"Mufradat" Exercise


This calligraphic panel includes a letter exercise combining the letter hāʼ (h) with all other letters of the alphabet starting with the letter ʼalif (a) and ending with the letter yāʼ (y). This particular exercise shows how an initial hāʼ letter must be connected to any number of subsequent letters or letter combinations. These composite letters, executed in nastaʻliq script in black ink on white paper, are framed in blue and pasted to a purple piece of paper strengthened by a cardboard backing. Albums of mufradat (letter exercises) include al-huruf al-mufradah or, in the Ottoman tradition, huruf-i muqattaʻa (the single letters), of the Arabic alphabet in sequence, followed by letters in their composite form (in the Turkish tradition, murekkebe, literally “pairs”). Exercise books begin at least during the 17th century and are typical of Ottoman calligraphic practices. They were used as books of exemplars of calligraphy to introduce students into the practice of husn al-khatt (beautiful handwriting) and bear witness to the chain of transmission of calligraphic knowledge throughout the centuries. The collections of the Library of Congress include a number of other letter exercise sheets.

Last updated: September 30, 2016