Iconic books are texts revered as objects of power rather than just as words of instruction, information, or insight. In religious and secular rituals around the globe, people carry, show, wave, touch and kiss books and other texts, as well as read them. This blog chronicles such events and activities. (For more about iconic books, see the links to the Iconic Books Project at left.)

Friday, July 6, 2007

Qur'ans as Islamic Art

The Australian provides a review by Sebastian Smee of "The Arts of Islam," an exhibit in Sydney of part of the private collection Nasser D. Khalili. Among many other things are a group of Qur'ans that illustrate several features of iconic and relic texts that we have been discussing on this blog:

"... the show opens with a display of Korans, big and small, from Iran, China, North Africa, Egypt and Sicily. Later on, there is a fragment from a Koran believed to have been inscribed by a one-handed, left-handed calligrapher from the central Asian city of Samarkand. Trying to impress the great ruler Tamerlane, he had written a Koran so small that it could fit under a signet ring. The ploy failed so he turned around and made a giant Koran: each page almost 1m long and 1.8m high, with only seven lines per page.

"A single line is on show here. Impressive as it is, it serves as a reminder that many of Islam's greatest cultural treasures -- a high proportion of them in book form -- have been split up or otherwise tampered with in the name of profit. The practice continues unabated today, with random pages from previously whole manuscripts and individual tiles ripped from the walls of buildings appearing at auction on a regular basis."

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