The “Qur'ān Of ʿUthmān” At The Egyptian National Library (Dār Al-Kutub Al-Misrīyya), Cairo, Egypt, From 1st / 2nd Century Hijra
© Islamic Awareness, All Rights Reserved.
First Composed: 3rd September 2009
Last Updated: 6th September 2009
Assalamu ʿalaykum wa rahamatullahi wa barakatuhu:
Figures: (a) Ms. 139, sūrah 5:80-83. (b) Ms. 139, sūrah 5:87-5:89. (c) Ms. 139, sūrah 5:92-5:95. (d) Ms. 139, sūrah 5:96-5:100. (e) Ms. 139, sūrah 5:107-5:110. (f) Arabe 324c, f. 39, sūrah 75:29-40.
Late 1st century / early 2nd century of hijra.
Hussein dates this manuscript to the 7th century CE. Moritz dates this manuscript to the 1st / 2nd century hijra. Déroche gives three dates for this manuscript, the beginning of the 2nd century hijra / 8th century CE, the middle of the 2nd century hijra / 8th century CE and the latter half of the 2nd century hijra / 8th century CE, although it is not clear which of these dates he prefers. Von Bothmer dates this manuscript to the 2nd century hijra / 8th century CE. On the basis of a privately held fragment of the Qur'an carbon dated to the 7th century CE (609-694 CE with a 95.2% confidence level) showing similar script, textual aids and illumination, Dutton dated Arabic Palaeography Plates 1-12 (i.e., Ms. 139) to a roughly similar timeframe, i.e., the Umayyad period.
Ms. 139 (Cairo); Ms. Arabe. 324a, 324b, 324c, 324d (Paris); Ms. Orient. A. 462 (Gotha).
Size & Folios
The size of the folios varies slightly with approximate dimensions of 53 x 63 cm, although the folios are heavily cropped and would have originally measured roughly 53 x 68 cm. Writing surface approximately 47-48 x 55-56 cm. This manuscript is another example of a large format Qur'an with 12 lines per page containing a significant number of extant folios. It was the largest manuscript examined by Déroche in his catalogue of early Qur'anic manuscripts held at the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris.
Total number of folios: 306 folios = 562 folios preserved at the Egyptian National Library, Cairo, including 248 folios on true parchment, 34 folios on fake parchment, 61 folios from another Qur'an and 219 folios written on paper completed in 1830 CE (Ms. 139) + 46 folios preserved in Paris (Ms. Arabe. 324a, 324b, 324c, 324d) + 12 folios preserved in Gotha (Ms. Orient. A. 462). Déroche estimates this manuscript would have originally contained more than 600 folios.
History Of The Manuscript
When it was resolved that a museum should be established in Gotha, Ernest II, Duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg (d. 1804) endowed Ulrich Jaspar Seetzen (d. 1811), German physician and explorer, with considerable material means and sums of money in order to purchase any interesting objects related to the arts, religion and literature, during his travels in the middle east. During his time in Cairo, Seetzen "purchased" 1574 manuscripts, 3536 archaeological objects and numerous other biological and geological specimens. It was around about this time Seetzen disguised himself as a Muslim in order to gain the confidence of the Egyptians and Arabs. On the 17th January 1809, Seetzen entered the ʿAmr b. al-ʿĀs mosque, Fustāt, with the intention of "purchasing" ancient manuscripts of the Qur'an but failed. A contemporary of his with similar interests, Jean-Louis Asselin de Cherville (d. 1822), consular agent of France in Egypt, fared much better, seen by the 46 folios of this manuscript preserved in Paris today. The 12 folios presently held in Gotha were apparently conveyed there by Seetzen, who, it appears, either bought or was gifted them from Cherville.
Scholars interested in ancient manuscripts of the Qur'an that make mention of this important manuscript are very seldom aware of all its constituent parts. Usually, only certain sections of this manuscript are discussed in contemporary publications (most notably Arabic Palaeography, Plates 1-12) to the exclusion of the rest. A good example of this can be seen in an encyclopaedia entry published this year whereby the entry on "Illumination" sub-section ‘Manuscripts of the Koran’ assigns Ms. 139 and Ms Arabe 324a as belonging to the same manuscript, without showing any knowledge of the other sections.
Script & Ornamentation
Kufic. According to his typology of early Qur'anic scripts, Déroche has assigned this manuscript the category CIa. Letter forms in this category are very close to those of Ḥijāzī IV. The form of hā in this manuscript is very similar indeed to that found in the inscriptions on the Dome of the Rock dating from 72 AH / 691 CE.
