The use of paper in Islamic manuscripts as documented in classical Persian texts

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Iraj Afshār

Article contents:
Methods of paper manufacture
The colour of paper
Varieties of paper
Miscellaneous points

The most important studies in European languages on the history and manufacture of paper (kāghaz)[1] and its use in Islamic manuscripts are those made by von Karabacek, Huart, Babinger, Pedersen, Grohmann, Levey and Sellheim, to which we should add the excellent article in Arabic by Kurkīs ‘Awwād.[2] These have generally been based on Arabic sources, except for the recent research of Porter which has supplied useful information for Western scholars of Persian, particularly in the field of Persian manuscripts in India.[3]

The present article is part of a larger project on the use of paper in Islamic lands based on the study of some forty thousand Arabic and Persian texts in libraries and private collections in Iran and elsewhere over the past forty years. The aim of this article is to draw attention to the importance of references to paper in classical Persian texts in identifying the different types of paper used in Islamic manuscripts.


ʿAlī Ḳuşçu presents Al-Risāla al-Muḥammadiyya to Sultan Meḥmed II. Tercüme-i Şakayıkü’n Numaniye, TSMK Hazine, no. 1263, f. 113b. Published in The Ottoman Scientific Heritage
By Ekmeleddin Ihsanoğlu (translated into English By Maryam Patton), 2023, Al-Furqān Islamic Heritage Foundation
ʿAlī Ḳuşçu presents Al-Risāla al-Muḥammadiyya to Sultan Meḥmed II. Tercüme-i Şakayıkü’n Numaniye, TSMK Hazine, no. 1263, f. 113b. Published in The Ottoman Scientific Heritage
By Ekmeleddin Ihsanoğlu (translated into English By Maryam Patton), 2023, Al-Furqān Islamic Heritage Foundation, London, P 61.

From the time that paper-making became widespread amongst Muslims, starting, as we know, in the city of Samarqand, there were always persons and families in many Islamic cities who were called Kāghazī. This nisba, as Sam‘ānī has explained, was due to their families' present or past involvement in paper-making or dealing. Many such people came from Nīshāpūr, Samarqand, Iṣfahān, Qazvīn, Jurjān and Shūshtar, and are mentioned in the histories of the cities concerned. This nisba first came into vogue before the beginning of the 6th/12th century, while the latest mention of this name that I have come across in classical Persian texts is of al-Hājj Ṣāliḥ Kāghazī, a wealthy inhabitant of Shūshtar in the 12th/18th century who is mentioned in ‘Abd al-Latīf Shūshtarī's Ta'rïkh-i Shūshtar.

Amongst Iranian cities we find the names Kāghaz Kunān (formerly Khānaj, renamed in the 8th/14th century) and Kāghazī, near Kāshān. The name Pul-i Kāghazgarān, which was a bridge near Quhistân, is mentioned by the early 9th/15th century poet, Niẓārī Quhistānī, in his versified travelogue.

Concerning paper itself and its manufacture, we find terms like kāghaz-bur (paper-cutter, paper-knife) and kāghaz-burī (cutting paper, cutting-machine, guillotine). Kāghaz-khāna is the term used by Rashīd al-Dīn Faḍlallāh Hamadānī (8th/14th century) in al-Waqfiyya al-Rashīdiyya for the paper-making factory of Rab‘-i Rashīdī, which he himself founded in Tabrīz. Other terms include kāghaz ḥall kārī (gilded paper), kāghaz do pūst kardan (slicing the paper in two parts by halving its thickness), kāghaz-sāz (paper manufacturer), kāghaz-sāzī (paper manufacturing), kāghaz shikastan/burīdan (paper-cutting)' kāghaz-gar (a paper-maker or dealer), kāghaz-gīr (paper-clip or paperweight), kāghazī (a paper-maker, stationer; anything covered with a thin skin).

With regard to the quality of the paper, we find terms such as kāghaz-i pāzahrī (reddish-yellow paper), kāghaz-i daftarī (common paper), kāghaz-i khām (raw or unrefined paper), and kāghaz-i kāhī (strawpaper or newsprint). Similarly, we find terms describing the way the paper has been prepared or the use for which it is intended, such as kāghaz-i āhār muhra (glazed paper), kāghaz-i abrī, kāghaz-i barqī (glossy paper), kāghaz-i taḥrīr (writing paper), kāghaz-i charb (smooth paper), and kāghaz-i mashq (exercise or calligraphy paper).

There are also many other uses of the word kāghaz in classical texts to describe other uses of paper but, Since they do not relate to manuscripts, they need not concern us here.

