Rare 7th century Quranic manuscript to go on sale for €1m

Single-leaf folio is from a cache of the earliest known written forms of the Quran

Shapero Rare Books is due to auction a Quranic relic that documents the early period of Islam. Photo: Shapero Rare Books
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A rare Quranic manuscript, which could have been written only 20 years after the death of the Prophet Mohammed, will go on sale at The European Fine Art Fair in the Netherlands this week.

The parchment from a cache of the earliest known written forms of the Quran comes from the library of a private collector from the UK.

The “extraordinary” single-leaf folio is written in Hijazi script, showing it originated in the region of the Hijaz in the Arabian Peninsula, where the Prophet Mohammed unified Arabian tribes with Islam.

It will go on sale for €1 million (£850,000, $1.08 million).

Shapero Rare Books, the shop selling the early Islamic relic on New Bond Street, London, said the folio provides a “fine early example" of an early Quran manuscript.

Roxana Kashani, Shapero's Near East and Islamic specialist, told The National that extensive research led her to believe the folio was produced around the time that the first leaves of the Quran were written.

She said: "I think it's really important to associate this with its tangible connection to history. It was literally one of the first times that the Quran was ever put into writing, and that is huge.

"This is not just another copy of a text that is now in billions of households across the world. This is one of the first instances in which this text was put into writing. That is incredible."

Most surviving Hijazi Quran fragments are housed in a handful of museums, libraries and private collections worldwide and very rarely come to the open market.

“It is a real privilege to be able to offer one of these early manuscripts to the market,” said Ms Kashani, who said it had been "firmly" placed in the 7th century.

Experts say it can often be difficult to identify the date surviving Quranic fragments were copied due to inconsistencies in spelling and line spacing.

Only four other 7th century Hijazi Qurans have been found: the Codex Parisino-petropolitanus – with surviving portions held in the Bibliotheque nationale de France; one in the National Library of Russia in St Petersburg; another in the Vatican Library; and a fourth at the Khalili Collection in London.

In addition is the Birmingham manuscript, which consists of two folios and is kept at a research library at the University of Birmingham; and The Sana’a Manuscript, with 38 folios, held at Dar al-Makhtutat Library, Yemen. Other single folios are kept in European and private libraries.

The Codex M a VI 165 features 77 folios and is held at the university library in Tubingen, Germany.

Experts say the survival of a fragment from this extremely early period in Islamic manuscript production is “extraordinary”.

Quran manuscripts at Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilisation - in pictures

The manuscript on sale was written more than 100 years before the Book of Kells, which contains the four Gospels of the New Testament. It is assumed to be from around 800 AD.

The European Fine Art Fair will be open by invitation on March 7 and March 8 and to the general public from March 9 to March 14 in Maastricht.

Updated: March 06, 2024, 1:29 PM