This manuscript is written on parchment with 12 lines per page showing the presence of line fillers to complete certain lines. The script is slightly sloping backwards with tall ascenders and is strongly reminiscent of the type of well executed kufic script exhibited during the Umayyad period. There is no vocalisation and a very limited amount of consonantal pointing (i.e., diacritical marks) – on some folios there are no diacritical marks at all. Multi-coloured (e.g., red, green, black, brown) diagonally arranged dashes are usually used to indicate verse-endings. Groups of five verses are marked with medallions and square cartouches containing quatrefoil emblems are used to indicate groups of ten verses. There are some arcaded bands that separate sūrahs without mentioning the name of the sūrah, some containing triangular-shaped crenellations. A modern cursive hand has added Arabic text at the top and bottom of each folio identifying the first and last verse.
There are good number of other Qur'ans [such as the ones at St. Petersburg, two in Istanbul (Topkapi Library and TIEM), Cairo and Samarqand] having at times turned up in different parts of the Islamic world, almost all purporting to show the traces of the blood of the third caliph ʿUthmān upon certain pages, and thus the genuine ʿUthmānic Qur'an, the imām, which he was reading at the time of his death. Considering the palaeographic considerations, this Qur'an does not belong to time of the third caliph ʿUthmān.
The contents of the manuscript, as tabulated below, are gathered from the published material. They are arranged according to the folio number of Ms. 139 given by Shebunin as well as in the numerical order of the sūrahs. Only the folios written on true parchment are considered here. Other manuscripts from the same codex are added to maintain the continuity of the sūrah order. Shebunin's indexing of the verse numbers on the folios have some errors which need to be corrected by checking the original codex. Some of them have been indicated by asterisk, i.e., ‘*’, next to the verse numbers.
|Folio No.||Qur'anic Sūrah||Manuscript||Image Publication|
|–||3:104-113, 120-133, 180-187||Arabe 324a||–|
|–||4:3-9, 24-29, 36-42||Arabe 324a||–|
|–||4:11-12, 89-92, 122-128||Arabe 324c||–|
|66 - 72||4:128-171*||Ms. 139||–|
|–||5:2-23, 41-45||Arabe 324c||–|
|83 - 93||5:59-114*||Ms. 139||Islamic Awareness, 2009|
|96 - 97||6:8-25||Ms. 139||–|
|99 - 107||6:33-94||Ms. 139||–|
|252 - 255||18:22-54*||Ms. 139||–|
|257 - 258||18:62-82*||Ms. 139||–|
|269 - 273||20:50-102||Ms. 139||–|
|278 - 288||21:9-22:13||Ms. 139||–|
|298 - 300||23:25-67||Ms. 139||–|
|307 - 313||24:14-56*||Ms. 139||–|
|320 - 322||25:36-65*||Ms. 139||–|
|324 - 327||25:74-26:44||Ms. 139||–|
|330 - 338||26:84-27:22||Ms. 139||–|
|340 - 341||27:34-49*||Ms. 139||–|
|343 - 344||27:60-82*||Ms. 139||–|
|351 - 360||28:64-29:53||Ms. 139||–|
|365 - 367||30:30-54*||Ms. 139||–|
|369 - 374||31:5-32:19*||Ms. 139||–|
|376 - 382||32:27-33:38||Ms. 139||–|
|384 - 388||33:49-34:6*||Ms. 139||–|
|398 - 402||36:2-71*||Ms. 139||–|
|404 - 454||37:1-43:51||Ms. 139||Moritz, 1905, Pl. 1-2 (end of sūrah 37 beginning of sūrah 38)|
|–||43:51-46:14||Ms. Orient. A. 462||von Bothmer, 1997, f. 3b (sūrah 43:85-44:3), f. 6b-7a (sūrah 44:52-45:7), f. 11a (sūrah 45:37-46:4)|
|461 - 476||46:15-49:13*||Ms. 139||Moritz, 1905, Pl. 4 and Pl. 5 (end of sūrah 46 beginning of sūrah 47), Pl. 6 (end of sūrah 48 beginning of sūrah 49)|
|480 - 486||51:1-53:39*||Ms. 139||–|
|488 - 490||54:2-55||Ms. 139||–|
|493 - 505||55:75-58:22||Ms. 139||Moritz, 1905, Pl. 7 (end of sūrah 56 beginning of sūrah 57)|
|507 - 529||59:10-68:51||Ms. 139||Moritz, 1905, Pl. 8 (end of sūrah 59 beginning of sūrah 60), Pl. 9 (end of sūrah 63 beginning of sūrah 64), Pl. 10 (end of sūrah 65 beginning of sūrah 66), Pl. 11 (end of sūrah 66 beginning of sūrah 67)|
|–||68:51-72:16||Arabe 324c||Déroche, 2004, f.32, (end of sūrah 69 beginning of sūrah 70)|
|–||75:1-76:22||Arabe 324c||Déroche, 2004, f.39, (end of sūrah 75)|
|542 - 543||79:1-80:8||Ms. 139||–|
|545||81:4-?? (damaged)||Ms. 139||–|
|547||83:2-83:23 (damaged)||Ms. 139||–|
|549 - 551||84:8-87:1||Ms. 139||Moritz, 1905, Pl. 12 (end of sūrah 86 beginning of sūrah 87)|
|553 - 554||89:5-90:16*||Ms. 139||–|
Dār al-Kutub al-Misriyya, Cairo; Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris; Forschungsbibliothek, Gotha.
