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Script and Art

(4,145 words)

Author(s): Adam Gacek
The 28 (or 29, if we include the lām ʾalif) letters of the Arabic alphabet, as we know them today, developed from a primitive set of 17 basic letter shapes (graphemes), which included a number of same-looking forms (homographs; Arabic alphabet: origin). These letter forms at the beginning of Islam had nothing in themselves that would indicate their future grand place in Islamic art. And yet, within perhaps several decades after the birth of Islam, the Arabic script began to take on qualities which later in the Abbasid period blossomed into beautiful handwriting used to adorn the pages of the Q…
Date: 2018-04-01

T̲ulut̲ ̲

(2,004 words)

Author(s): Adam Gacek
Although the t̲ulut̲ ‘one-third’ script appears in some early classical texts, not much is known about this ancient script, except that one of its main features, in its smaller version, was the roundness of its letters. Ibn an-Nadīm (d. 380/990), for example, reports that the large t̲ulut̲ ( at̲-t̲ulut̲ al-kabīr at̲-t̲aqīl) was ‘invented’ by Quṭba (d. 154/771) as one of the four leading scripts, the others being jalīl, ṭūmār al-kabīr, and niṣf at̲-t̲aqīl. The smaller ( xafīf) version apparently developed from a small and round script called al-mudawwar aṣ-ṣaġīr, which was used for …
Date: 2018-04-01

Muḥaqqaq

(2,386 words)

Author(s): Adam Gacek
Although the term muḥaqqaq as a script or style of handwriting appears in a number of early sources, it is far from clear what its salient features were. Moreover, some of these sources explore the term muḥaqqaq not as a particular script, but as a standard of handwriting. Thus, for instance, aṣ-Ṣūlī (d. 335/946), to begin with the earliest text, says that “the best looking of scripts is the delicate muḥaqqaq, with its rounded letters, its open ( maftūḥ) 's and 's, and its slurred or curtained ( muxtalis) t's and 's” (Abbott 1939:29). ʾAbū Ḥayyān at-Tawḥīdī (d. after 400/1009), the author of R…
Date: 2018-04-01

Nastaʿlīq

(2,075 words)

Author(s): Adam Gacek
Nastaʿlīq is the Persian script par excellence, emerging in its definite form in Iran (Tabriz and Shiraz) in the late 8th/14th century (Richard 2001:77). This script, originally known as nasx-taʿlīq or nasx-i taʿlīq(Richard 2003b:77), implies a blend or derivation from both nasx and taʿlīq ‘hanging, suspended’, the latter being a Persian chancery script which appears to have been derived principally from tawqīʿ script (t̲ulut̲) and which, although employed earlier (perhaps as early as the 5th/11th century), was practiced in its definitive form in the 7th/…
Date: 2018-04-01

Abbreviations

(3,342 words)

Author(s): Adam Gacek
Just as in the Western tradition, so also in the Arabic context, frequent repetition of the same word or phrase in the text leads the writer or scribe to use abbreviations, acronyms, and initialisms. The difference between acronyms and initialisms is that the former are pronounced as words while the latter are spelled out letter by letter. As far as is known, initialisms were not used in the manuscript age but became a common feature in modern Arabic. Abbreviations are usually designated in various sources as: ʿalāmāt, rumūz, muṣṭalaḥāt ( iṣṭilāḥāt), and muxtaṣarāt. Although two import…
Date: 2018-04-01

Ruqʿa

(832 words)

Author(s): Adam Gacek
Ruqʿa lit. ‘piece of paper’ is a script which originated in the Ottoman chancery. It is known in that context as riqʿa (also rikʿa, rika), not to be confused with riqāʿ (the plural of ruqʿa), one of the ‘proportioned’ scripts (t̲ulut̲). This script is said to have developed from dīwānī ( divani), the chancery script of the Ottoman Empire and represents an adaptation of the Persian taʿlīq (nastaʿlīq), most probably in the second half of the 12th/18th century. It is said to have developed from dīwānī by simplifying its letter forms to such a point that there is little visible rese…
Date: 2018-04-01

Maġribī

(2,349 words)

Author(s): Adam Gacek
The term maġribī is the generic name for a host of scripts or styles used in the western part of the Islamic world from Tunisia to Morocco ( ʾIfrīqiyā, Maġrib), southern Spain (Andalusia), and sub-Saharan Africa, for the copying of books and for use in the state apparatus (principally the chancery), as well as for ordinary purposes of writing. Although maġribī is easily identifiable as a group, there is still much research that needs to be done before we can attempt a comprehensive history of its development and its various styles. In a way, the problem …
Date: 2018-04-01

Nasx

(2,239 words)

Author(s): Adam Gacek
Nasx is a generic name for a variety of Arabic scripts used for many centuries, mostly for the copying of books and later for printing, from Egypt to China and Southeast Asia. The root n-s-x of the word nasx is Nabataean in origin and appears to have been associated with copying and transcription from an early period of Islam. The term nasxī was originally introduced by Western Arabists to cover all round scripts of the earlier Muslim centuries (Abbott 1939:34, 37). Even though the original sources use the term nasx, the term nasxī has remained in use to cover both formal and informal …
Date: 2018-04-01