Houghton-Medieval Studies Lecture in Early Book History


Monday, February 25, 2019, 5:30pm to 6:30pm


The Edison and Newman Room, Houghton Library
Dr. Simon Rettig (Assistant Curator of Islamic Art, Freer | Sackler Galleries), Praying for the Ottoman Sultan: A New Look at Manuscripts of Selected Surahs after 1500. Free and open to the public; please RSVP here. This event is co-sponsored by the Committee on Medieval Studies and the Houghton Library.

The early sixteenth-century Ottoman realm saw an unprecedented surge of the production of copies comprising one or a few selected chapters of the Qur’an. Commissioned by the sultan and members of the elite, these volumes were created in court workshops and penned by the most celebrated master calligraphers, namely Shaykh Hamdullah (d. 1520) and Ahmad Qarahisari (d. 1566). Through an investigation of the physical characteristics of such codices, this paper aims at showing how they differ from complete copies of the Qur’an in terms of conception and layout. It demonstrates eventually how codicology can uncover the original usage of these selections of surahs and thereby the implementation of novel pietistic practices in the Ottoman imperial context.

About the speaker: Dr. Simon Rettig is Assistant Curator for Islamic Art at the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, DC. A specialist of the arts of the book in the Islamic world, he curated the exhibitions Nasta‘liq: The Genius of Persian Calligraphy (2014), The Art of the Qur’an: Treasures from the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts (2016) and The Prince and the Shah: Royal Portraits from Qajar Iran (2018). Rettig is the co-editor of the catalogue A Collector’s Passion: Ezzat-Malek Soudavar and Persian Lacquer (2017) and of the forthcoming volume The Word Illuminated: Forms and Functions of Qur’anic Manuscripts.