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Glossary of Terms

A dynasty of Caliphs ruling from 750 (132 H) to 1258 (656H). The second ‘Abbasid caliph, al-Mansur (reg. 754-775) can be considered the architect of the medieval Islamic empire, and he moved the administrative capital from Damascus, in Syria, to Baghdad on the Tigris River in Iraq. In the 9th and 10th centuries Baghdad became the largest and wealthiest city in the world outside of China. The ‘Abbasid court patronized the translation into Arabic of Greek, Persian, and Sanskrit texts, including many medical ones.
See article "‘Abbasids" by B. Lewis in EI (2nd ed.), vol. 1, pp. 15-23; article "Abbasids" by Nassar Rabat in Late Antiquity: A guide to the Postclassical World, ed. G. W. Bowersock, Peter Brown, and Oleg Graver (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1999), pp. 273-274; and Clifford Edmund Bosworth, The New Islamic Dynasties: A chronological and genealogical manual (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1996), pp. 6-11.
Abjad letter-numerals are the letters of the Arabic alphabet given numerical values. They could thus be used in various combinations to represent any number from 1 to 1999. It is not a place-notational system, for their value does not depend upon their position relative to one another. Thus the number 652 would be represented by the letters kha', [= 600], nun [= 50], and ba' [= 2], no matter in what order the letters were arranged. The name abjad comes from the first four letters in the sequence to which values 1, 2, 3, and 4 were assigned, that is, letters, alif, ba', jim, and dal. The symbol for zero was derived from Greek astronomical and mathematical manuscripts where a symbol was often used as an abbreviation for the Greek word ouden, meaning "nothing". The letter-numerals for numbers 1 through 50 were the same throughout the Islamic lands, but there were differences between the Western areas and the Eastern when it came to assigning letters to the remaining values, as can be seen in the following table:
A three column table showing how Arabic numerals were named and written. The left column shows Eastern and Western letter numerals for one through 50. The center column shows the Eastern Arabic areas numerals from sixty through one thousand. The right column shows the Western Arabic areas numerals from sixty through one thousand.

Arabic numerals
The term "Arabic numerals" is used here to refer to a numerical system employing numerals of a style still current throughout the Arabic and Persian-speaking worlds. These numerals were ultimately derived from an early Hindu system and came to form the basis of the numerals used today in Europe and throughout most of the Western world. The shape of many of the numerals differs from what in Europe are usually called "Arabic numerals". The numerals are used in a place-notational system, so that the numbers 1 through 21 and 99-105 have the following appearance in true Arabic numerals:
Handwritten note of Arabic numbers numbers 1 through 21 and 99-105.

Ideas attributable to the Greek philosopher and scholar Aristotle (d. 322 BC).
The name of a dynasty founded by Salah al-Din ibn Ayyub, known to Europe as Saladin. From 1169 (564 H) to 1250 (648 H) the Ayyubids ruled Egypt and Syria. In some regions of upper Mesopotamia and the Yemen their rule continued to the end of the 15th century. See the article "Ayyubids" by Cl. Cahen in EI (2nd ed.), vol. 1, pp. 796-806.
The formula bi-ism Allah al-raman al-rahim "In the name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful." This formula almost always begins a treatise, and it is sometimes placed within the illuminated opening of a treatise.
Bifolium (pl. bifolia)
A piece of paper folded in half to produce two leaves (i.e., four pages). A number of bifolia (usually 8 or 10) were stacked and sewn together to form a quire.
Islamic bindings consisted not only of two covers and a spine, but also a fore-edge flap attached to the back cover and an envelope flap attached to the fore-edge flap. By this design, the fore-edge of the manuscript would be covered when the volume was closed, and the envelope flap would lie on top of the front cover (or sometimes underneath the front cover). Islamic manuscripts were traditionally stored horizontally rather than vertically.
The seepage of ink from one side of a folio through to the reverse side of the leaf.
A tooled or stamped design on a leather binding which has been left without further embellishment-- that is, there is no gilt or painted decoration on the stamped design.
A technique for stamping a large design onto leather using a block of wood, metal, or stone in which the entire design has been incised. A design stamped in this way is also called block-stamped. The medallions and pendants occurring on the covers of bindings were usually block-stamped. A doublure was sometimes formed of block-pressed leather in which the blocked design is repeated over the entire surface area of the leather before it is incorporated into the binding.
See, Block-pressed
Boards are the inside supports for the stiff covers at the front and back of a book. Pasteboards covered with leather was common in the Islamic world, though lacquered papier-mâché were frequently used in Persia from the sixteenth-century onwards.
