Qur’an of Marinid Sultan Abū Ya’qūb Yūsuf (r. 1286-1307)

The following is an illuminated North African manuscript of the Qur’an from the royal library of Marinid sovereign Abū Ya’qūb Yūsuf (r. 1286-1307). It was transcribed in Rajab 705/February 1306. According to the cataloger of the manuscript:

The text is written in Maghribi script on parchment, with only seven lines to a page. The well-proportioned balancing of the text area with the wide margins gives the Qurʼan its monumental character. Colorful signs indicate the vocalization and golden circles mark the verses. The surah headings are written in golden Kufic, some of which are additionally set into decorated panels surrounded by strap-work or palmette frames. The medallions of the surah headings in the margins are executed with very delicate arabesque ornaments. Several elegant double-page illuminations open and close the manuscript. Experts rate this manuscript as among the most outstanding copies of the Qurʼan. The dominant feature of the original binding is a star pattern with gilded lines. Experts rate this manuscript as among the most outstanding copies of the Qurʼan in existence.


The manuscript bears a waqf mark (dated Ramadan 900/June 1495) indicating that it was an endowment in the library of the Great Mosque of Tunis. It was looted from Tunis by the forces of Charles V during the sack of the city in 1535.


The manuscript eventually came into the possession of German humanist, theologian & orientalist Johann Albrecht Widmanstetter (d. 1557) before passing into the Munich Court Library, the present-day Bavarian State Library, where it remains. It has been digitized: https://www.wdl.org/en/item/19528/ and https://www.wdl.org/en/item/8935/).

Significantly, another Qur’an manuscript that came into the possession of Johann Albrecht Widmanstetter was this 13th-c. Andalusi codex (digitized here), which was produced in Sevilla in Muharram 627/November 1229 and was later taken to North Africa. The manuscript also found its way to Tunis by the early 16th century and was among the many objects & books looted by the forces of Charles V during the conquest & sack of Tunis in 1535. For an excellent discussion of the various contexts in which Arabic manuscripts found their way into European collections in the early modern period, see Robert Jones, “Piracy, War & the Acquisition of Arabic Manuscripts in Renaissance Europe” http://www.islamicmanuscripts.info/reference/articles/Jones-1987-Piracy.PDF and Tilman Seidensticker, “How Arabic Manuscripts Moved to German Libraries.”



As can be seen, Johann Albrecht Widmanstetter’s name is clearly transcribed at the bottom of one of the folios. A discussion of this scholar’s career and works can be found in Robert J. Wilkinson, Orientalism, Aramaic and Kabbalah in the Catholic Reformation: The First Printing of the Syriac New Testament (Leiden: Brill, 2007), pp. 137-169.

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