Discover Islamic treasures

Islamic 650There are more than 6,000 items, mainly manuscripts, paintings and calligraphies, in the Islamic Collections at the Chester Beatty Museum in Ireland. It contains more than 260 complete and fragmentary Qur’ans, some dating from the late eighth and ninth centuries and including the work of the leading calligraphers of the Islamic world.

You can currently visit 22 of these priceless artefacts online– but keep checking back as the museum continues to expand its digitised collections. Here are five we’ve selected.

Qur'an from Seljuk Konya, Turkey, 1278

Leaf through this incredible, richly illuminated Qur'an, that is nearly 750 years old. Its patron, Sayf al-Milla, was in the entourage of the Seljuk minister Sahib Ata (d. 1288). View it here.

The Ruzbihan Qur'an from Shiraz, Iran, mid-sixteenth century

This is an extraordinary example of the arts of the book in sixteenth-century Iran. The sacred text was written out by renowned master-calligrapher Ruzbihan. Throughout the manuscript, the Qur'anic text is accompanied by a rich programme of sophisticated and colourful illumination. View it here.

Astrolabe from Isfahan, Iran, 1708-1709

The astrolabe is an instrument that was invented in late classical times, to map the stars. The front of this astrolabe has curling pointers on the openwork plate (al-`ankabut in Arabic, or spider), each labelled with a star’s name. It was dedicated to Safavid shah Sultan Husayn. View it here.

Amulet case from Iran, 1750-1850

This beautiful, gold-inlayed case was designed to contain a paper scroll written with Islamic prayers, to protect the owner. View it here.

Pair of Doors from Cairo, Egypt, panels and outline border ivory elements c. 1400-1450, main door frame possibly c. 1900-1930

These two magnificent doors have been salvaged from an older pair (probably from a minbar, or pulpit), and re-mounted in modern frames. This type of composite reconstruction was an important woodworking industry in nineteeth-century Cairo and represented a combination of fragment salvage and historicist imitation. View them here.

You can see the Museum’s complete digitized collection of Muslim artefacts here.

Who was Chester Beatty?

Alfred Chester Beatty (1875-1968) was an American mining magnate who set up a museum in 1950 to house his priceless assortment of ancient manuscripts, rare books and other treasures from Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and Asia. Upon his death in 1968, the collection was bequeathed to a trust for the benefit of the public.

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