Methods of paper manufacture

As far as I know, the first literary mention of paper-making occurs in a poem by Manuchīrī Dāmghānī (6th/12th century). In a qaṣīda in which the poet wants to describe a snow-covered desert, he likens it to a kārgāh-i kâghaz-garī (paper-workshop):

The land from Balkh to Khāvarān has become like the workshop of Samarqand. The doors, roof and walls of that workshop are like those of painters or paper makers.

This simile derives from the fact that wet sheets of paper were hung on walls or spread on the ground to dry, and a spacious area was needed for this purpose.

A kāghaz-gar was someone Who manufactured paper and, as we have seen, these people were also called kāghaz-sāz and kāghazī in different centuries. (These terms are to be found in a literary genre known as shahr āshūb, a satire on the various social classes of a town.)

Our information about the cities where paper was made is limited. Only hints and allusions are to be found in classical Poetry and texts, but they do at least give us the names of those Iranian cities apart from Samarqand where paper was made. The earliest of these sources dates from the early 7th/13th century.

Paper from Samarqand was highly sought after and enjoyed Wide renown from the 4th/10th to the 13th/19th centuries. The Oldest information that we have about paper-making in this city is found in the geographical work Ḥudūd al- ‘ālam min al-mashriq ilā al-maghrib, written in 3711981-2, in which we find the following important reference to this aspect of Samarqand's economic actvity:

And from it comes paper which is taken all over the world.[4]

Paper was also made in Iṣfahān until 70 years ago. We also know from Maḥāsin-i Iṣfahān, written by Māfarrūkhī early in the 8th/14th century and translated into Persian by a scholar of Āveh that at that time paper was manufactured in Iṣfahān in the kāghaz- i Rashīdī (Rashīdī paper) style. The translator adds:

He wrote the praise of his favours on sheets of Rashīdī paper which he manufactured for his literary works and to revive the books of the great scholars of the past. From the point of view of clarity of sheet, size and format, softness and cleanliness, firmness, evenness and varnishing, paper of such quality does not, and did not, exist in any kingdom after Iṣfahān.[5]

Iṣfahānī paper was distributed to every city and was of consistently good quality. One of the good quality papers of this city in the 7th/13th century was chahār baghal (large-size paper), which sold for six Abbāsīs (a type of coin named after Shāh ‘Abbās Ṣafavī) per sheet. Ḥusayn Taḥwīldār, the writer of Jughrāfiya-i Iṣfahān, mentions this with astonishment, saying “However, some prefer the paper of Khānbāligh (Peking) to this paper.” This indicates that these two papers were almost similar in quality. Another famous paper of that city was kāghaz-i fustuqī, being pistachio-coloured.

As we have seen above, there were workshops for the manufacture of paper mixed with water near the town known as Rab‘-i Rashīdī. We have also seen that Rashid al-Dīn Faḍlallāh mentioned this place in the deed of endowment known as al- Waqfiyya al-Rashīdiyya. He also mentions the paper of this place in his Sawāniḥ al-afkār, which is a collection of his correspondence with the rulers of his day, and also in the preface to his Laṭā’'if al-ḥaqā’iq. The paper made in this city was of large size and of the Baghdādī type.

Qazvī was another centre for the manufacture of paper inIran. We read in Tadhkira-i shu‘arā-i Kashmīr that the Sultan of Kashmir, Zayn al-‘Ābidīn (823-75/1420-70), brought some paper-manufacturers from Qazvīn to Kashmir. Thus established, paper replaced tūz (a kind of bark) as a Writing material, an event which is mentioned by Mullā Nadīmī Kashmīrī in the following verse:

Paper became a booklet and was bound, when time threw away the tūz from the book.

Kāghaz Kunān, near Zanjān, was for a short while a renowned centre of paper-making. Ḥamdallāh Mustawfī mentions in Nuzhat al-qulūb (9th/15th century) that the place became known as Kāghaz Kunān because good paper was made there. This town, which was ruined during the period of the Mongols, was, according to the same source and also Mu‘jam al- buldān, previously known as Khānaj. The new name still survives.

According to Miḥrābī's Tadhkirat al-awliyā’ (10th/16th century), paper mills also existed in Kirmān, near the town's khandaq (ditch). We also find references in two 10th/16th century histories of Yazd to the ṭāhūna-i kāghaz-garī (paper-mill) and the ḥānūt-i kāghazī (paper shop) of Faraj-i Yahūdī. There is still a lane named Kūcha-i Kāghazgarī in the oldest part of the city.

Concerning the manufacture of paper in Khurāsān, the most reliable document is the Fihrist of Ibn al-Nadīm. This tells us that paper was made in Khurāsān from the very beginning of paper-making in Iran and also mentions the names of the types of Paper produced. Although for the purposes of this article I have restricted myself to Persian sources, I feel this last point deserves Some amplification.

