Hollanda Araştırma Enstitüsü  -  Nederlands Instituut in Turkije

The Art of Abrī: Paper Marbling in the Early Modern Islamic World

Jake Benson (Leiden University)

I am currently completing my dissertation entitled The Art of Abrī: Paper Marbling in the Early Modern Islamic World at the Leiden Institute for Area Studies. By translating more than 75 primary sources about the art in conjunction and interpreting them together with surviving physical evidence, I seek to explain how marbled paper technically evolved over time and shed light on how technical knowledge about paper marbling reached Europe from the Islamic world. This research shall hopefully inform Islamic manuscript scholars and professionals curators as well as practicing marblers around the world about the history of this art.

With its central location on İstiklal Caddesi in Beyoğlu, my stay at NIT was conducive to conducting research on Islamic paper marbling in Istanbul collections. From the nearby Şişhane metro stop, I quickly reached Istanbul University’s Nadir Eserler and Süleymaniye Libraries in just a few minutes. Once I received permission, I could visit Istanbul University in the daytime followed by Süleymaniye’s reading room, which is open until late at night and on weekends as well.

Access to the ANAMED and NIT libraries after hours was another major bonus, in addition to discovering the combined resources of the BiblioPera library consortium close at hand. Both the nearby SALT and Şevket Rado manuscript collection at the İstanbul Araştırmaları Enstitüsü libraries were particularly rich for my research. Above all, I am extremely grateful to NIT Director Fokke Gerritsen and assistant Güher Gürmen for being graciously hosts, including in offering my lecture on Oct. 31, and their assistance, tips, and suggestions in general, which all helped to make a very fulfilling stay.

Image: "Allusion to Sura 27:16", Manṭiq al-Ṭayr (Language of the Birds) of Farid al-Din`Attar (d. 1220) transcribed by Sultan ‘Ali Mashhadi in AH 892/1486 CE.

Abrī borders attributed to Muhammad Tahir, from the Deccan region of India in circa 1600 CE were later added to the manuscript after it was endowed by Shah ‘Abbas to the shrine of Shaykh Safi in Ardabil, Iran in AH 1017/1608–09 CE.

15 1/2 x 8in. (39.4 x 20.3cm)
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Fletcher Fund, 1963 63.210.47 (fol. 47r)