CAIRO-PRINTED LITHOGRAPHIC CALLIGRAPHY

[A muraqqa or calligraphic album.]

Cairo, Ministry of Public Education, 1309 AH [i.e. 1891/2]. 

Oblong 8vo (138 x 230 mm), ff. [20]; Arabic text, lithographically printed on rectos only, with four lines of black naskh and thuluth per page, text within decorated frames printed in gold; a very good, clean copy; bound in the original printed blue wrappers, Arabic imprint on upper wrapper, two small tears to upper wrapper (with loss but not affecting imprint); upper wrapper inscribed ‘Manuel de calligraphie arabe publié en A.H. 1309 (1890)’, and with twentieth-century ownership inscription of O. Volkoff.

£2200

Approximately:
US $2706€2566

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[A muraqqa or calligraphic album.]

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Unrecorded album of lithographed examples of calligraphy, mixing prayers and pen exercises, reproducing the calligraphy of a Daghestani émigré to Istanbul, Mahmud Celaleddin Efendi (d. 1829), and published in Cairo by Egypt’s Ministry of Public Education. 

Albums of calligraphy had been appreciated for centuries across the Muslim world by 1309 AH, hugely influencing nineteenth-century lithographic printing in Istanbul.  Lithographed works reproducing the manuscripts of famed calligraphers, many long deceased, soon became an established part of Istanbul publishing and, by extension, the Egyptian book trade. 

This album is foremost an aesthetic object, rather than a mere didactic aide, mirroring the physical scale and gilt decoration of a manuscript calligraphic album executed in 1317 AH (1802/3) by Mahmud Celaleddin Efendi.  Celaleddin emigrated to Istanbul from Daghestan in the second half of the eighteenth century and is said to have taught himself by studying the works of earlier masters, rather than under contemporary calligraphers.  Celaleddin’s calligraphy has been described as hard and stubborn as he was.  Bar a brief resurgence after one of his students taught Sultan Abdülmecid I, it has been seen as admirable but isolated from mainstream calligraphy, and he has never achieved the ubiquitous acclaim of other Ottoman calligraphers, hence why reproducing one of his works seems a puzzling choice in Khedival Cairo. 

We have not been able to locate any other copies, nor to locate the original manuscript album. 

For Mahmud Celaleddin Efendi, see Derman, Letters in Gold: Ottoman calligraphy from the Sakıp Sabancı collection (New York, 1998), p.108. 

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