love_you_againThe NEP-27 Qur’an manuscript was purchased by the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in 1927.  Since then, its beautiful colophon page has been reproduced in many handbooks on Islamic art. The copy states that it was copied and gilded in Hamadhan, Iran by the scribe (al- kātib) Mahmūd ibn al-Husayn al- Kirmānī in H559/ 1164 CE. Manuscripts that have survived from northwestern Iran of the mid-12th century are very rare, and this one is an important example of Seljuk period book production with the illumination practices continuing from models established in late Abbasid workshops. It is also an interesting case of book ‘restoration’ that must be closely examined as it points to a complex history of usage.  Between the time of its copying and its donation as waqf by Amīr Ahmad Jāwīsh (d. 1786) to the al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo, the manuscript underwent many changes and vicissitudes. An examination thus far reveals that there were several interventions to the integrity of the original. Firstly, there is an interlinear commentary in red that was later than the copying of the text itself. The greenish-gold framing of the text is yet another stage in the life of the manuscript. At some moment, many of the headings and sub-headings received further enhancement, or outright reconfiguration. Even a cursory survey shows that many folios bear major repairs, patches and replacements.  Yet, even greater is the observation that the manuscript, as we now find it, has been collapsed into one volume from two or perhaps more.  This challenge means that a careful study of every folio must be undertaken to ascertain the integrity of the text and commentary.

Workshop leaders:

Renata Holod, History of Art Department and Penn Museum

Yael Rice, Amherst College


Alex Brey, Structuring the Word: The Sura Headings and Verse Markers of NEP 27

  • The decorations of NEP 27 existed to guide readers through their experience of the Qur’an. In addition to structuring the act of reading, however, they also contain their own visual grammar, which this paper will explore using a combination of traditional methodologies and computer vision algorithms like Scale Invariant Feature Transform (SIFT). Comparing the decoration of NEP 27 with that of other qur’ans dated to the twelfth century reveals the extent to which the form of the written word varied at the time of its production. The changes in style and quality of the decorations within NEP 27 also reveal important information about its production.

Michael Falcetano, Verse markers and Their Variations

  • My presentation is concerned with the minor illuminations, primarily verse markers, in the NE-P 27 Qur’an manuscript. Of these markers, particular attention has been focused on internal consistency–or lack there of–and its implications for the order of the manuscript’s production as well evidence pertaining to the number of individuals involved in the illumination of the manuscript. The methods underpinning this study are primarily based on an assignment of types for each category of marker. From this, all illuminations were recorded with particular attention having been devoted to the frequency at which they occur, their position within the text, and any discernable consistency therein. This study has been supplemented further through a comparison to other Qur’an manuscripts and an attempt to situate the NE-P 27 manuscript within the context of the development of Qur’an illumination in known manuscripts both preceding and following the manufacture of NE-P 27.

Emily Neumeier, Competing Ideologies in the Paleography of NEP-27

  • Within NEP-27 there are evidently multiple calligraphic hands, with several individuals later correcting the original main text as well as its gloss. In this paper, I aim first to characterize the calligraphic style of the main text while situating this calligrapher within the context of other 12-century Seljuk manuscripts. I will then attempt to reconstruct the later corrections and insertions into the text during subsequent phases of repair, most likely executed in 18th-century Egypt. By tracking the subsequent interventions imposed upon this manuscript, this paper examines how a competition across time about the nature of the Qur’an itself unfolds upon the pages of NEP-27.

V.K. Inman, The Text of NEP-27

  • This presentation will explore a few of the numerous corrections to the original hand, and also explore the possible significance of variant readings in NEP-27, both those which were at some point “corrected,” and those which were never “corrected.” The text of NEP-27 underwent the sort of scribal transmission difficulties which are typical of manuscripts in general. In its final corrected form NEP-27 most closely resembles the modern Hafs reading but even here variant segments remain.

