M-85. Introduction to Islamicate Manuscripts

Marianna Shreve Simpson Kelly Tuttle

Course Length: 30 hours
Course Week: 2–7 June 2024
Format: in person, Free Library of Philadelphia
Fee: $1,395

Though the arts of the manuscript book constitute one of the most vital forms of artistic creativity and practice within the Islamic world, they have received relatively little attention within the general field of manuscript studies in Europe and America. This course provides an introduction to the history of Islamicate manuscripts and the constituent arts of calligraphy, illumination, illustration, and binding from the origins of Islam in the seventh century through the early modern period (sixteenth and seventeenth centuries), encompassing the full range of historical cultures (Arab, Persian, Turkish and Indian). Within a chronological framework, course topics include: the codicology of Islamic manuscripts (materials and techniques); issues of text, style, iconography, meaning, and aesthetics; and the human dimension of manuscript production (collaboration between artists of diverse crafts in a workshop setting, the role of patrons in supporting the bookmaking enterprise over the centuries). The course will be taught primarily through the rich collection of Islamicate manuscripts at the Free Library of Philadelphia, with a one-day visit to the University of Pennsylvania manuscript collection.

In their application statements, students should describe the extent of their general background in manuscript studies and give their reasons for wishing to take this course. Some familiarity with Islamic history and culture is desirable, though it is not a course prerequisite.

Click here to view the course description for the virtual version of this course.

Course History

Marianna Shreve Simpson and Kelly Tuttle co-teach this course at the Free Library of Philadelphia.
Kelly Tuttle teaches a 10-hour version of this course online.
Marianna Shreve Simpson teaches this course at the Free Library of Philadelphia.
Marianna Shreve Simpson teaches this course at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore.
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  • Marianna Shreve Simpson
  • Kelly Tuttle

Marianna Shreve Simpson

Marianna Shreve Simpson has been a Visiting Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania, and has published, taught, and lectured widely on medieval and early modern Islamic art in general and the arts of the book (especially Persian illustrated manuscripts) in particular. From 1980 to 1992, she helped direct the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art, and from 1992 to 1995, served as Curator of Islamic Near Eastern Art at the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery (Smithsonian Institution). From 1995 to 2000, she was Director of Curatorial Affairs and Curator of Islamic Art at the Walters Art Gallery (now Walters Art Museum) in Baltimore, and continued her affiliation with the museum as Visiting Curator of Islamic Art (through October 2001) and Senior Consultant for the Islamic Manuscript Digitization Project (2009–10). In recent years, she also has served as a consultant for the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, and the Manuscripts of the Muslim World digitization project; as President of the Historians of Islamic Art Association (2011–13); and as Guest Curator at the Princeton University Art Museum. Her books include Princeton’s Great Book of Kings: The Peck Shahnama (Princeton University Art Museum, 2015); Persian Poetry, Painting, and Patronage: Illustrations in a Sixteenth-Century Masterpiece (Yale University Press and Freer Gallery of Art, 1998); and Sultan Ibrahim Mirza’s “Haft Awrang”: A Princely Manuscript from Sixteenth-Century Iran (Yale University Press and Freer Gallery of Art, 1997).


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Kelly Tuttle

Kelly Tuttle started working with Islamicate manuscripts while completing a doctoral degree at the University of Pennsylvania. Within the field of Islamicate manuscript culture, she is particularly intrigued by information transmission in the premodern world as it appears in commentary and abridgment, and also as it appears in provenance records and notes. She served as the Cataloging Librarian for the Manuscripts of the Muslim World Project, which was a cooperative project funded by the Council on Library and Information Resources to catalog and digitize Islamicate manuscripts from Columbia University, the Free Library of Philadelphia, the University of Pennsylvania, and other Philadelphia-area repositories. Islamic Manuscript Basics is a course and website for beginners that she put together based on the MMW project. Currently, she serves on the editorial board for Manuscript Studies and in her free time, helps librarians and other interested parties figure out which Islamicate manuscripts they have sitting in their uncataloged collections.


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