Bifolium from the Blue Qur’an, North Africa or Spain, 9th - 10th century kufic script in gold ink on parchment dyed blue
This bifolium comes from a unique manuscript of the Qur’an that was one of the most exquisite and extraordinary creations of mediaeval Islam, and is one of the wonders of Muslim calligraphy. This manuscript, known as the Blue Qur’an, was produced at great expense, as is evident from the use of chrysography and the dyeing of the parchment. Written in gold kufic script on parchment dyed deep blue with indigo, this colour scheme is not to be found on any other Qur’an manuscripts. Its sumptuousness and rarity make it unlikely that this Qur’an was anything other than a royal production, made either for a caliph or as a caliphal donation to a major religious centre.
Its oblong horizontal format is characteristic of early Qur’ans, as is the lack of diacritical marks, and though their absence might diminish legibility, it enhances grace. Vertical letters have been compacted, and curving letters have been compressed so that the 15 lines of script emphasise horizontality and create a stately image as regal as the colours chosen. This bifolium was originally joined in a quire with another double-page, which accounts for the fact that the text is not sequential. The text is Sura al-Furqan, verses 48-60 and Sura al-Shu‘ara’, verses 52-77.
There is some scholarly debate about the manuscript's origins. It has been suggested that this Qur’an was produced in Spain; however, an origin in Ifriqiya is more likely. On the basis of historical and palaeographical evidence, it has been suggested that this manuscript was produced for the Fatimid imam-caliphs, who ruled North Africa directly from Qayrawan during the first half of the 10th century.