Elliott Brooks, NEP-27’s Frontispiece and its Comparanda

  • The frontispiece of NEP-27 presents the question of whether or not it is part of the original manuscript. I will give a formal analysis of this frontispiece, as well as a comparison to other manuscript frontispieces dated to 12th century northwestern Iran, specifically manuscript W.557 at the Walters Art Museum and the Zanjani Qur’an at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Elias Saba, Explaining, Interpreting, and Clarifying the Qur’an: The “Commentary” on NEP-27

  • The commentary found on NEP 27 appears to perform three main tasks: explain obscure words, interpret equivocal sentences, and clarify unclear references such as general terms and pronouns. While the commentary certainly does accomplish this feat, it is far from exhaustive. There are many instances in which obscure words or equivocal sentences receive no attention while clear words and unequivocal clauses get glossed. Additionally, this commentary is unconcerned with revealing any sectarian, theological, or juristic affiliation. Having no parallels with other texts in the Arabic commentary (tafsir) tradition, I argue that this text should be understood not as a commentary but as a gloss. Further, I argue that its value was not actually in elucidating the Qur’anic text, but rather it functioned as a ritual element within the framework of this manuscript of the Qur’an. These two insights–the gloss’s lack of partisan affiliation and its ritual character–should shape our understanding and interpretation of the history of the production and use of NEP 27.

Raha Rafii, Intersections of Design and Epigraphy in the Colophon and Finispiece of NEP-27 

  • The colophon of NEP-27, embedded within its finispiece, so far remains the main source of information of the provenance and completion date of the production of this Qur’anic manuscript, informing us that a calligrapher, Mahmud b. al-Husayn al-Katib al-Kirmani, “wrote and illuminated” the manuscript in the city of Hamadan in the year 559 H. (1164 C.E.). However, an examination of the various calligraphic styles of the colophon itself already indicates that it is the work of multiple hands, possibly under the supervision or direction of al-Kirmani, if the colophon is in fact contemporaneous to the Qur’anic text. Close analysis of the colophon’s orthography yields additional clues to the connection between the colophon and the text of the manuscript, while possible aesthetic links between the finispiece and Iranian architecture help clarify its cultural context.

Agnieszka Szymanska, The Mise-en-page of NEP-27

  • The subject of my presentation is mise-en-page of NEP-27. I focus on the geometrical construction of the manuscript’s page layout, which includes text, borders, margins, and decoration. The role of mise-en-page was to create an aesthetic appearance of each page. Only one known text, a chapter in a work by the Andalusian scholar Muhammad al-Qalalusi (d. 1307), comprises an incomplete formula for establishing a page layout. Therefore, principally a close examination of each page of NEP-27 can give us insights into the manuscript’s geometric design.

Quintana Heathman, Investigating Interventions: The Papers of NEP-27

  • The paper on which a manuscript is written offers the researcher an opportunity to discover the physical nature and history of the work. This presentation seeks to examine the paper of the Penn Museum Qur’an NEP-27 to help illuminate the life of the object. Through a discussion of both the original paper and later repair papers, this presentation aims to enhance our understanding of NEP-27’s initial production, as well as its later status as a repaired and altered manuscript. Special attention will be given to these repairs and the imported paper associated with them, as it is through a comprehension of these types of interventions that we can more fully understand NEP-27 and its existence as a physical object over time. This presentation will also discuss the particular problems of Qur’anic paper research, as well as suggest areas for future investigation.


Nourane Ben Azzouna, Abou Dhabi/Paris

François Déroche, Bibliotheque Nationale de France

David Roxburgh, Harvard University

M. Shreve Simpson, University of Pennsylvania

Sergei Tourkin, McGill University

To Register: Please register on Eventbrite. Since space is limited to thirty (30), please register for participation by February 10, 2013.

Accomodations: We have held rooms at the Club Quarters for your convenience. If you wish to stay there, please call or email Club Quarters to confirm no later than January 22nd.