Bounding lines
The marginal lines supplied during ruling to guide the justification of the text.
The surfaces of many Islamic papers have a glossy and shiny appearance due to the process of sizing and burnishing. After the paper was sized, it was then vigorously rubbed with a hard and smooth object to produce a polished surface on the paper. This process is known as burnishing, and a paper is said to be highly burnished if the surface is very smooth and highly polished. The burnishing implement varied in form and material; a pestle-like tool with a large, rounded head was sometimes used, as well as various polished stones with rounded edges and large oval glass balls.
Buwayhid or Buyid
The name of the most important dynasty to control the Iranian plateau and Iraq between the early Arab conquest and the Turkish conquest of the 11th century. Its name derives from the Buwayh (also written Buyah), the father of the three brothers who founded the dynasty. See Cl Cahen, 'Buwayhids or Buyids' in EI (2nd ed.), vol. 1, pp. 1350-7.
c. or ca.
An abbreviation for circa, a Latin term meaning "about," used before a date.
The title of khalifah or 'Caliph' (literally, 'he who follows'or 'successor') was first assumed by the four immediate successors to the Prophet Muhammad as temporal leaders of the emerging Muslim community (known as the Orthodox caliphs). The rulers of subsequent early Islamic dynasties were also considered caliphs, with the ‘Abbasid caliphate in Iraq lasting until 1258/658 H. At the same time, the Fatimid dynasty in Egypt made rival claims to the caliphate from 909 to 1171 (296-567 H), while in Spain at Cordoba the Umayyad dynasty also claimed the caliphate from 775 to 1236 (159-633 H). After 1258, the caliphs excercised increasingly diminished authority, and political power passed to the secular heads of state. See the article "Khalifa" by D. Sourdel and others in EI (2nd ed.), vol. 4, pp. 937-953.
The rule or institution of the caliph.
A person (called al-khattat in Arabic) who specialized in particularly decorative and elaborate froms of writing Arabic, Persian, or Turkish script.
A letter that never carried a dot (see diacritical dots) was called in Arabic a muhmad-letter. These letters were sometimes distinguised from a letter which should have a diacritical dot by the placement of a small v-shaped symbol or small tick over the letter. The small tick is sometimes called a "caron", from the typesetting term used in printing some European language that require a small v-shaped symbol over a letter.
A word written at the bottom of a page (usually at the lower left corner of the verso or back side) that repeats the first word of the following page. The catchwords were used to make certain the leaves making up a treatise were in the correct order. Occasionally they were written only at the end of a quire rather than on every page.
Chain lines
Lines visible in some papers as a result of the paper mould. Chain lines are positioned at right angles to laid lines in the paper. In Islamic papers the chain lines are either irregularly spaced or, if regularly spaced, are arranged in groups of 2's (on the oldest papers until the beginning of the 13th century) or 3's (beginning in the 1200's and then dominating) or alternating groups of 2's and 3's (introduced around the 1380's in Syria and Palestine). Chain lines never occur singly except when the paper is watermarked, in which case the paper is probably of European origin.
A chronogram is a date given in a disguised form - most often one in which the numerical value of the letters (in the abjad letter-number system) forming the title (or a phrase), when added together, produce a date. This convention occurs most often in Persian treatises and manuscripts.
An example is NLM MS P 10, where the numerical value of the letters forming the title ‘ilaj al-amrad ('The Treatment of Diseases'), when added together, produce the sum 1181. That is, the letter ‘ = 70, l = 30, a = 1, j = 7, a = 1, l = 30, a = 1, m = 40, r = 200, a = 1, and the emphatic d = 800. The sum 1181 is then interpreted as the year in the Muslim calendar.
This method of indicating dates was used in early Persian poetry, but only in the 15th century did the construction of chronograms become truly popular. Authors would then demonstrate their skill in constructing intricate chronograms not just in poetry, but in inscriptions on stone or on instruments, in prose compositions, and even in scientific writings. See the excellent introduction to the subject, with bibliography, by J.T.P. de Bruijn, 'Chronograms' in EnIran, vol. 5, pp. 550-1.
Occasionally in particularly elegant or illuminated copies, individual lines of text will be enclosed by inked scalloped frames. This area enclosing a line of text is referred to as a "cloud-band", and often the area outside the cloud-band will be filled by a contrasting color or gilt.
see, Collation.
