hand of the Director of the Medici Press, Giovanni Battista Raimondi. Alphabetum Arabic is a specimen of the Medici Press’s Arabic varieties and a testomony to Granjon’s refined abilities.

10. 306.46.A.18 Psalmi Davidis regis 1614
Liber psalmorum Davidis Regis. Rome, 1614 (306.46.A.18)

One other spotlight of early Arabic type-making in Europe is the Liber psalmorum Davidis regis which makes use of the considerably hybrid naskh/thuluth kind of François Savary de Brèves. This kind and the Arabic sorts of the Medici Press have been later used to print Arabic textual content in Egypt when the primary Arabic presses have been established throughout Napoleon Bonaparte’s marketing campaign in 1798–1801.

11. 306.40.A.26. Fables de Loqman 1799
Fables de Loqman surnommé Le Sage. Cairo, 1799 (306.40.A.26)

Fables de Loqman is an instance of the latter varieties used to print Arabic texts in Egypt.

12. Or.80.b.11 Tarih ül-Hind ül-Garbî
Wildlife of Hispaniola together with mermen and their pearls. Tarih ül-Hind ül-Garbî ül-müsemma bi-Hadis-i Nev, by Mehmet İbn Hasan el-Su’udi. Istanbul, 1730 (Or.80.b.11)

See Also

The Tarih ül-Hind ül-Garbî (Historical past of the Western Indies) is among the most well-known publications of the printing press of Ibrahim Müteferrika in Istanbul and comprises a number of fascinating woodblock illustrations. Credited as the primary Muslim printer, Müteferrika produced an Ottoman naskh kind, setting a brand new commonplace in Arabic script type-making.

13. 14999.h.2 Cedid atlas tercümesi – 1804
Cedid atlas tercümesi compiled by Mahmud Raif Efendi. Istanbul, 1804 (14999.h.2)

The Cedid atlas tercümesi is a benchmark of Ottoman printing and typography. It’s printed with beautifully engraved and detailed copperplate maps and the Ottoman naskh kind of the Ottoman/Armenian punchcutter Bogos Arabyan. The latter was probably the most extensively used kind of the Nineteenth-century Istanbul printing institutions and some of the profitable and well-executed Ottoman naskh varieties. 

14. ORB.30:445 Hikayat Abdullah SIngapore 1849
Hikayat Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir Munsyi. Singapore, 1849 (ORB.30/445)

One of the crucial essential chapters within the historical past of Arabic script printing was the introduction of lithography which allowed the trustworthy copy of written types. Lithography turned the popular type of printing in a number of languages, together with Malay language in jawi script, of which the Hikayat Abdullah with its chromolithograph illuminations is a high-quality specimen.

15. ORB.30:8207 Divan-i Mashrab
Divan-i Mashrab. Tashkent, 1900 (ORB.30/8207)

One other lithographic publication on view was the Divan-i Mashrab  in Chagatai, a high-quality specimen of printing from Central Asia in tightly composed nasta’liq fashion. Curiously, the title web page of this publication reveals European motifs and ornaments resembling letterpress publications, giving a really feel of the 2 printing strategies on the identical web page. 

16a. ITA.1986.a.1043 Birjan čal mynyn 16b. ITA.1986.a.1602 Qazaq maqaldary
Birjan čal mynyn aqin saraniñ aytusqani. Kazan’, 1912 (ITA.1986.a.1043) and Qazaq maqaldary by Meyram Ersay Isqaq Balasy. Kazan’, 1914 (ITA.1986.a.1062)

These early Twentieth-century Central Asian Kazakh and Kyrgyz/Kazakh publications in modified Arabic script with movable kind have been the newest objects on show. In distinction to the Divan-i Mashrab, these impressions clearly present the transformation of the extremely developed written types to abstracted and simplified codecs of mechanical textual content compositions.  

 Borna Izadpanah, Lecturer in Typography & Graphic Communication at the University of Reading

Additional studying

Nemeth, Titus (ed)., Arabic Typography: Historical past and Follow. Salenstein: Niggli, 2022

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