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Rare Book School at the University of Virginia

M-85. Introduction to Islamic Manuscripts

Marianna Shreve Simpson

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 Islamic manuscripts and the constituent arts of calligraphy, illumination, illustration and binding from the origins of Islam in the c7 through the early modern period (c16-c17), 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 (though little known) collection of Islamic manuscripts at the Walters Art Museum.

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.

Course Resources

Course History


This course is newly added to the bulletin.
Marianna Simpson teaches this course for the first time.