The Look of the Book

Manuscript Production in Shiraz, 1303-1452

Elaine Wright

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  • Published: 2013
  • Subject Listing: Middle East Studies; Art History
  • Bibliographic information: 384 pp., 152 illus., 90 in color, 8.50 x 10 in.
  • Published with: Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
  • Contents

The Look of the Book assesses the role of the city of Shiraz in Iranian book production between the early fourteenth and mid-fifteenth centuries. It is the first detailed analysis of all aspects of the book - illumination, codicology, illustration, calligraphy, and binding - during this significant era when the "look of the book" was transformed. Four periods of change are identified: the years following 1340, until the end of Injuid rule in Shiraz; the later 1350s and the 1360s, during Muzaffarid rule; the years from 1409 to 1415, when the Timurid prince Iskandar Sultan was governor of Shiraz; and the decade (1435-45) following the death of Ibrahim Sultan, Iskandar's cousin and successor as governor. Although the focus is Shiraz, the author's comparative and chronological approach to the material means production elsewhere in Iran is also considered, while the results of the study increase our understanding of the history and development of the arts of the book not only in Shiraz, or even Iran as whole, but also in other centers of the Islamic world that followed the Iranian model.

Highlights of this book, which is heavily illustrated with exquisite illuminated manuscript pages, are its examination of illumination, an overlooked area of book production; the codicological aspects of the manuscripts, including paper and text layout; and the development of nasta'liq script. The manuscripts studied are held in more than fifty collections, primarily those in Dublin (Chester Beatty Library), Istanbul (Topkapi Palace Library and Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts), London (British Library), Oxford (Bodleian Library); Paris (Bibliothèque Nationale de France); and Washington, DC (Freer and Sackler Galleries of the Smithsonian Institution).
Elaine Wright is curator of the Islamic Collections at the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, Ireland.
1. Illumination
Early Injuid Illumination
Il-Khanid Illumination
Late Injuid Illumination
The Evidence of Injuid and Il-Khanid Metalwork
The Issues of Patronage
The Sahih of the Vizier Qutbuddin Sulaymanshah
A Change in Aesthetics: Illuminated Muzaffarid Manuscripts
The Illumination of the Fars Malik Khatun Qur'an
The Development of the Mazuffarid Style
Manuscripts of the Late 1350s and 1360s
The Decoration of Contemporary Metalwork
The Impetus for Change
The Blue-and-Gold Floral Style following the Demise of the Muzaffarids
Illumination under the Jaybirds
Iskandar Sultan in Shiraz and Isfahan
The Illuminated Manuscripts of Iskandar Sultan
Iskandar Sultan's Role as a Patron of Manuscripts
A Time of Change: From Ibrahim Sultan to the End of Timurid Rule in Shiraz
The Emergence of a New Illumination Style
The Introduction of a New Type of Paper
The Illuminations of Ibrahim Sultan and Baysunghur
Changes in the Manuscript Industry: Production and Patronage
Illumination in the Years Following the Demise of Timurid Control of Shiraz

2. Codicology
Textblock Format
The Standard Format
The Three-Sided Marginal Column Format
The One-Sided Marginal Column Format
Placement of Textblock on the Folio
The Size and Proportions of Folios and Textblocks
Folio Area
Folio and Textbook Proportions: Height to Width Ratios
Paper Production
Paper of Laid Construction
Paper of Wove Construction
Flocculency of Paper
Paper Color
Paper Thickness
Sizing and Burnishing
"Wove-Like" Paper in Manuscripts of the Period 839-48 / 1435-36 to 1444-45

3. Illustration
An Overview of Shiraz Styles
The Basic Shirazi Mode of Painting
Injuid Paintings
Muzaffarid-Style Paintings
Paintings of the Early Timurid, Pre-Iskander Era
Paintings of Iskandar Sultan
Paintings from the Time of Ibrahim Sultan to 1452
Modes of Illustration
Ettinghausen's Literary Model for the Categorization of Persian Painting
The Case of Ibrahim Sultan's Shahnama
The Layout of the Folio: The Integration of Text and Image
The Shahnama Manuscripts of Baysunghur and Ibrahim Sultan
Folio Layout in Other Manuscripts of the Fourteenth and Early Fifteenth Centuries
The Selection of Illustrations

4. Calligraphy
The Evolution of Nasta'liq Script
Persian Hanging Scripts
The Distringuishing Traits of Naskh and Nasta'liq
The Method of Analysis
The Corpus of Manuscripts
Results of the Script Analysis
Supporting Documentation
An Overview of the Development of Natsa'liq

5. Bookbinding
Binding Decoration in the Fourteenth Century
Binding Decoration in the First Decade of the Fifteenth Century
Shiraz versus Herat: Bindings from the Time of Ibrahim Sultan and Baysunghur
The Tooled Bindings of Shiraz

6. A Chronological Overview
The Origins of the Classical Persian Manuscript: Changes of the Late 1350s and 1360s
The Cultural and Political Milieu of Fourteenth-Century Shiraz
Shiraz as a Center of Innovation
The Period of Change under Iskandar Sultan
The Decade of Change Following the Death of Ibrahim Sultan

1. Textblock Formats
2. Shahnama Translations
3. The Distribution of Text Illustrations in Shahnama Manuscripts
4. Script Analysis Tables for Individual Manuscripts
5. Manuscripts and Single Folios Cited


"The publication of Elaine Wright's pioneering [work] is a milestone in the history of the Islamicarts of the book. It is a truly comprehensive survey, based on a large corpus of manuscripts, of production at Shiraz between 1300 and 1452, a period that saw the steady evolution of the book as precious object."
-J.M. Rogers, Burlington Magazine