Name of Object:



London, England, United Kingdom

Holding Museum:

Victoria and Albert Museum


Probably late hegira 9th / 15th century

Type of object:

Painted leather, paper manuscript

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Gilded and painted leather over paper.


Height 31.2 cm, width 21 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Cairo or Damascus.


A tooled leather bookbinding with ornament added in gold. The front and back covers feature a design composed around a central circular medallion. Within it, an arabesque pattern grows out of a geometric interlace to fill the circular space; on the other side of a wide border decorated with linked flowers, 12 scallops form a sunburst motif. Large spade-like motifs project from the top and bottom scallops. The corners of the front and back covers are filled with related arabesque designs, as is the binding's flap, itself further ornamented with a dense field of freely rendered flowers. The gilded tooling is further highlighted in some areas by the addition of light-blue pigment, creating a subtle and pleasing contrast. This binding was thought for many years to be a work of early Ottoman times but recently it has been re-attributed to the late Mamluk period. It is unknown which book this binding was used to protect, but given the quality of the workmanship it seems likely that it was a Qur'an.

View Short Description

How date and origin were established:

Details of the decoration are similar to those on bindings known to have been made for the Mamluk Sultans Qatbay (r. 872–901 / 1468–96) and Qansuh al-Ghuri (r. 906–22 / 1500–1516).

How Object was obtained:

Purchased by the Museum in 1983.

How provenance was established:

Cairo and Damascus were the two most important centres of art production under the Mamluks.

Selected bibliography:

Haldane, D., Islamic Bookbindings in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1983, pp.142–3 (listed as early Ottoman).

Raby, J. and Tanındı, Z., Turkish Bookbindings in the Fifteenth Century, London, 1993, p.11.

Citation of this web page:

Barry Wood "Bookbinding" in Discover Islamic Art , Museum With No Frontiers, 2019.;ISL;uk;Mus02;18;en&id=leatherwork

Prepared by: Barry WoodBarry Wood

Barry Wood is Curator (Islamic Gallery Project) in the Asian Department of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. He studied history of art at Johns Hopkins University and history of Islamic art and architecture at Harvard University, from where he obtained his Ph.D. in 2002. He has taught at Harvard, Eastern Mediterranean University, the School of Oriental and African Studies, and the Courtauld Institute of Art. He has also worked at the Harvard University Art Museums and the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. He has published on topics ranging from Persian manuscripts to the history of exhibitions.

Copyedited by: Mandi Gomez

MWNF Working Number: UK2 19