Tughra of Sultan Ahmed III


This tughra (imperial emblem) belonged to the Ottoman Sultan Ahmed III and appears on the verso of a 16th-century Safavid Persian single-sheet fragment of a Fal-i Qurʼan, used for divination by means of letters selected at random. Ahmed III ruled from A.H. 1115–43 (A.D. 1703–30), so it is probable that the Qurʼan came from southwestern Iran to the Topkapi Palace Library in Istanbul sometime in the 17th century. The largely effaced date of 1111 (1700) on the verso supports the hypothesis that the Qurʼan arrived in Istanbul by the turn of the 18th century. The tughra served as a sort of ex libris for the sultan, who may have ordered removed and pasted over certain areas of the recto to conceal the real purpose of the sheet, as prognostication by means of the Holy Book was a problematic practice in Islam. The tughra has a long tradition as a royal calligraphic emblem in Turkic cultures. From the time of the Oguz, Seljuks, and especially the Ottomans, it was the blazon of a ruler that included his name and titles, sometimes in highly stylized form. Although in this case it appears as a kind of royal signature, the tughra typically initiated an imperial decree or legal documents, such as property deeds. It also appeared on Ottoman buildings, coins, calligraphic panels, and postage stamps. It symbolized a "noble mark" of possession and thus often took on the role of a seal impression, which granted permission or endowed ownership. The tughra is composed of a variety of structural elements that make up the names and titles of a ruler. The ornate interlacing of the titles make it difficult to identify the ruler in question, but comparison with other extant tughras has established the link to Ahmed III.

Last updated: April 16, 2015