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’il, kufic, maghribī, naskhī, 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.
- 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 ‘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:
- Thirty-leaved Qur'ans from India
- Over 2,000 pages in gold: Sultan Baybars’ Qur’an now online
- Illumination and decoration in Chinese Qurʼans
- 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. Our Reading Room also includes catalogues and reference works as well as access to selected electronic reference tools.
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