Magnificent Qajar Qur'an in a dated Zand lacquer binding

[Zand and Qajar Iran,] : binding dated 1171 AH (1757/8 CE), copied by an anonymous scribe in the 19th century. Stock Code: 142205
Reserve Ask us a question

Exquisite nineteenth-century Iranian Qur'an in a prized earlier binding

This Qur'an is an exquisite example of Qajar calligraphy, copied in the bold Iranian naskh most often associated with the Safavid calligrapher Ahmad al-Nayrizi. The manuscript's illumination is extensive, elaborate, and vibrant, alive with colours and gold, rich in the exuberant luxury of Qajar decorative art. Particularly noticeable is the sheer diversity of form displayed by the manuscript's numerous marginal markers, which drip with petals of pink and blue, deep blue penwork elaborations, and carefully burnished gold. This Qur'an's fine sura headings, although each confined to the space of a single line, display a similar rich variety, in form, script, and illumination, elegantly dividing to incorporate the closing line of a preceding sura on occasion.

The calligraphic lacquer binding, with its frames of pious inscriptions in pink and yellow, is the work of an anonymous artisan of the 18th-century. With gilt-speckled central panels, which have the glittering effect of a mosaic in miniature, and startlingly scarlet of its doublures, this is a fine, prized work of art, dated 1171 AH (1757/8 CE) by its anonymous maker. Such bindings were a renowned aspect of Iranian book art; dated examples are not desperately common.

The manuscript itself was almost certainly produced for this binding, to the specification of some Qajar bibliophile. There is no evidence that it has been trimmed to fit; rather, the manuscript was made to match a prized, historic binding. Another example of such a marriage between binding and manuscript in Qajar Iran is held by the Metropolitan Museum (accession no. 2006.543.1), a pocket Qur'an made for Fath 'Ali Shah, the first Qajar Shah, re-using a signed lacquer binding by an 18th-century artist, 'Ali Ashraf. The manuscript's Iranian export stamps, dated 1312 AH (1895/6 CE), correspond to a period of increased interest in the arts of Iran among Western collectors, while the English inscriptions suggest its subsequent circulation in the British or American book trade.

Confused? Read our glossary


Small 4to (250 x 170 mm), Arabic manuscript on polished, laid paper; ff.275, [1, blank]; 15 lines of black naskh per page, fully vowelled with small gilt verse makers, catchwords at bottom, triple-framed with outer thin and inner thick then thin gilt rules; f.1v-2r with central calligraphic roundels, gold text on blue ground, with smaller calligraphic roundels above and below, gold text on red ground, on a floreated ground in gilt, blue, and pink, inset illuminated cornerpieces, and elaborately illuminated floral borders; ff.2v-3r with opening text set within fully illuminated carpet pages; sura headings in illuminated, gilt cartouches, with text in blue, pink, or white thuluth, some cartouches divided in two to accommodate final line of preceding text; juz', hizb, nisf, and sajda denoted by marginal markers imitating a floral sprig in gilt, partially illuminated, with blue penwork elongations at top and bottom. Bound in an 18th-century Iranian painted lacquer binding, with 19th-century red morocco spine and headbands, boards each with central gilt-flecked panel, inner gold and red frame, band of text in thuluth, yellow on black ground, and outer gold and red frame; doublures each with central bright red panel, inner gold and black frame, band of text in thuluth, purple on green ground, and outer gold and black fame. Rear board dated 1171 AH at top in text band. Housed in a black quarter morocco solander box by the Chelsea Bindery.


Single small chip to upper board's central panel, top and bottom of spine worn, and hinges discreetly reinforced, with a small leather repair to the lower joint A handful of marginal paper repairs to initial folios, f.1 loose but holding, but contents otherwise in excellent condition, with illumination bright and text clean. English bookseller's inscriptions on f.1r in pen and ink: "A11 / Made in Persia" and "Koran - A11". Qajar export stamps on f.1r and 275v, completed and dated 1312 AH (1895/6 CE) in manuscript.


With the exception of framed items*, Peter Harrington offers free delivery on all UK orders of rare books, maps and prints placed through this website. Delivery to USA and the rest of the world is similarly free for orders over £200.

View Full Delivery Details



Established in 1969, Peter Harrington is one of the leading rare book firms in the world. It is a proud member of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association – along with ILAB, the PBFA and Lapada – and from shops in Mayfair and Chelsea, London, sells rare books, prints and ephemera to customers across the world.

Email: mail@peterharrington.co.uk

Tel: +44 (0)20 7591 0220

ABA Antiquarian Bookseller Association ILAB International League of Antiquarian Booksellers LAPADA The Association of Art and Anatique Dealers PBFA Provincial Booksellers Fairs Association

Our Guarantee Page

Ask us a question


Contact us with details of the book you are interested in or selling and we will contact you

Sell Old Books Help me find a book