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Miniature Manuscripts and Scrolls


Scrolls do not constitute a major literary form in the Islamic tradition beyond decrees and some legal documents, although the format is used in a diminutive form for objects such as amulets and charms, miniature Qur’ans, and calendar scrolls. Paper as well as parchment can be used for these objects, which are often reinforced with extra material (e.g. linen or leather) to create an outer protective sheath around the scroll when it is completely rolled up. Despite their unconventional form, scrolls adhere to the conventions predominant in manuscript production and often commence with a floral frontispiece and terminate in a colophon that records the name of the scribe.

Miniature Qur’ans

The majority of miniature Qur’ans in the Lilly Library are gifts of Ruth E. Adomeit, a collector of miniature books. These small treasures comprise a variety of shapes: octagonal miniature manuscripts were just as common as rectangular manuscripts. Less frequently, circular shaped manuscripts can be found in collections as well. Many delicate miniature manuscripts were contained within protective metal boxes called muhafaza, which mimic the shape of the manuscript. These small Qur’ans in many cases were meant to protect their owners, and yet the manuscripts often required protection themselves, as observable from the meaning of the term muhafaza or “protector.” These miniature Qur’ans also allow their possessors to keep the sacred text intimately fastened to their bodies.

The content in this section was authored by Heather Coffey.