A journey to search my soul

This is a blog of my personal collections. The purpose of this blog is to educate myself and public in regards to antiquities especially related to religion and calligraphy. I welcome everyone to input their feedback in this blog which they think would be helpful. I do not watermark the photos in this blog so everyone is free to use them as long as they are not used for illegal and unethical reasons. I appreciate if you could notify me if you plan to use any of the photos here. Enjoy browsing!!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Ancient Manuscript Review 112 : Antique IIkhanid Qur'an Folio ( 13-14th Century)

This is a folio from a Quran. I acquired this leaf from a friend in Istanbul recently. He claimed this is from Mamluk.
Thanks to one of visitors here, Faisal Reza who convinced that this is from II-Khanid era ( 1256-1353 C.E)
I did some research and found that  this is quite true. The most obvious clue that this is IIkhanid's is that it has Persian translation ( Ta'liq script). IIkhanid Dynasty was based in Northwest Iran whereas Mamluk Sultanate ( 1250-1517 CE) was based in Cairo hence there were more Persian speakers within IIkhanid territory than in Mamluk's.
Going further, the Muhaqqaq script executed in this folio is more resemblance of Yaqut Al Mu'tasimi who is active from 1242-1298 CE. He was the most popular calligrapher during that period in Persia area and it make sense that contemporary calligraphers tended to follow his style.
There are many clues that this Muhaqqaq script was based on Yaqut's style. For example the the script lines rise slightly towards the left in comparison to the style of the founder of Muhaqqaq, Ibn AL Bawwab ( died 1022CE) which is typical straight line.The loop of Lam Alif is smaller in Yaqut's and the Alif is more vertical.
Comparing to sample of Quran from IIkhanid period, I have seen many were following Yaqut's style though a few of Ibn Al Bawwab's style Qurans also originated from IIkhanid territory..
For an example a Quran dated 1308CE was written in Baghdad by Yaqut's student and a few folios auctioned in Christie's claimed to be IIkhanid's were quite similar to mine and definitely Yaqut's style.
There is one similar folio ( better quality) sold in Christie's under sale 5499 for USD1387. I have seen also the price from USD250 - USD450 per folio in Ebay.

Title Page :
Content    : Surah  from Al Quran
Date         :13-14th century ( IIkhanid's period)
Copyist    : Anonymous
Patron      : n/a
Origin      : Iraq
Place acquired : Istanbul
Illuminations : Nil
Calligraphy : Main text in Muhaqqaq script. Translation in Ta'liq.
Number of lines :10 lines per page
Inks          : Black
Punctuation: gold floral disc.
Frame       : Nil but with gold roundel in margin
History of Manuscript : Acquired from a friend who has a manuscript bazaar in Istanbul. He has a few folios from the same Quran. But I only bought a folio from him.
Number of folios : 1 f
Support of writing : Brownish oriental paper
Gatherings : N/A
Catchwords :Nil
Dimensions : 39.0 cm x  27.0 cm
Binding   : Nil
Estimated Market Price :
Purchased Price : USD
Remarks : Compare the calligraphy with my other Muhaqqaq Quran as below link..

Monday, July 29, 2013

Ancient Manusript Review 111 : Antique Uncial Armenian Syriac Aramaic Gospel Vellum / Palimpsest ( 9th century)

This is an unexpected and rare finding. I first spotted this leaf pasted in the inner cover of a Syriac lectionary. The script was so peculiar and totally different than the syriac script. At first I thought the leaf was made of paper and the script was written in latin. But after doing some research and googling, this script is more resemblance to Uncial Armenian. This leaf itself was made of leather and not paper as I thought. This vellum was used as a pastedown at the beginning of a Syriac lectionary manuscript. The pastedown could be taken from an older manuscript. In this case this pastedown was from vellum and it was written in uncial Armenian which was used in writing as early as 4th Century.

This Syriac script on one side was written over ("rescriptus") a former text ( Uncial script) that had been washed off its vellum pages. This is called palimpsest.The Uncial script could be from 6th century but no later than 10th century whereas the Syriac script could be written later circa 11th century. The reason to date this palimpsest older than 10th century because the non existence of letters օ and ֆ which were introduced from 10th century onward.

I welcome anyone who has any knowledge of this script & manuscript to shed some lights.

