Manuscripts from Daghistan, in the mountainous Caucasus region in southern Russia, are renowned for their bold and dashing calligraphy and vibrant decoration, as seen in this Qur’an,. The colophon at the end of the volume names the scribe as ‘Murad, the scribe of large Qur’ans’ and gives the date of AH 1192 (1778/9 AD).
This is a very well-used manuscript, as shown by the smudged edges of each page, and by the many old repairs made. There are three major pairs of decorated frames, which mark the beginning of the Qur’an and the start of the second chapter, Surat al-Baqarah (‘The Cow’), as well as Surat Maryam in the middle of the Book. Each chapter or surah heading is set in an illuminated panel, and verses are separated by red roundels. The text is written in a large firm hand, in strong black ink.
Why is it so important?
The Islamic manuscript culture of the Daghistani cultural region, centred on the republic of Dagestan in Russia, is hardly known. The most immediately striking feature of Daghistani manuscript illumination is the bright palette of red, yellow, green, purple and brown, which contrasts strongly with the predominantly blue and gold colours of the Ottoman and Indo-Persianate manuscript traditions to the south. A greater understanding and awareness of Daghistani manuscripts can help to illustrate the tremendous variety encountered in book cultures across the Islamic world.