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Non-Western Manuscripts

After the development of the mechanical printing press, manuscripts fell into disuse in the western world, although this practice continued into the early modern period in the Middle East.


[Illuminated leaf from bilingual Qu'ran]
Isfahan, 18th century
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This eighteenth-century leaf from a bilingual Qu'ran has many of the featuers of the medieval manuscript: it is written by hand, rather than printed on a mechanical press; it features illuminatinos and decorations in multicolored inks. The black ink, in Arabic, is the text of the Qu'ran, and the red ink is an interlinear translation in Persian. This particular leaf is printed on Islamic paper, a very thin sheet of paper with irregular lead lines. Paper, which originated in China, made its way to Europe through the Middle East. This Islamic paper, then, was made using an older technique than the European paper leaves in this exhibit.

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[Illuminated leaf from Bustan-i Saʻdī]
Persia, 16th-19th century
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This text is from the famous Bustan-i Sa'di, a book of medieval Persian poetry. Sa'di, who completed the work in 1257, writes on the subject of "The Orchard", and contains an account of his travels and other anecdotes on psychology and meaning. This particular leaf, with a curious border in marbled gold, was given to Canadian typographer Carl Dair by a friend. The leaf itself arrived at the Robertson Davies Library within a paper frame with a handwritten note, "For Carl [Dair], as an example of what they do in our line of work in the underdeveloped countries! Sem." This could indicate that Sem bought this singular leaf as a tourist, and shows that that breaking books to sell their valuable leaves was not a practice limited to the West.

Non-Western Manuscripts