Title Page : Nil
Content    : Gospel Lectionary
Date         : 6th Century CE
Copyist    : Anonymous
Patron      : Nil
Origin      : Diyerbakir, Turkey
Place acquired : Istanbul
Illuminations : Nil
Calligraphy :Uncial Aramaic
Number of lines :12 lines per page
Inks          : Main text in black
Punctuation: Diacritical marks in black
Frame       :  Nil
History of Manuscript : It was originally a pastedown of inner cover of a Syriac gospel manuscript
Number of folios : 1 f
Support of writing : light brownish vellum
Gatherings : N/A
Catchwords :Nil
Dimensions : 15.5 cm x 10.0 cm
Binding   : Nil
Estimated Market Price :
Purchased Price : USD
Remarks :

 In a meantime below are some info I could dig from the internet to understand the history of this script and manuscript better.

See below links for info on pastedown used in other ancient manuscripts and example of 6th century Uncial Script

 Syriac Aramaic Pastedown

5th-6th Century Armenian Manuscripts

9th Century Armenian Gospel in British Library

Also see below link to similar vellum which was dated to 6th Century

Codex Climaci Rescriptus ( Uncial Script)

Armenian Manuscript History

From Wikipedia
The Armenian alphabet is an alphabet that has been used to write the Armenian language since the year 405 or 406. It was introduced by Saint Mesrop Mashtots, an Armenian linguist and ecclesiastical leader, and originally contained 36 letters. Armenian literature with pre-Mashtotsian letters was burned during the introduction of Christianity. Two more letters, օ and ֆ, were added in the Middle Ages, and Soviet reforms of the alphabet in 1922-1924 created two new letters. Until the 19th century, Classical Armenian was the literary language; since then, the Armenian alphabet has been used to write the two official literary dialects of Eastern Armenian and Western Armenian. The Armenian word for "alphabet" is այբուբեն aybuben (Armenian pronunciation: [ɑjbubɛn]), named after the first two letters of the Armenian alphabet Ա այբ ayb and Բ բեն ben. Its directionality is horizontal left-to-right, like the Latin[4] and Greek alphabets. Both Eastern and Western Armenian Alphabets include 39 letters and 36 sounds.
The invention of the alphabet (406) was the beginning of Armenian literature, and proved a powerful factor in the upbuilding of the national spirit. "The result of the work of Isaac and Mesrop", says St. Martin,[5] "was to separate for ever the Armenians from the other peoples of the East, to make of them a distinct nation, and to strengthen them in the Christian Faith by forbidding or rendering profane all the foreign alphabetic scripts which were employed for transcribing the books of the heathens and of the followers of Zoroaster. To Mesrop we owe the preservation of the language and literature of Armenia; but for his work, the people would have been absorbed by the Persians and Syrians, and would have disappeared like so many nations of the East".
The first monument of this Armenian literature is the version of the Holy Scriptures. Isaac, says Moses of Chorene, made a translation of the Bible from the Syriac text about 411. This work must have been considered imperfect, for soon afterwards John of Egheghiatz and Joseph of Baghin were sent to Edessa ( Şanlı Urfa ) to translate the Scriptures. They journeyed as far as Constantinople, and brought back with them authentic copies of the Greek text. With the help of other copies obtained from Alexandria the Bible was translated again from the Greek according to the text of the Septuagint and Origen's Hexapla. This version, now in use in the Armenian Church, was completed about 434.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Ancient Manuscript Review 110 : Antique Kufic Quran on Vellum / Parchment ( 10th Century)

This is a vellum with both sides written Quranic verses in Kufic script. Acquired from an acquaintance in Paris. The vellum originally belonged to a Professor of Islamic Art. I couldn't verify the exact date of this vellum however based on the script (Kufic), I would estimate it around 9th -10th century CE. The leaf was in 3 fragments.

