Qur'ans

Sūrat al-Fātiḥah at the beginning of Sultan Baybars’ seven-volume Qurʼan
Opening of Sūrat al-Fātiḥah at the beginning of Sultan Baybars’ seven-volume Qurʼan

Our collection includes copies of the Qur’an from many different geographical regions and periods and exhibiting a wide range of styles of calligraphy and illumination

About the collection

Our holdings of some 300 Qur’ans date from between the early 8th and the 19th century AD. There are examples of Muṣḥaf (Qur’an manuscript) production from many parts of the world: Arabia and the Near and Middle East, North Africa and Spain, Sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia, the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia and China. Our Qur’ans exhibit a range of styles of script, including mā’ilkufic, maghribīnaskhī, thuluth, muḥaqqaq, rayḥānī, bihārī and a style of script used in Chinese Qur’ans known as ṣīnī.  Some of our Qur’ans are in one volume; others are parts of thirty-volume and sixty-volume sets.

Highlights include one of the oldest surviving Qur’an codices in the world in mā’il  ‘sloping’ script, copied probably in Mecca or Medina in the 8th century (Or.2165); a Kufic Qur’an dating from the 8th or 9th century (Or.1397); and the Mamluk Sultan Baybars II’s seven-volume Qur’an written in gold in thuluth script, Cairo, 1304-6. (Add.MS.22406-12). 

What is available online?

The Sacred texts page in the Online Gallery features Qur’āns in a range of calligraphic scripts from various parts of the Islamic world.

The ‘Virtual Books’ presented in Turning the Pages, again in the Online Gallery, include selected openings from the Sultan Baybars Qur’an.

The following Qur’ans have been fully digitised:

  • Or.2165, the Library's oldest Qur’an written in māʼil script, dating from the 8th century
  • Or.6573, written in the Qarmatian style of eastern Kufic script, from Iran or Iraq, 11th or 12th century. The Persian commentary is written in a naskh hand and is possibly slightly later
  • Add MS 22406, 22407, 22408, 22409, 22410, 22411, 22412, the Mamluk Sultan Baybars II’s seven-volume Qur’an written in gold in thuluth script, Cairo, 1304-6
  • Or.4945, Juzʼ 25, commissioned by the Ilkhanid Sultan Ūljāytū, Mosul, Iraq, 710/1310
  • IO Islamic 3048, Juz’ (Qur’an Section) 23 and 24. Java, 19th century
  • Add.MS.12312, from Java, Crawfurd collection, c.1800
  • Add.MS.12343, from Java, Crawfurd collection, c.1800
  • Or.15227, from Patani or Kelantan
  • Or.16915, from Aceh

Several of our Blogs feature individual copies of the Qur’an:

What is available in our Reading Rooms?

Some especially valuable or fragile manuscripts are restricted and available only in exceptional circumstances. Self-service photography is allowed for certain categories of material, provided that its condition allows this. Our Reading Room also includes catalogues and reference works as well as access to selected electronic reference tools.

Further information

Useful reference resources include:

  • Baker, Colin F. Qur'an manuscripts: calligraphy, illumination, design, London, 2007
  • Lings, Martin. Splendours of Qur’an calligraphy and illumination. Liechtenstein, New York, 2005
  • Massoumeh, Farhad and Simon Rettig. The art of the Qur'an: treasures from the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts. Washington, DC, 2016
  • Several publications based on Qur'ans in the Khalili Collections:
    Déroche, François, and Muʾassasat Nūr Al-Ḥusayn. The Abbasid tradition: Qur'ans of the 8th to the 10th centuries AD. London, 1992
    James, David. The master scribes: Qur'ans of the 10th to the 14th centuries AD. London, 1992
    James, David. After Timur: Qur'ans of the 15th and 16th centuries . London, 1992
    Bayani, Manijeh, Anna Contadini, and Tim Stanley. Qur’ans of the 17th to 19th centuries, part 1: London, 1999; part 2: London, 2009

How to guides

Find Persian manuscripts

Details of Persian manuscripts are to be found in a number of catalogues

Find Arabic manuscripts

Details of Arabic manuscripts are to be found in a number of catalogues

How to get a Reader Pass if you are under 18

How to apply for an under 18 Reader Pass

How to order images

Instructions on how to order images of the British Library's collections from our Imaging Services

Get a Reader Pass

A guide to how to obtain a British Library Reader Pass to use our Reading Rooms