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Re: [BKARTS] Printed Qur'ans
Thanks Robert for mentioning Bloom's book! I should have remembered
that, as I wrote a review of it for Hand Papermaking! I'm a bit
frazzled since I just got back after a long trip.
After quickly glancing at Bloom's book, I noticed a couple things:
1) Bloom relates the story of Paganini, and reproduces the title page
of his printed Qur'an (fig. 85, page 220) from the copy found in the
Venetian monastery. Yet he curiously omits the part about the Sultan
ordering the burning and hand-chopping mentioned by Arjun. He says
that " all copies were thought to have perished in a fire until one
remaining example was discovered in the 1980's..."
Is this careful editing on Bloom's part out of sensitivity to the
reader? political correctness? A suspicion that Westerners have
embellished stories of punishment due to inherent bias when discussing
"the terrible Turks"? I'll have to write him and ask.
2) Bloom reproduces a wonderful block printed talisman that was
excavated in Fustat (fig. 84, page 219), in the old part of Cairo.
These are largely thought to date to the late Fatimid dynasty, though
they have not been collectively studied and translated. Many of these
incorporate some Qur'anic texts, in addition to other invocations and
supplications. Many such examples exist, and prove that Muslims
weren't opposed to the technique of printing per se, only to European
attempts to print their Holy book in order to refute it ( not to
mention making a number of mistakes). These techniques are reminiscent
of those used to print textiles today in Syria, Iran, India, and
Turkey, and occasionally Arabic inscriptions (including short Qur'anic
quotations, supplications etc.) are still produced.
3) Stenciling was and still is widely used in the Muslim world as a
method for reproducing a wide variety of designs, including
calligraphic designs, and has been so for over a millenia. The term
for stencil is 'aks, which means "opposite", "negative", or
"contrast". Another variation is the "charba" (Persian) "or "qalib"
(Arabic)- a thin paper with a pin-pricked outline of a design which
could be pounced with charcoal to transfer the outline of a design or
paintingonto another surface.
Today in Iran 'aks refers to photography, probably because of the term
"negative" refers to film, and so it has stuck. Unfortunately some
modern Turkish sources have mistakenly translated this term to mean
"white bowl" in old Turkish, but if you read Arabic script it is easy
to see the mistake. For more info on stenciling in Islamic art
please refer to the French scholar Yves Porter's wonderful work
"Painters Paintings and Books" ("Arts et Peinture du Livre" in the
original French edition). Manohar publications. Dehli, 1995.
While some Muslims initially objected to some initial attempts by
Europeans to print the Qur'an, it is important to note that in the end
technology triumphed and was fully embraced, much as paper succeeding
in supplanting parchment and papyrus as a writing material in the early
centuries of Islam. Early Muslims argued over whether it should be
written in a book form at all, whether to add the distinguishing dots
that are such a recognizable feature of the language today, whether
the text should be vocalized, whether colors could be used to enhance
legibility, much less the topic of illumination.... in view of these
discussions is interesting to note that the language as it is written
today is filled with "innovations" that are so often the focus of
rhetoric, hyperbole, and vitriol by the Wahhabis and other modern-day
fundamentalists. For further info on this subject please see the
Bosch, Carswell, & Petherbridge work "Islamic Bookbindings and Book
Making" Chicago, 1981.
Finally, I neglected to mention one paralell Arabic -English
tranlation/interpretation of the Qur'an that has been consistently
recognized - mainly for its thorough supporting commentary- although it
is not very well known and is also a daunting 1,000 pages long. "The
Message of the Qur'an" was first published by the late Muhammad Asad in
the early 1980's by Dar al Andlaus in Spain. Hard to find and long out
of print, it has been reprinted by Kazi Publications in Chicago. ISBN
Benson's Hand Bindery
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West Columbia, SC 29169
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