Title Page : Nil
Content    : Quranic Verses
Date         : 9th-10th Century CE
Copyist    : Anonymous
Patron      : Nil
Origin      : Near East or North Africa
Place acquired : Paris
Illuminations : Nil
Calligraphy :Kufi
Number of lines :6 lines per page
Inks          : Main text in red
Punctuation: Diacritical marks in red.
Frame       :  Nil
History of Manuscript : Originally belonged to a Professor of Islamic Art in Paris. His family sold some of these vellums to a friend. I acquired this vellum from him in 2013.
Number of folios : 1 f
Support of writing : light brownish vellum
Gatherings : N/A
Catchwords :Nil
Dimensions : 22.0 cm x 18.0 cm
Binding   : Nil
Estimated Market Price :
Purchased Price : USD
Remarks : 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Ancient Artifact Review 16 : Antique Egyptian Steatite Scarab ( 2040-1650 BC)

 This is a genuine ancient egyptian steatite scarab with amuletic hieroglyphs inscription from 2040-1650BC. It was of Middle Kingdom Dynasty 11-13 of Egypt. Symbols of crown, ankh & neb carrying meaning " May The King be Healthy, and May Life be Happy"

 I purchased this item from a reputed seller based in UK recently.
In comparison to Mesopotamia, Egypt adopted hieroglyphs writing in their literary system.
I purchased this scarab because of its unique hieroglyphs and its meaning.
Compare this scarab with my akkadian clay tablets below links :
Akkadian clay tablet 1
Akkadian clay tablet 2

Dimension is 15mm x 10mmx10mm

Below is an excerpt I quoted from Wikipedia in regards to this scarab tradition :

Scarabs were popular amulets in ancient Egypt. According to ancient Egyptian myths, the sun (Ra) rolls across the sky each day and transforms bodies and souls. Modeled upon the Scarabaeidae family dung beetle, which rolls dung into a ball for the purposes of eating and laying eggs that are later transformed into larva, the scarab was seen as an earthly symbol of this heavenly cycle. This came to be iconographic, and ideological symbols were incorporated into ancient Egyptian society.

 Through different time periods, about 2000 years, the use of the scarabs became many and varied. As amulets, and a flat surface on the bottom (as a similar artifact of a paperweight), it became a surface with other utilitarian purposes. Other nations and regions, especially in the Levant, even came to reproduce Egyptian styles, or to adapt their use to their own gods or personal uses. They were also found as grave goods, amulets, talismans, jewelry types, or gifts of affection.

 Beginning at the end of the First Intermediate Period scarabs became common.[1] They were often incorporated into tombs, as grave goods, or given as 'gifts'. Early on they were used for sealing goods. In the late Middle Kingdom they often bear titles and names of officials.[2] At this times they could also bear the names of kings. In this period they played an important part in the administration.

 The Middle Kingdom of Egypt is the period in the history of ancient Egypt stretching from the establishment of the Eleventh Dynasty to the end of the Twelfth Dynasty, between about 2000 BC and 1700 BC, although some writers include the Thirteenth and Fourteenth dynasties in the Second Intermediate Period. During this period, the funerary cult of Osiris rose to dominate Egyptian popular religion.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Syriac / Garshuni Christianity Manuscripts

As I mentioned in my earlier blog, I was ecstatic  recently due to my unexpected findings on ancient Syriac Christianity manuscripts. I found these manuscripts in my friend bazaar in Istanbul. Surprisingly these manuscripts have been sitting there for years and he never bother to sell them or show them to me knowing that my interest was only in Islamic & Quranic manuscripts.

It was just happened that I was chatting with him about the history of Arabic language and its relationship with Aramaic language. Suddenly he told me that he has some Aramaic manuscripts which were brought to him few years ago from Diyarbakir ( Eastern Turkey). Diyarbakir ancient name during Christianity era was Amida which is also one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world.
When I saw these manuscripts, I really thought they were written in Aramaic. I totally clueless what Aramaic script looks like but I was fascinated & interested to learn more about this script as its quite resemblance to Arabic script.
However after doing some homeworks and googling, I came to a conclusion that this manuscript was written in Syriac or Garshuni script and not Aramaic. This findings doesnt fade my interest on these manuscripts particularly my fascination is more on the script itself. So I bought some of them just for my collections and for further study on this script. I just wonder if I could incorporate Syriac script in my calligraphy work arts. Could be very interesting!!

These manuscripts are quite rare as you dont see them in the market that much. I have seen people are selling just a leaf for a few hundred dollars.

