Medieval and Early Modern Arabic Script Hands: A Selection

I have divided the following samples into two fairly heuristic categories, first, ‘calligraphic’ hands generally produced for elite audiences and often within the actual physical context or at least the social ambit of the courts of rulers; second, ‘bookhands,’ manuscript hands and styles produced in a wide array of contexts and with an emphasis on reader use and less on producing a calligraphically and otherwise exceptional book. I have not arranged these chronologically though there is a wide range represented here. Instead I have tried to give an idea of the sheer diversity of manuscript hands and layout styles within the wide Arabic script tradition (which here includes only the ‘big three’ languages of Arabic, Persian, and Ottoman Turkish). Each image is hyperlinked to the original should you wish to view it in more detail.

Calligraphic Hands and Manuscript Styles:

Met. 55.44.jpg
Ilkhanid (dated 1307/8) Qur’an. Met. 55.44
Met. 67.266.1 Siraj al-Husayni 1436.jpg
Timurid Zafarnama (1436). Met. 67.266.1.
Ms. or. oct. 3759 i
1792 Yemeni Zaidi copy of the treatise Kitāb al-Azhār fī fiqh al-aʾimma al-aṭhār. SBzB Ms. or. oct. 3759.
The forty hadith of the Prophet with their versifications by ‘Abd al-Rahman Jami, signed by Shah Muhammad ibn Sultan Muhammad, Persia, Safavid, circa 16th century
Versified Forty Hadith compilation, 16th century Safavid, private collection.
FS   F1931.11 .jpg
Gulistan, Safavid 16th century. FS F1931.11.
FS      F1907.625 .jpg
18th century Mughal Aja’ib al-makhluqat.  FS F1907.625.
Bibliothèque nationale de France. Département des Manuscrits. Persan 174 sample ii.jpeg
Seljuks of Rūm, 13th century astrological treatise. BnF Persan 174.
Farman of the Ilkhan Gaykhatu.jpg
Farman of the Ilkhan Gaykhatu, 1292. FS LTS1995.2.9.

Bookhand Manuscripts:

1525 Constantinople Yale Arabic MSS 550
From an 18th century Ottoman fiqh compilation. 1525, Constantinople. Yale Arabic MSS 550.



Baydawi Lithograph Ṣirket-i İlmiye 1887.jpg
Tafsir al-Baydawi. Lithograph*, Ṣirket-i İlmiye, 1887.


Baydawi MS Arab 312. Houghton Library, Harvard University..jpg
Tafsir al-Baydawi wa sharhuhu, Ottoman, 1774. MS Arab 312. Houghton Library, Harvard University.
Bibliothèque nationale de France. Département des Manuscrits. Arabe 4681
18th century Morocco, biographical treatise. BnF Arabe 4681.

Islamic Manuscripts, Garrett no. 427Y .jpg

19th century Ottoman scientific text. Princeton Islamic Manuscripts, Garrett no. 427Y.


Kitāb al-Fuṣūl fī uṣūl al-fiqh , 1650.jpg

Kitāb al-Fuṣūl fī uṣūl al-fiqh, 1650. SBzB Sprenger 599.

Risālat Hadīyat al-mahdīyīn, 1585 .jpg
Risālat Hadīyat al-mahdīyīn, 1585. Ottoman? MS Arab 283. Houghton Library, Harvard University.


Šarīf ar-Raḍī, Muḥammad Ibn-al-Ḥusain aš-- Dīwān , 1099[1688] .jpg
Dīvān-i Sharīf al-Riḍā, Safavid? SBzB Ms. or. oct. 3769.