November 3, 2011


This muraqqa’ (album) of calligraphy in an accordion format was compiled in Ottoman Turkey in the 12th century AH (18th century AD). The medium is ink and pigments on paper mounted on thin pasteboard. It consists, in part, of leaves bearing fragmentary passages from the Qurʼan, from chapter 2 (Sūrat al-baqarah), verses 65–68, and chapter 4 (Sūrat al-nisā’), verses 103–6. Also included are the hadith (the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad), and two sheets of karalama (pen exercises). The Qurʼanic verses and the passages of hadith are written in vocalized Naskh and Thuluth scripts in black ink. Folio 5a bears the name of the Ottoman calligrapher, Şeyh Hamdullah, also called Ḥamd Allāh al-Amāsī, who died in 926 AH (1520 AD). Şeyh Hamdullah was the most celebrated calligrapher of his time and influenced subsequent generations of calligraphers. Each page in the album is framed by 18th-century marbled borders. The sheepskin binding with central lobed medallion has a central panel filled with chamois leather and is probably contemporary with the album. The manuscript is from the Walters Art Museum and is designated Walters W. 672.

The Eloquent Prosody in the 40 Verses

This manuscript is an Ottoman Turkish commentary on forty verses of the Qurʼan, with hadith (the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad) and verse citations by Okçuzade Mehmet Şahî, who died in 1039 AH (1629 AD). This copy was made in the 11th century AH (17th AD). The text is written in Naskh script in black and red ink. The waqf (bequest) stamp of al-Wazīr al-Shahīd ‘Alī Pāshā, dated 1130 AH (1717 AD), appears on folios 1a, 1b, and 2a. The name of a former owner, Sayyid Burhān al-Dīn, and his seal dated 1039 AH is found on folio 1a, perhaps placed there when the second owner acquired the work a century later. The text begins with an illuminated incipit with headpiece (folio 1b). The dark-brown goatskin binding with central lobed medallion filled with floral scroll work and outlined in gold is contemporary with the manuscript. The manuscript is from the Walters Art Museum and is designated Walters W. 667.

Two Works on Islamic Beliefs and Practices

This codex comprises two works on Islamic beliefs and practices by the Ottoman writer Aḥmet bin Muḥammed Şemsī Pāşā, who died in 990 AH (1580 AD). These works are entitled Tercümet ül-Viḳāye (The translation of “Wiqāyat al-Riwāyah”) and I’tiḳādiyāt (Beliefs), as inscribed in the headings on folios 2b and 29b, respectively. Both texts were copied in black Nasta’līq script in the 10th century AH (16th century AD). On folio 2a is a note of approval by the famous Ottoman jurist Abū al-Su’ūd (Ebussuud) Efendi (died 982 AH [1574 AD]). The first composition, Tercümet ül-Viḳāye, is a versification of the well-known Ḥanafī compendium of law, known in Arabic as Wiqāyat al-riwāyah (Safeguards of transmission) by Maḥmūd ibn Ṣadr al-Sharī’ah al-Maḥbūbī, who flourished in the seventh century AH (16th century AD). The brown leather binding has a central oval medallion, with pendants and corner pieces with arabesques on a gold ground. The manuscript is from the Walters Art Museum and is designated Walters W. 665.

Brief Geographical Primer, with an Additional Text on Bosnia: for Primary Schools

The first printing house in Bosnia and Herzegovina was founded in 1519 by Božidar Goraždanin, in the city of Goražde, in eastern Bosnia. Two years later, in 1521, the establishment closed and was moved to Romania. Subsequently, a small number of books written in Bosnia and Herzegovina were sent outside the country to be printed, in Venice, Vienna, Rome, and elsewhere, but books were not produced in the country. In the second half of the 19th century, there was a revival of interest in printing and publishing in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The first printing house started work in 1866, in Sarajevo, and was called Sopronova pečatnja (Sopron’s Publishing House), after its founder, Sopron Ignjat (1825–94), a journalist and printer-publisher from Novi Sad. This later became Vilajetska štamparija (Vilayet Printing House). Books were printed in the Latin, Cyrillic, Hebrew, and Arabic scripts. Following the occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina by Austria-Hungary in 1878, Vilajetska štamparija continued to produce books, but it changed its name to Zemaljska štamparija (National Printing House). The National and University Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina preserves a valuable collection of the first school books printed at Vilajetska štamparija. Shown here is one of the items from this collection, Kratka zemljopisna početnica s dodatkom o Bosni: za niže učione (Brief geographical primer, with an additional text on Bosnia: for primary schools), published in 1869.

Slavonia, Croatia, Bosnia, and a part of Dalmatia

Gerard Mercator’s 1590 Sclavonia, Croatia, Bosnia cum Dalmatiae parte (Slavonia, Croatia, Bosnia, and a part of Dalmatia) is the best representation of Bosnia made up to that time. One of the oldest items in the cartographic collections of the National and University Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the map was published by the well-known Blaeu firm in Amsterdam. Shown are villages, towns, rivers, and mountains. The scale is in German miles. The map is in Latin, but it gives place names in the languages of the region, which include the Slavic languages and, in some places, German. Mercator (1512–94) was born in Rupelmonde in Flanders (Belgium). His given name was Gerard Kremer. “Mercator,” meaning “merchant,” is a Latinized version of his last name in Dutch. He studied philosophy and theology at the University of Leuven, and developed an interest in astronomy and mathematics. He produced his first map, of Palestine, in 1537. He went on to create numerous maps and globes in the course of his long career, and is best known for his invention of the Mercator map projection.

November 7, 2011

The Curse of Artemisia – Fragment

This ancient curse is one of the earliest surviving Greek documents on papyrus from Egypt. Dating from the late 4th century BC, it comes from the community of Ionian Greeks that was established at that time in Memphis, Lower Egypt. Greek culture came to dominate in Memphis, especially after 332 BC, when Alexander the Great was crowned pharaoh in the temple of the god Ptah. In the document, Artemisia, about whom almost nothing is known, appeals to the Greco-Egyptian god Oserapis to punish the father of her daughter for depriving the child of funeral rites and denying burial. Oserapis was identified with the mummified bull Apis, considered a manifestation of Ptah, and with the Egyptian god Osiris. For her vengeance, Artemisia demands that the man – whose name is not mentioned in the text – be deprived of similar funeral rites for his parents and himself. Her drastic words are a striking example for the great importance of funeral rites in Greek as well as in Egyptian tradition. The papyrus document belongs to the Papyrus Collection of the Austrian National Library, which was assembled in the 19th century by Archduke Rainer. In 1899 he gave it to Emperor Franz Joseph I, who made the collection part of the Hofbibliothek (Imperial Library) in Vienna. One of the largest such collections in the world, the Papyrus Collection (Collection Erzherzog Rainier) was inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World register in 2001.