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Book of the Week — Arabic prayer book with Quranic verses

“And with Him are the keys of the Invisible. None but He Knoweth them. And He Knoweth what is in the land and the sea. Not a leaf falleth but He Knoweth it, not a grain amid the darkness of the earth, naught of wet or dry…” Quran, 6:59. Translation by Mohammad Marmadue Pickthall

This lovely prayer book is written in Naskhī script, with diacritics, on excellent, thin paper. The paper is burnished, as common in many Middle Eastern manuscripts of the time, to make it more closely resemble parchment. It is illuminated in gold throughout, including each page’s text frame, the flower-like dots that end each verse, and the background of the name of each surah. The book contains selected Quranic surahs; Quranic commentary; the ninety-nine names of God; and the many names of the prophet Muhammad written in red and black ink.

According to the colophon the scribe was “Mustafa the pupil of Ali Effendi,” but there is no indication for whom Mustapha wrote the text or when. The book is likely more than two hundred years old.

The book was a gift of Robert Needham Sears who received it from Dr. E. Sarofim during a visit to the Middle East. Dr. Ragai Makar described the book at the request of Robert Staab and Gregory C. Thompson.

Contributed by Jonathan Sandberg, Rare Books Assistant

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