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.
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).
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.
- an 11th century Qur’an from Iran or Iraq
- an Andalusian (Spanish) Qur’an
- a Qur’an with Persian translation
- an Indian Qur’an dating from the 16th century
- a 17th century Chinese 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
- 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
- The British Library’s oldest Qur’an manuscript now online
- Qur'an manuscripts from Java
- an Illuminated Qur’an manuscript from Aceh
- a lavishly decorated Indian Qurʼan
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.
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