We would like to thank Dār al-Kutub al-Misrīyya, Cairo, for providing some images of the manuscript.
 M. A. Hussein (Trans. D. Jaeschke & D. Sharp), Origins Of The Book: Egypt's Contribution To The Development Of The Book From Papyrus To Codex, 1972, New York Graphics Society Ltd., Greenwich: Connecticut (Original German Edition, 1970: Leipzig), p. 91, p. 106 & p. 130.
 B. Moritz (Ed.), Arabic Palaeography: A Collection Of Arabic Texts From The First Century Of The Hidjra Till The Year 1000, 1905, Publications of the Khedivial Library - No. 16, Cairo, Plates 1-12.
 F. Déroche (Trans. D. Dusinberre & D. Radzinowicz, Ed. M. I. Waley), Islamic Codicology: An Introduction To The Study Of Manuscripts In Arabic Script, 2006, Al-Furqān Islamic Heritage Foundation Publication - No. 102, Al-Furqān Islamic Heritage Foundation: London (UK), p. 114, footnote 77.
 ibid., p. 122.
 ibid., p. 14.
 H-C. G. Von Bothmer, "Korane" in Orientalische Buchkunst In Gotha: Ausstellung Zum 350jährigen Jubiläum Der Forschungs- Und Landesbibliothek Gotha (Spiegelsaal 11. September 1997 bis 14. Dezember 1997), 1997, Forschungs- Und Landesbibliothek Gotha Gesamtherstellung: Gotha Druck Und Verpackung GmbH & Co. KG, p. 105.
 Y. Dutton, "An Umayyad Fragment Of The Qur'an And Its Dating", Journal Of Qur'anic Studies, 2007, Volume 9, No. 2, p. 76.
 F. Déroche, Catalogue Des Manuscrits Arabes: Deuxième Partie: Manuscrits Musulmans - Tome I, 1: Les Manuscrits Du Coran: Aux Origines De La Calligraphie Coranique, 1983, Bibliothèque Nationale: Paris, pp. 75-77 & p. 143; idem., "Manuscripts Of The Qur’ān" in J. D. McAuliffe (Gen. Ed.), Encyclopaedia Of The Qur'ān, 2003, Volume Three (J – O), Koninklijke Brill NV: Leiden (The Netherlands), p. 261.
 F. Déroche, Catalogue Des Manuscrits Arabes: Deuxième Partie: Manuscrits Musulmans - Tome I, 1: Les Manuscrits Du Coran: Aux Origines De La Calligraphie Coranique, 1983, op. cit., p. 19.
 A. N. Shebunin, "Kuficheskii Koran Khedivskoi Biblioteki V Kaire", Zapiski Vostochnago Otdeleniia Imperatorskago Russkago Arkheologicheskago Obshchestva, 1902, Volume 14, pp. 120-125.
 F. Déroche, Catalogue Des Manuscrits Arabes: Deuxième Partie: Manuscrits Musulmans - Tome I, 1: Les Manuscrits Du Coran: Aux Origines De La Calligraphie Coranique, 1983, op. cit., pp. 75-77 & p. 142.