Ibn al-Nadīm mentions six kinds of paper. The names of five of them are connected with Khurāsān and Transoxiana, while the remaining one relates to Egypte The Egyptian one is known as kāghaz-i Fir‘aunī (“Fir‘awnī paper”). The other five are: Sulaymānī (from Sulaymān b. Rashīd, a minister of financial affairs in Khurāsān), Ja‘farī (from Ja‘far al-Barmakī), Ṭalḥī (from Ṭalḥa b. Ṭāhir of the Ṭāhirids), Ṭāhirī (from Ṭāhir II of the same dynasty, which ruled in Khurāsān) and Nūḥī (from Nūḥ b. Naṣr of the Sāmānids). It is therefore clear that paper was manufactured in Khurāsān, to which we can add that different types of good Khurāsānī paper appear to have been named after high government officials who liked them.

From these references and other indications that kāghazī families lived in Bayhaq and Nīshāpūr, and the mention of Pul-i kāghazgarān in the poetry of Nizāri Quhistānī, as Well as the information which Porter derives from the text of Bāburnāma regarding papermills in Herat,[6] we can be sure that paper-making spread over the whole region having first started in Samarqand.

The latest reference we have to paper-making in Khurāsān dates from the period of Nāṣir al-Dīn Shāh (13th/19th century), This occurs in the census of the area prepared by Zayn al-‘Ābidīn from which we learn that one of the local trade associations was the paper-makers' guilde

Our technical information regarding the tools and machinery used in paper manufacture is very limited, being based on a few textual allusions. We know that Rashīd al-Dīn Faḍlallāh brought a group of Chinese artisans to his kāghaz-khāna in Rab‘-i Rashīdī and he wrote down the information he obtained regarding Chinese paper in his Āthār va aḥyā’.[7] Referring to the differences between Chinese and Tabrīzī paper, he mentions that in China paper was made from the bark of the mulberry tree and also sometimes from silk, whilst in Iran it was made from rags and cotton.

Fortunately, we have more information about the Ṣafavid period, especially from references in the works of Sabk-i Hindī (Indian style) poets who appeared in this era, and who often took inspiration from mundane affairs. Paper featured in their poetic images, such as in Ṭughrā-i Mashhadī's mention of qālib-i kāghaz (paper-making mould):

So many of my love letters to the youth have been rejected that cracks appear in the paper like the cracks of the paper-mould (qālib-i kāghaz).

Of the many verses in which paper is mentioned, I shall quote just three couplets by the 1Oth/16th century poet ‘Abdi Bīk Shīrāzī, otherwise known as Navīdī, taken from his mathnavī Jawhar-i fard, composed in praise of cotton :

Paper derives its existence from it, as if revelation had descended on it. Indian paper is angry with Chinese paper and has informed Wāsiṭ[8] about Byzantium and Zanzibar. Sometimes it manifests itself from the land of Cathay, and sometimes it brings news from Samarqand.

Muḥammad Shāfi‘ī Hamadānī (12th/18th century) conveyssimilar meanings in his shahr āshūb. He mentions the terms kāghaz-i Khaṭā‘ī va Kashmīrī (Chinese and Kashmīrī papers), ṣaḥḥāf (bookbinder), muhra kashīdan (paper-glazing), nishasta (starch) and āhār dādan (to starch), all of which are connected to the manufacturing of paper. Hamadānī also refers implicitly to the method of making paper from cotton wool.

The author of Gulzār-i Kashmīr (13th/19th century), who supplies information about the manufacture of paper in Kashmir, says that linen rags were first turned into dough with sal ammoniac and that this dough was then cast into a panjara-i chahār khāna (frame divided into four parts) and a dām (trap), after which the paper was then glazed or smoothed.

During the Ṣafavid period, paper-makers were considered to constitute their own guild, which explains why they are mentioned by most writers of shahr āshūb. In the earliest shahr āshūb, composed by Mas‘üd Salmān (6th/12th century), there is of course no mention of any kāghaz-gar (paper manufacturer) although painters and calligraphers are mentioned. However, Safavid examples of the genre, such as the shahr āshūbs by Lisānī Shīrāzī (10th/16th century) and Ṭāhir Waḥīd Qazvīnī (11th/17th century) include interesting couplets on paper manufacture. The following is an example from the work of Lisānī Shīrāzī:

I shall buy paper to make a garment for seeking justice from you; wearing it, I shall make my petition of complaint.

Fortunately, Ṭāhir Waḥīd makes metaphorical mention of the Paper mill and workshop in his poetry. He likens the paper- maker to a baker who makes paper sheets instead of bread, and who has water instead of fire in his oven (the word for a baker's oven is tannūr, while the place in a paper mill where the water is poured is called a tannūra):

As this bread is baked by water instead of fire, the book fills its belly with this bread.