A comparison of the text after it was copied with another copy in order to make certain the readings were as correct as possible. A scribe making a comparison of two copies would often note in the margin where he temporarily stopped his comparison (where he would write the Arabic word muqabalah or balagha), so that he could start at that point after taking a break. Occasionally a scribe notes at the end of the copy that he compared his transcription with a particularly old or important copy. When such annotations by the scribe occur in a manuscript, then it is said that the manuscript was collated.
An inscription written at the end of a treatise (or a section of a treatise), in which the copyist records the date on which he completed the copy and sometimes also his name and in what town he was working. Other information can also be included in a colophon, such as the fact that the copyist compared the copy with another important copy to get the best readings.
Coptic calendar
Coptic Christians recorded years according to the era of Diocletian (sanat Diqlityanus al-Malik, in Arabic), which they often called 'the era of the martyrs' (ta'rikh al-shuhada') because of the execution of Christian martyrs by the Roman emperor Diocletian. This Coptic calendar (al-ta'rikh al-Qubti) begins reckoning with the 29th of August, 284 AD.
For this calendric system, see F.C. de Blois, 'vi. The Coptic Calendar' in EI (2nd ed.), vol. 10, p. 261. For the relationship of the Coptic calendar to other calendric systems, see Wüstenfeld-Mahler'sche Vergleichungs-Tabellen, ed. by Joachim Mayer and Bertold Spuler (Wiesbaden: Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft, 1961). For the Coptic communities, see A.S. Atiya, 'Kibt' in EI (2nd edition), vol. 5, pp. 90-95.
Coptic numerals
A distinctive form of numeral was employed by Coptic Christian communities, particularly when giving dates in the Coptic calendar. For the numerals, see Alexis Mallon, Grammarie Copte, 4th edition (Beirut: Impr. Catholique, 1956), p. 234.
see, Scribe
An abbreviation for "died."
Devanagari script
The alphabet usually employed when writing Sanskrit as well as some other Indian languages. It is the literary type of a group of alphabets commonly designated as Nagari, a name also applied on occasion to Devanagari script. See David Diringer, The Alphabet: A Key to the History of Mankind (London: Hutchinson's Scientific and Technical Publications, 1948), pp. 358-68.
Diacritical dots
In the Arabic and Persian script, there are a number of letters that are distinguished from one another only by having one or more dots above or below the letter. These dots are referred to as diacritcal dots, and they are often missing in early manuscripts, which makes the reading difficult and uncertain. A manuscript, or passage within it, is referred to as being undotted when it lacks diacritical dots entirely, or partially dotted when only some of the diacritical dots occur.
The height of the paper in a manuscript is given first, then the width. The dimensions of the written space -- the text area -- is supplied in parentheses, for most manuscripts have had their edges trimmed during rebinding and are no longer their original size. The dimensions are given in centimeters.
see, Diacritical dots
The lining of the covers of a binding or the lining of an envelope flap. This lining could be made of cloth, paper (often marbled), or leather.
One or more blank leaves at the beginning and end of a volume, They serve to protect the text and are also sometimes called flyleaves. The expression "modern endpapers" means that the endpapers were probably placed there at the time of the last rebinding.
Envelope flap
That portion of an Islamic binding, usually triangular in shape that wraps around the manuscript to as to lie on top of the front cover when the volume is closed. It was hinged to the fore-edge flap by the leather binding and was lined with cloth, paper, or leather. Its lining was also called a doublure.
Ex libris inscription
An inscription that records a book's inclusion in a library, either institutional or personal. In Islamic manuscripts, these can be hand-written or in the form of a stamped seal (and sometimes both occur for the same owner).
A manuscript from which another is copied.
A photographic reproduction of a manuscript for publication purposes.
The term Fatimid refers to the rulers of North Africa, Egypt and southern Syria between 909 and 1171 (297-567 H) and to the culture that flourished under their regime. The Fatimids entered Old Cairo (Fustat) in 969/358 and from there extended their rule into Palestine and Syria. At the time of the First Crusade at the end of the 11th century Jerusalem was taken from its Fatimid govenor, but by that time the Fatimid influence in Palestine and Syria had dwindled to essentially just the coastal towns. The Fatimid rulers proclaimed themselves true caliphs. Under Fatimid rule the society and the arts prospered, and there was considerable commercial contact with non-Muslim Mediteranean regions. For the Fatimid dynasty and culture, see the articles "Fatimids" (by M. Canard) and "Fatimid Art" (by G. Marçais) in EI (2nd ed.), vol. 2, pp. 850-864; and of Clifford Edmund Bosworth, The New Islamic Dynasties: A chronological and genealogical manual (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1996), pp. 63-64.
