Letter Exercise


This calligraphic fragment includes an exercise in nasta'liq script that consists of mufradat (combining letters) in various formations. Albums of mufradat exercises include al-huruf al-mufradah or, in the Ottoman tradition, huruf-i muqatta'a (the single letters) of the Arabic alphabet in sequence, followed by letters in their composite form. Exercise books begin at least by the 16th century. They were used as books of exemplars of calligraphy to introduce students into the practice of handwriting and provide chains of transmission of calligraphic knowledge through the centuries. This particular fragment bears witness to the practice of mufradat exercises in nasta'liq script that seems to have existed among calligraphers active in 18th-century India. The script and decorative patterns—most especially the abri or ebru (marbled) papers used both for the text panel and the outside frame, backed by cardboard—support such a provenance. Although the calligraphic panel is not signed, a note appears on the fragment's verso. It reads: "bi-khatt-i [by the hand of] Muhammad Sa'd al-Din." This note may be a later attribution of the calligraphic panel to Muhammad Sa'd (or Sa'id) al-Din, about whom information is wanting.

Last updated: July 31, 2014