 H-C. G. Von Bothmer, "Korane" in Orientalische Buchkunst In Gotha: Ausstellung Zum 350jährigen Jubiläum Der Forschungs- Und Landesbibliothek Gotha (Spiegelsaal 11. September 1997 bis 14. Dezember 1997), 1997, op. cit., p. 106; W. Pertsch, Die Arabischen Handschriften Der Herzoglichen Bibliothek Zu Gotha: Auf Befehl Sr. Hoheit Des Herzogs Ernst II. Von Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha, 1878, Band I, Friedrich Andreas Perthes: Gotha, pp. 395-396 (Ms. 462).
 F. Déroche, "Manuscripts Of The Qur’ān" in J. D. McAuliffe (Gen. Ed.), Encyclopaedia Of The Qur'ān, 2003, Volume Three (J – O), op. cit., p. 261.
 "Seetzen, Ulrich Jaspar" in The Penny Cyclopædia, 1841, Volume XXI (Scanderoon – Signet), Charles Knight and Co., London, p. 184; Asselin de Chervillé, "Lettre De M. Asselin De Chervillé, À M. Dacier", Magasin Encyclopédique, Ou Journal Des Sciences, Des Lettres Et Des Arts, 1815, Tome III, p. 88; H-C. G. Von Bothmer, "Korane" in Orientalische Buchkunst In Gotha: Ausstellung Zum 350jährigen Jubiläum Der Forschungs- Und Landesbibliothek Gotha (Spiegelsaal 11. September 1997 bis 14. Dezember 1997), 1997, op. cit., p. 106.
For a romanticised account of the misappropriation of hundreds of ancient Qur'anic manuscripts from Egypt, see D. S. Powers, Muhammad Is Not The Father Of Any Of Your Men: The Making Of The Last Prophet, 2009, University of Pennsylvania Press, pp. 166-167. The fact Seetzen was informed by a member of the mosque that Qur'anic manuscripts could not be purchased due to their status as religious endowments is seemingly brushed aside as a diversion awaiting a solution; the services of Cherville, a French colonial administrator, are utilised and he succeeds where Seetzen fails.
 "Illumination" in J. M. Bloom & S. S. Blair (Eds.), The Grove Encyclopedia Of Islamic Art And Architecture, 2009, Volume 2 (Delhi - Mosque), Oxford University Press, p. 186. It would appear the first scholar to highlight the totality of this manuscript was Hans-Casper Graf von Bothmer in an article published in 1997 (see above).
 Summarised from Y. Dutton, "An Umayyad Fragment Of The Qur'an And Its Dating", Journal Of Qur'anic Studies, 2007, Volume 9, No. 2, op. cit., pp. 75-76; F. Déroche, Catalogue Des Manuscrits Arabes: Deuxième Partie: Manuscrits Musulmans - Tome I, 1: Les Manuscrits Du Coran: Aux Origines De La Calligraphie Coranique, 1983, op. cit., pp. 75-77 & p. 142; idem., The Abbasid Tradition: Qur'ans Of The 8th To The 10th Centuries AD, 1992, The Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, Volume I, Oxford University Press, p. 36 & pp. 40-41; H-C. G. Von Bothmer, "Korane" in Orientalische Buchkunst In Gotha: Ausstellung Zum 350jährigen Jubiläum Der Forschungs- Und Landesbibliothek Gotha (Spiegelsaal 11. September 1997 bis 14. Dezember 1997), 1997, op. cit., pp. 105-107.
 A. N. Shebunin, "Kuficheskii Koran Khedivskoi Biblioteki V Kaire", Zapiski Vostochnago Otdeleniia Imperatorskago Russkago Arkheologicheskago Obshchestva, 1902, op. cit., pp. 121-125.
 F. Déroche, Le Livre Manuscrit Arabe: Préludes À Une Histoire, 2004, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, p. 100.
 F. Déroche, Le Livre Manuscrit Arabe: Préludes À Une Histoire, 2004, op. cit., p. 105; E. Tisserant, Specimina Codicvm Orientalivm, 1914, Tabvlae In Vsvm Scholarvm - 8, A. Marcvs Et E. Weber: Bonnae & Apvd Parker Et Filivm: Oxoniae, Plate 42.The images above are reproduced from the stated sources under the provisions of the copyright law. This allows for the reproduction of portions of copyrighted material for non-commercial, educational purposes.
With the exception for those images which have passed into the public domain, the use of these images for commercial purposes is expressly prohibited without the consent of the copyright holder.
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