See, Frames
An abbreviation for floruit, a Latin term for the period or date at which a person lived or worked. It is used when the exact dates are unknown.
To mark the leaves of a manuscript or book with consecutive numbers.
A volume whose leaves have been marked with consecutive numbers.
The consecutive numbering of the leaves of a book or manuscript.
Folio (abbreviated, fol.)
A leaf of paper, one half of a bifolium. The front of a folio is referred to as the recto and the back as the verso. Since Arabic and Persian are languages that are read from right to left, when a volume is opened to a full opening (facing pages), the back, or verso, of one folio will be on the righthand side of the opening, and the front, or recto, of the following folio will be on the lefthand side. In Arabic and Persian manuscripts it is now the custom to designate the front of a folio by the letter "a" and the back of the folio be the letter "b". Most manuscripts when they were originally copied had unnumbered folios, and later owners or librarians have placed Western numerals in the upper left corners of the front of each leaf, giving one numeral to each folio. Thus folio numbers are different from page numbers, the latter occuring only occasionally in medieval manuscripts (and when they do occur, they were placed there by later owners). In Europe the term "folio" can also be used to designate a large volume size, but this usage is not found in the Islamic world.
Fore-edge flap
The portion of an Islamic binding that covers the fore-edge of the manuscript when the volume is closed. It was hinged to the back cover and to the envelope flap by the leather covering the boards composing the binding. It was lined with cloth, paper, or leather.
The occurrence of brown spots on the leaves of manuscripts or books, caused by damp interacting with impurities on the paper.
A general term referring to the border design near the edges of covers of bindings or envelope flaps. The frames could be composed of parallel thin lines (termed "fillets") as well as bands of tooled designs, usually composed of chain or s-shaped sequences or repetitions of floral patterns. The term "frame" can also refer to a border of parallel thin lines drawn around the text area in the manuscript itself. The lines composing the frame are usually drawn in colored inks, with the spaces between occasionally filled with gilding.
A manuscript whose papers have had their guidelines for the text area impressed upon them by the use of a ruling frame called in Arabic mistarah. See Ruled.
Ideas attributable to the Greek physician Galen, who lived in the 2nd century AD.
A type of fortune-telling or divination whose origins are obscure but that was well established in North Africa, Egypt, and Syria by the 12th century. The term "geomancy" comes from medieval Latin geomantia, first used in Spain in the 12th century as a translation of the Arabic name ‘ilm al-raml ("the science of sand"). The practice is to be distinguished from a Chinese form of prognostication based on landforms, also called "geomancy" in English, that is entirely unrelated to the Islamic art. The Islamic divination is accomplished by forming and then interpreting a design, called a "geomantic tableau", consisting of 16 positions, each of which is occupied by a geomantic "figure". The figures occupying the first four positions are determined by marking 16 horizontal lines of dots on a piece of paper. These horizontal lines of dots are usually referred to as "generating lines", and each row of dots is examined to determine if it is odd or even and is then represented by one or two dots accordingly. Each "figure" is then formed of a vertical column of four marks, each of which is either one or two dots. The first four figures, generated by lines made while the questioner concentrates on the question, are placed side by side in a row from right to left. From these four figures, the remaining twelve positions in the tableau are produced according to set procedures. Various interpretive methods were advocated by geomancers for reading the tableau, often depending on the nature of the question asked. There are only 16 possible geomantic "figures", and not all 16 can appear in a given tableau. These 16 "figures" were often arranged in certain sequences with specified attributes assigned to each (temperaments, planetary associations, etc.), and a sequence the 16 possible figures was known as a taskin. See E. Savage-Smith and M.B. Smith, Islamic Geomancy and a Thirteenth-Century Divinatory Device (Malibu,CA: UCLA Near Eastern Center, 1980); and E. Savage-Smith, "Geomancy", in The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World, ed. J.L. Esposito (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), pp. 53-55.
Pertaining to the practice of geomancy.
The application of gold decoration to the surface of a manuscript or to the stamped designs on a leather binding. It could be applied as an ink (in a powdered form) or in the form of gold leaf.
See, Gilding
A word or words commenting on or explaining part of the main text. They were often written in the margins or between the lines (interlinear).
A leaf of a manuscript whose inner edge has been pasted onto another, more recent, piece of paper in order to strength the inner edge and allow it to be bound in the volume. The leaf is thus no longer connected physically with the bi-folio or quire of which it was at one time an integral part.
