Historic manuscript is a real page turner

Antonia Lovelace, curator of world cultures at Leeds Museums and Galleries
Antonia Lovelace, curator of world cultures at Leeds Museums and Galleries
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Two stunning pages taken from an 800-year-old copy of the Qur’an will go on show for the first time this week in a new display looking at the Islamic faith.

Exhibited in Leeds City Museum’s Voices of Asia gallery, the pages will be the highlight of Faith in Focus - Islam, which opens tomorrow, a week after the festival of Eid al Fitr at the end of Ramadan.

A page taken from an 800-year-old copy of the Qur'an on show at Leeds City Museum.

A page taken from an 800-year-old copy of the Qur'an on show at Leeds City Museum.

Taken from a 13th century copy of the text, both pages were bought in 1951 from art collector Frank Savery, with their age and origin confirmed at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum last year.

Specialist remounting by conservator Richard Hawkes has allowed both sides of the pages, which mainly show Surah’s 29 and 30, to be viewed by experts for the first time.

Members of the public will be able to view the framed pages alongside a specially-prepared presentation showing the alternate side of each one.

Richard said: “This is the earliest example of paper that I have worked on, all earlier pieces I have come across have been parchment or papyrus.

“It was an honour to remount such beautiful burnished paper with its ink calligraphy where the black is due to iron as well as carbon, the gold is gold leaf and the blue is ultramarine.”

Leeds Museums and Galleries Curator of World Cultures, Antonia Lovelace, said: “It’s marvellous to see the other side of these Qur’an pages for the first time, and to know that we can display the pages more safely and appropriately in the new display.”

The display, in one case of the Voices of Asia gallery at Leeds City Museum, will run for a year.

Other key items will include a fragment of the Kiswa cloth that covers the Kaaba in Mecca from 1917 and white Ihram cloths worn by a donor recently on the Hajj pilgrimage.

Earlier this week, an Islamic manuscript, which is held by the University of Birmingham, was identified as one of the world’s oldest fragments of the Qur’an.

Radiocarbon analysis has dated the now “globally significant” parchment bearing the text to a period between AD 568 and 645 with 95.4 per cent accuracy.

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