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[BKARTS] Printed Qur'ans

Thanks you Arjan for your wonderful overview of Qur'an printing in the West.

From what I have understood, what many Muslims found objectionable was the way the moveable type rendered Arabic script, in addition to the fact that the printer would not have been a non-Muslim who failed to maintain the required ritual purity during production. To the Arabic script reader, the appearance of the "Arabic" moveable type was ugly and illegible, and objectionable breaks between each letter were readily discerned, further obscuring the text.

However by the reign of Sultan Ahmet III, came a craze for all things Western, and the first Printing press was established in Istanbul by Ibrahim Müteferrika. Perhaps moveable type was refined enough at that point to mull any objections. Along with Western printing methods it seems that Western binding methods also came into vogue- or rather helped to meet an ever-burgeoning demand. This is most noticeable in some forwarding procedures: sewing on supports using a sewing frame, rounding and backing, western style headbanding, edge gilding in the European manner, and even edge marbling (which was not a part of traditional Islamic ebru/abri production) became pervasive in much of the Muslim world at that time. the Bulaq press in Cairo (which used moveable type) bound volumes using some traditional Islamic techniques for their bindings, but quickly gave way to more European production methods.

To learn more about Ibrahim Müteferrika, please visit the Library of Congress Near East Collections page:


However when Sultan Ahmet III was deposed printing seems to have hit another lull, though it began to flourish in other parts of the Muslim world. That changed with the introduction of Lithography, especially to Ottoman Turkey in the early 19th century. Calligraphers instantly favored this method as it rendered the calligraphy exactly as it was written. Hence many beautiful lithographed editions were produced by Muslims at that time, some based on earlier manuscripts by the most famous calligraphers. These early lithographic editions are extremely valuable today. Since they were of high quality, and produced by Muslims, there was no objection to their production, unlike European editions.

Jake Benson

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