The term guilloche can apply to any ornamental design formed of two or more bands or strings twisted over each other in a series, and in general can refer to any pattern made by interlacing curved lines. When describing Islamic bookbindings, the term is used for a border design on a leather binding, often referred to as a guilloche role border, which has the form of a twisted braid. Examples of a guilloche role border can be seen on the covers of MS A 41 {file IX-003}and MS A 33 {file XIII-003}. See Gulnar Bosch, John Carswell, and Guy Petherbridge, Islamic Bindings and Bookmaking: A Catalogue of an Exhibition, The Oriental Institute, The University of Chicago, May 18 - August 18, 1981 (Chicago: The Oriental Institute Museum, 1981), esp. pp. 208-9.
Ideas or treatises attributable to the Greek physician Hippocrates, who flourished in the 5th century BC.
A tradition or narrative relating deeds and utterances of the Prophet Muhammad and his Companions.
The headpiece is one of the terms used for illuss of one in VII-025 Sharif Khan 19th-cent Indian MS P 10.
Literally meaning "to make lawful," an ijazah was the authorization given by an author that a copy of his treatise is correct and can be transmitted to others. The authorization was usually written by the author himself at the end of a treatise.
Illuminated opening
A decorated panel above the start of a treatise (called an unwan) in Islamic manuscripts. The intricate painted design incorporated geometrical and floral motifs, and they could include a lozenge in which the title of the treatise would be written, for example, or the Basmalah would be inscribed.
From the Latin illuminare, "to enlighten or illuminate", an illumination is an embellishment of a manuscript with decorative designs using opaque watercolours and sometime gilding (either as ink or gold leaf). A miniature is sometimes referred to as an illumination. In the Islamic world, a panel above the beginning of a treatise was often decorated with a painted design composed of geometrical and floral motifs. See Illuminated opening. Occasionally the margins around both pages of a full opening were illuminated, with the text itself written within decorative cloud bands.
An artisan whose speciality was the painting of decorative devices and illuminated openings in manuscripts.
A high-ranking or esteemed religious authority. The term is sometimes used more generally for any greatly-respected figure of authority.
Laid lines
Closely-placed lines visible in most papers, resulting from the wires used to string the wooden frame in which the paper was molded.
Latin square
A Latin square, known in Arabic as wafq majazi, is a square containing cells in which each row and each column have the same set of symbols in distinction from a magic square in which there is no repetition.
A five column and row table showing a Latin square in which the letters from the word magic is written out in the top row and the letters are repeated but never in the same column.

Another name for a folio.
The folios comprising a manuscript.
The combining of two or more letters that are not ordinarily combined in Arabic and Persian.
Lithography is a process of printing invented by Alois Senefelder of Munich in 1796, in which greasy ink was used with a high-grade porous stone in a manner that resulted in the ink being rejected in all areas except that to be printed. The process was quickly adopted by all countries using Arabic script (India, Persia, the Ottoman Empire, and North Africa), for it permitted all the calligraphic and aesthetic features of a manuscript without the limitation of fonts and yet produced inexpensive multiple copies.
A text that has been printed by lithography.
Lunar mansions
The lunar mansions are 28 groups of stars, or asterisms, that reflect a pre-Islamic system of season- and weather-prediction by using certain prominent star groups. They played a large role in astrology, and the fact that there were 28 of them invited a magical association with the 28 letters of the Arabic alphabet and then with other items, such as the elements and seasons, with which the letter-numerals were associated. See E. Savage-Smith, Islamicate Celestial Globes: Their History, Construction, and Use [Smithsonian Studies in History and Technology, no. 46] (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1985), pp. 114-132.
A style of Arabic script that is characteristic of products of North Africa and (with slight modifications) Islamic Spain.
Magic square
The first appearance of a magic square (known in Arabic as wafq) in Islamic literature occurs in the group of writings attributed to Jabir ibn Hayyan, known in Europe as Geber, and generally thought to have been compiled at the end of the 9th or early 10th century A.D. The magic square, given as a charm of easing childbirth in the Jabirean corpus, is thought to be of Chinese origin. It consisted of nine cells with the numbers 1 to 9 arranged with 5 in the center so that the contents of each row, column and the two diagonals added up to 15. The numbers were written in the abjad letter-numerals, and because the four corners of this square contained the letters ba', dal, waw [or u], and ha', this particular square became known as the buduh square.