 Below is an excerpt from http://www.omniglot.com/ about Syriac or Garshuni scripts. From the explanation, its very obvious that these manuscripts were written in Syriac Serta Script . By comparison with the paper and execution of scripts, I would estimate these manuscripts from 12th-15th century. More info on DiyerBakir Syriac manuscripts can be found in this website

Syriac Manuscripts from Diyerbakir


The Syriac alphabet developed from the Aramaic alphabet and was used mainly to write the Syriac language from about the 2nd century BC. There are a number of different forms of the Syriac alphabet: Esṭrangelā (ܐܣܛܪܢܓܠܐ), Serṭā (ܣܪܛܐ) and Madnḥāyā (ܡܕܢܚܝܐ).
Esṭrangelā, meaning 'rounded', is the oldest form and is considered the classical version of the Syriac alphabet. It was revived during the 10th century, and is now used mainly in scholarly publications, titles and inscriptions.
West Syriac is generally written with Serṭā, meaning 'line', which is also known as the Pšīṭā (ܦܫܝܛܐ, 'simple'), Maronite or Jacobite. It was modelled on Esṭrangelā but with simpler, more flowing lines. A version of Serṭā appeared in the earliest Syriac manuscripts, and it became popular during the 8th century.
East Syriac is usually written in the Madnḥāyā (ܡܕܢܚܝܐ, 'Eastern') form of the alphabet, which is also known as Swādāyā (ܣܘܕܝܐ, 'conversational/contemporary'), Assyrian, Chaldean and Nestorian. Madnḥāyā is closer to Esṭrangelā than Serṭā.

Aramaic, a Semitic language that was the lingua franca of much of the Near East from about 7th century BC until the 7th century AD, when it was largely replaced by Arabic. Classical or Imperial Aramaic was the main language of the Persian, Babylonian and Assyrian empires and spread as far as Greece and the Indus valley.
After Alexander the Great destroyed the Persian Empire, Aramaic ceased to be the official language of any major state, though continued to be spoken widely. It was during this period that Aramaic split into western and eastern dialects.
Aramaic was once the main language of the Jews and appears in some of the Dead Sea Scrolls. It is still used as a liturgical language by Christian communities in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, and is still spoken by small numbers of people in Iraq, Turkey, Iran, Armenia, Georgia and Syria.
Aramaic has also been written in versions of the Latin, Hebrew and Cyrillic alphabets, though the Syriac is the most widely used script to write Aramaic.

Syriac (ܠܫܢܐ ܣܘܪܝܝܐ leššānā Suryāyā), an eastern dialect of Aramaic spoken by Christians in the lands in between the Roman and Parthian empires between the 1st and 12th centuries. Syriac is still used used nowadays as ritual and literary language by speakers of Neo-Aramaic in Syria. It is also used for sermons in Syrian churches in the southern Indian state of Kerala. Syriac has also been written with the Uyghur alphabet.

Esṭrangelā script (ܐܣܛܪܢܓܠܐ)

Serṭā script (ܣܪܛܐ)

Madnḥāyā script (ܡܕܢܚܝܐ)

All in all its feeling good to know about the existence of this script. I would study more the history of this script.

Rebinding old manuscript

I had recently posted a blog about my Kashmiri Quran which has beautiful lacquer covers but was poorly binded at the time of purchase. The covers edge was chipped off and lack of spine. See below link :
Kashmiri Quran

 During my trip to Istanbul early this year, I brought with me this manuscript and sent to a binding company for a repair. I have to pay about USD500 but Masyallah the result was fantastic!!
See below photos after the repair. My friend who owns a manuscript bazaar in Istanbul was envious to see this manuscript and had offered to buy this Quran. He said this type of manuscript can be easily picked up at USD8000-USD10,000 in Istanbul. Whatever the offer is, I am happy to keep this Quran close to me.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Ramadhan Kareem

I wish all the muslims Happy Ramadhan. I hope this Ramadhan will bring blessings & peace to us and the rest of the world.
I have been quiet for the past few months due to busi-ness. During this period I have acquired some interesting manuscripts & artifacts. I got some more African manuscripts which I will upload later in this blog. I managed to acquire a beautiful Quranic vellum written in Kufic. It costed me a fortune but my satisfaction in indescribable. But the most interesting of all is that I acquired some manuscripts written in Syriac Gershoni on Christianity. I will elaborate more on this on my next blog.