Sotheby’s to Auction Manuscript Dedicated to The Sultan of Brunei

Sotheby’s London will offer an important and rare Qur’an manuscript dated 1660 and dedicated to The Sultan of Brunei. The manuscript will form part of the sale of A Princely Collection – Treasures from the Islamic World which take place in London on Tuesday, 5 October, 2010.

Estimated at £60,000 80,000, the Qur’an is remarkable not only for its royal dedication, its named scribe, place of origin and its early date, but also for the important light it sheds on artistic and decorative styles in the region of South East Asia. Only two further Qur’ans copied at Kota Batu have appeared at auction in the last 12 years.

The colophon reveals that it was copied by a scribe called Hashim bin Muhammad al-Brunawi (from Brunei) in the kingdom of Kota Batu, which was the old capital of Brunei. An inscription at the end of the colophon dedicates the manuscript to “our lord the Sultan”. The reigning Sultan of Brunei in the year 1660 was Sultan Muhyiddin, who reigned from 1655 to 1670, having first been proclaimed Sultan in 1648.

The manuscript’s opening double-page frontispiece shows distinctive stylistic characteristics decorated in yellow, orange and green. Four pages at the end bear diagrams, decorated panels and pious text. Although many Qur’an manuscripts conclude with prayers, the additional text and diagrams in this example are unusual and interesting. The text concerns the four Sunni schools of Islamic law, the Maliki, Shafi’i, Hanafi and Hanbali, and one diagram shows a set of scales surrounded by panels containing the names of the four founding jurists. Eschatological aspects including Paradise, Hell and the Afterlife are also mentioned.

The manuscript will be on view at Sotheby’s in London from Friday, 1 October, 2010.

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