A nine cell square  with the numbers 1 to 9 arranged with 5 in the center so that the contents of each row, column and the two diagonals added up to 15. The numbers were written in the abjad letter-numerals. A nine cell square  with the numbers 1 to 9 arranged with 5 in the center so that the contents of each row, column and the two diagonals added up to 15. The numbers were written in letters. A nine cell square  with the numbers 1 to 9 arranged with 5 in the center so that the contents of each row, column and the two diagonals added up to 15. The numbers were written in the Western numerals.

So popular was this magic square that the name buduh itself was assigned talismanic properties. In subsequent years Islamic writers developed a variety of methods for forming larger magic squares, in which no numeral was repeated and the sums of each row and each column and the two diagonals were the same. Magic squares with cells 4x4 or 6x6 or 7x7 were particularly popular, with 10x10 squares being produced by the 13th century. By the 19th century 100x100 magic squares, with 10,000 individual cells, were being produced.
A dynasty of rulers succeeding the Ayyubid as governors of Egypt and Syria. The Mamluks ruled Egypt from 1250 to 1517 (648-922 H) and Syria from 1260 to 1516 (658-922 H). See the article "Mamluks" by P.M. Holt in EI (2nd ed.), vol. 6, pp. 321-331.
A design that is roughly almond-shaped. Medallions of this form frequently occur on bindings from Syria or Egypt.
Literally "handwritten," it designates a book or treatise written by hand -- that is, not printed by means of a printing press. It is abbreviated MS or ms in the singular, and MSS or mss for the plural.
The Latin word for "things in the margin," marginalia refers to any annotations, corrections, glosses, or diagrams that have been written in the margins. They can be written by the copyist himself, but more often they are annotations made by later owners and readers.
see, Manuscript.
A name given the Muslim rulers, or emperors, who controlled western India, with decreasing effectiveness, from 1526 to 1858 (932-1274 H). The founder of the dynasty was Babur, who was from Central Asia and defeated the sultan of Delhi in 1526. His successors established a strong regime in India, notable also for its patronage of the arts and contacts with Europe. See the article "Mughals" by J. Burton-Page and others in EI (2nd ed.), vol. 7, pp. 313-346.
The most common style of Arabic script as well as a common form of Persian script. It has no particular geographical or temporal significance, for this form of script can be found throughout the Islamic world, from India, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, the Yemen, North Africa, and Islamic Spain, though it occurs less commonly in North Africa. The correct term for the script is Naskh, and not Naskhi as is often written; see Adam Gacek, "Al-Nuwayri's classification of Arabic scripts", Manuscripts of the Middle East, vol. 2 (1987), pp. 126-130, esp. p. 128 nt 12.
A style of Arabic/Persian script combining elements of Naskh and Ta‘liq scripts. Its use is restricted to Eastern workshops.
A part of a person's name, usually the last part, often denoting the country or religious creed or lineage with which the family was associated.
Orthodox caliphs
The first four successors to the Prophet Muhammad as head of the Muslim community were known collectively as the "Orthodox" or the "Rightly-Guided" or "Patriarchal" caliphs (al-khulafa' al-rashidun). They served as temporal leaders of the emerging Muslim community from 632, following the death of the Prophet Muhammad to 661 AD. They were four of the Prophet Muhammad's Companions, closely related to him either through blood or through marriage, and assumed the title of Khalifah or Caliph (literally, "he who follows" or "successor").
See Clifford Edmund Bosworth, The New Islamic Dynasties: A chronological and genealogical manual (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1996), and Wilferd Madelung, The succession to Muhammad: A study of the early Caliphate (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).
Ottoman (or, ‘Othmanli)
The name of the rulers of the Turkish Empire from the late 13th century to 1924 (late 7th to 1342 H) and for the culture that flourished under their regime. The name appears in Europe as "Ottoman", though it is more accurately rendered as "‘Othmanli". See the article "‘Othmanli" by C.E. Bosworth and others in EI (2nd ed.), vol. 8, pp. 190-231; and Clifford Edmund Bosworth, The New Islamic Dynasties: A chronological and genealogical manual (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1996), pp. 239-242.
In Arabic and Persian scripts, single words or phrases were frequently highlighted by placing a line over (not under) the word or phrase. This overlining was sometimes drawn in red ink or another color to accentuate it.
To mark each page of a manuscript or book with consecutive numbers.
A volume whose pages have been individually marked with consecutive numbers.
The consecutive numbering of individual pages of a book or manuscript.
see, Boards
Paper linings for the front and back covers of bindings. The expression "modern pastedowns" means that they are of recent paper placed there at the time of the last rebinding.
Quire signatures
Quire signatures refer to the gatherings of bi-folios (most commonly 5) forming a quire. Thus, when the quire signatures are numbered, it means that each bi-folio within a quire is numbered.
Quires are "gatherings" of bifolia (pieces of paper folded in half to produce two leaves). Usually 4 or 5 bifolia were stacked together to form one quire. The quires were sometimes numbered so that the correct order would be maintained when the quires were stacked and sewn together to form the final volume.
The front side of a folio, usually designated as the "a" side of a folio when describing Arabic/Persian manuscripts. In Islamic manuscripts the "recto", or "a" side, is the left-hand page of an open volume, while in European manuscripts recto designates the right-hand page. See Folio.
To place new consecutive numbers on the leaves of a volume in order to correct or complete an earlier numbering of the leaves.
A volume whose leaves have been marked with a new set of consecutive numbers, thereby correcting an earlier numbering that was incorrect or incomplete.
The ink in a manuscript often fades or is damaged by water to the extent that the writing becomes quite faint and difficult to read. Occasionally a later reader will write over a faint passage so as to make it easier for others to read. This rewriting of lines or passages by a later reader is called "re-inking".
Headings and important words in texts were often highlighted by being written in red ink, though other colors of ink, and even occasionally gilt, were also used. The most common color, however, was red, and the term rubrication comes from the Latin term for red, rubrica.
Guides were used to achieve even spacing of the lines for written text and bounding lines for the edges of the text area. In the Islamic world, where paper dominated in the production of secular manuscripts, this was usually done by employing a ruling frame (called, mistarah) made of wood with cords placed across it at regular intervals. Each folio of paper was pressed over this frame, whose strings would then leave an impression on the paper which could serve as guidelines.
A term referring to the dynasty that ruled Persia from 1501 to 1722 (907-1135 H). Under Safavid rule, the arts flourished, the economy prospered, and contact was established with European courts. For an extensive discussion of the dynasty and the culture that flourished under it, see the article 'Safawids' in EI (2nd ed.), vol. 8, pp. 765-93, especially the section by A.J. Newman, 'III. Science and society in the Safawid period'), pp. 782-7.
A Persian dynasty ruling Central Asia (Transoxania) and at times the Persian province of Khurasan from 819 to 1005 (204-395 H). See the article "Samanids" by C.E. Bosworth and others in EI (2nd ed.), vol. 8, pp. 1025-1031; and Clifford Edmund Bosworth, The New Islamic Dynasties: A chronological and genealogical manual (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1996), pp. 170-171.
A person who made a profession of transcribing texts. In Arabic he was often called al-warraq or al-nassakh
A dynasty of rulers in Persia and Iraq from 1040-1194 (431-590 H). Originally of Turkish stock from the steppes north of the Caspian Sea, they became Muslims towards the end of the 10th century. Their influence ultimately spread over an enormous area. See the article "Saldjukids" by C.E. Bosworth and others in EI (2nd ed.), vol. 8, pp. 936-978; and Clifford Edmund Bosworth, The New Islamic Dynasties: A chronological and genealogical manual (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1996), pp. 185-188.
Shamsah design
A design in the form of a circular "sun" with lines radiating in all directions. The design was used in block-stamped medallions on the covers of bindings and also as a decorative device painted in the manuscript itself, usually at the beginning of a treatise.
An elder or chief of a tribe or family; also a teacher or master. It is generally used for someone over fifty years of age. See the article 'Shaykh' by E. Geoffroy in EI (2nd ed.), vol. 9, pp. 397-8.
A highly cursive script that developed from both Ta‘liq and Nasta‘liq scripts. It is characterized by an exaggerated density in the superstructured letters and a joining of many letters that are not otherwise joined. It was used mostly in Iran.
Islamic papers were made non-absorbent so that the ink would stay on the surface of the paper -- a process called sizing -- by treating the paper (after it was molded and dried flat) with a vegetable starch or gum. The paper could be tub-sized or the size could be spread over the sheet in paste or powder form. This procedure contrasts with the common European practice of sizing paper with gelatin.
A member of various mystical communities in Islam. The communities were organized about a residence (khaniqah) for religious observance and study. The fundamental belief of all the Sufi communities was that Truth should be sought through the love of God. Yet they did encourage study and secular knowledge. See Keshavarz, "Wellcome", pp. 38-45 for a discussion of Sufi communities and their relation to medieval Persian medical and scientific writing.
Tail of manuscript
The 'tail' of a manuscript is the bottom edge of the textblock, that is the lower external edges of the folios. For an illustration, see Gulnar Bosch, John Carswell, and Guy Petherbridge, Islamic Bindings and Bookmaking: A Catalogue of an Exhibition, The Oriental Institute, The University of Chicago, May 18 - August 18, 1981 (Chicago: The Oriental Institute Museum, 1981), p. 38.
A style of writing Persian and Arabic which employs more ligatures than other styles of scripts and is written at a pronounced slant. Its use was restricted to Eastern workshops in Iran and India.
A term referring to a dynasty of rulers in Central Asia (Transoxania and Persia) whose court was at Samarqand. Timur (Tamerlane to Europeans) was the founder of the dynasty in 1370 and it continued until 1500.
Timurid workshop
One of the workshops of artisans in Samarqand from 1370 to 1500. Under the Timurid rulers, Samarqand became an important center of manuscript production, with its own distinctive style of manuscript decoration and illumination.
A calligraphic emblem used by Seljuq and Ottoman rulers. The elaborate design usually incorporated the ruler's individual name. It was used as their signature and applied on official documents, coins, and other important items, including manuscripts that came into the royal collections. In manuscripts it was usually highly embellished and illuminated in gilt and various colours. See M. Ugur Derman, Letters in Gold: Ottoman calligraphy from the Sakip Sabanci Collection, Istanbul [exhibition catalogue] (New York: Harry N. Abrams for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1998).
The dynasty of Caliphs ruling from 661 (41H) to 750 (132H). The founder of the dynasty (Mu‘awiyah) moved the administrative capital from Medina in Saudi Arabia to Damascus in Syria. Under the Umayyads, the contours of the Islamic world extended from the Atlantic in the west to India and central Asia in the east. Trade expanded greatly during this time, with many new products introduced into the area, such as paper from China. Following the defeat of the Umayyads and the establishment of the ‘Abbasid caliphate in 132/750, one Umayyad family member, ‘Abd al-Rahman, escaped to North africa and subsequently founded in Spain a dynasty of Umayyad rulers who governed there from 756 (138H) to 1031 (422 H).
See the article "Umaiyads" by E. Levi Provencal in EI (1st ed.), vol.4, pp. 998-1012; the article "Umayyads" by Oleg Graber in Late Antiquity: A Guide to the Postclassical World, ed. G. W. bowersock, Peter brown, and Grabar (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1999), p. 736; and Clifford Edmund Bosworth, The New Islamic Dynasties: a chronological and genealogical manual (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1996), pp.3-5 and 11-3.
see, Diacritical dots
The back side of a folio, usually designated as the "b" side when describing Arabic/Persian manuscripts. In Islamic manuscripts the "verso", or "b" side, is the right-hand page of an open volume, while in European manuscripts verso designates the left-hand page.
Vizier is the Anglicized form of the Arabic word wazir, a minister, usually chief minister, to a Caliph or Muslim ruler or sultan. On occasion a vizier was in effect the governor.
In both Arabic and Persian script, only consonants and long vowels are written. The short vowels are designated by small strokes above or below the consonant. In most manuscripts the short vowels are not written, but when some (or all) of the short vowels are indicated, then a manuscript is said to be partially (or fully) vocalized.
When a manuscript has some (or all) of the short vowels designated by small strokes above or below the consonants, then it is said to be partially (or fully) vocalized. See vocalization.
Paper that has had watermarks impressed in it at the time of manufacture.
Marks purposefully produced in paper during the manufacturing process by pressure from a projecting design laid in the mold. The paper is made thinner when it comes into contact with this design, and this causes the design to be visible when the paper is held up to the light. The designs vary widely, and can include initials, flowers, animals, lunar crescents, crowns, armorial designs, or abstract patterns.
Western numerals
The term "Western numerals" is used here to refer to the standard numerical system employed today throughout Europe, the Americas, and most of the rest of the world for international business purposes. It is a place-notational system in which, for example, the numbers 1-21 and 99-105 have the following form:

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10,
11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21 ....
99, 100, 101, 102, 103, 104, 105 ....

The numerals themselves are often called Arabic numerals, a term avoided in this catalogue since it leads to confusion with numerals written with different symbols used today in throughout the Islamic world.

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Welcome Getting started Medieval Islam Catalogue Bio-bibliographies Glossary Abbreviations Credits About the Author Concordances A 1 - A 29 A 30 - A 59 A 60 - A 89 A 90 - A 92 P 1 - P 29 Authors, Translators & Commentators Copyists & Illustrators Owners & Patrons