The colour of paper

Our information about the colouring and glazing of paper is more complete because of specialised treatises and monographs that exist on the subject.[9]

The oldest Persian work containing references to the dyeing of paper is Bayān al-ṣinā‘āt, by Ḥubaysh Tiflīsī (d. ca. 600/1203- 4),[10] which means that this process is at least eight centuries old, Dawlat Shāh Samarqandī (9th/15th century), in his Tadhkira, mentions the art and mastery of Sīmī Nīshābūrī, the author of an important treatise on paper-dyeing known as the Jawhar-i Sīmīwhich has recently been edited and published by Porter.[11]

There was much variety in paper-dyeing, and, although his claim seems exaggerated, Qaḍī Aḥmad says in Gulistān-i hunar that Mawlānā Muḥammad Amīn Jadvalkash (“paper-ruler”) “used to colour paper in seventy colours.”

To mention all the names of the colours used to describe paper in poetry and prose would make this paper unnecessarily lengthy. The list prepared by Porter[12] is based on Jawhar-i Sīmī, Khushnavisī, Majmū‘at al-ṣanā’i‘ and Bayāḍ-i Khūshbuy. In the list in my forthcoming monograph on the subject, I have also used Gulzār-i Kashmīr, early librarians' or owners' authentications (‘arḍ) of title pages of manuscripts, and Ganjīna-i Shaykh Ṣafī (Ardabīl catalogue), as well as the technical terms taken from catalogues of the Qājār period. I have also highlighted any differences between my list and that of Porter' such as the two colour terms listed by Porter as khatā’i and zumurrud-i līmū’ī, which are orthographically incorrect: the first should read ḥinnā’ī and the second zard-i līmū’ī (lemon-yellow).

Colours used for dyeing paper were either simple or compound. Those which were most in demand were āl (reddish- yellow), ḥinnā’ī (reddish-orange), līmū’ī (lemon-green), fustuqī (pistachio) and nukhūdī (buff). It was generally believed that pure white paper was harmful to the eyes in bright conditions and that coloured paper was more suitable.

In the Ṣafavid period, āl and ḥinnā’ī were the colours used for good quality paper. Lisānī Shīrāzī says about āl-coloured paper:

I had rosy āl paper in my room, reminding me of flowers and the face of my beloved.

The poets of the period composed many verses in praise of ḥinnā’ī paper. The following is but one example, from a couplet by Vā‘iẓ Qazvīnī in which he compares its colour with that of the hand of the beloved:

Your colour, because of its freshness, is like Chinese satin, and your hand, due to its gentleness, is like ḥinnā’ī paper.

At this point, one ought to discuss kāghaz-i abrī (a kind of thick, glossy paper) and its importance in calligraphy. However, space does not allow in an article of this sort, and a significant amount of research has already been published on this subject, particularly two recent articles in Persian, one by Muḥammad Ḥasan Simsār in Dā’irat al-ma‘ārif-i buzurg-i islāmī and one by Yaḥyā Zakā’ in the journal Āyandeh.[13] We shall therefore confine ourselves here to the brief mention that references to kāghaz-i abrī can be found in the poetic works of Kalīm Kāshānī, Salīm Tehrānī, Ṣā’ib Tabrīzī, Vā’iẓ Qazvīnī and dozens of other poets. The following couplet is typical of such poetic references:

You should know that without you I weep tears in a hundred colours and make the kāghaz-i abrī variegated.

References to the technique of polishing paper with a starch glaze go back to the 6th/12th century. One such occurs in Farrukhnāma-i Jamālī, written in 580/1184-5 by Jamālī Yazdī, in which the rice-starching method is mentioned.[14] Another is in a verse by Sūzanī Samarqandī (d. 562/1166-7), in which the poet  compares the bright and waterproof feathers of the stork with polished and glazed paper:

He saw the feathers of the stork as polished and glazed paper.

Glazed paper was of good quality and was popular with calligraphers because the pen moved softly over it. The farnous calligrapher Sulṭān ‘Alī Mashhadī devoted seven couplets of his famous treatise to the method of glazing paper, which was usually done by hand. In 912/1506, however, Muḥammad Ḥāfiẓ Iṣfahānī claimed to have invented a device which facilitated this procedure, the only known reference to which is in his Natījat al- dawla.[15]

Varieties of paper

One of the most significant considerations in the codicology of Islamic manuscripts is the recognition of different types of paper. Catalogue references usually deal only with the paper's colour and thickness, whilst I have been able to glean the names of various types of paper from the texts themselves. Furthermore, latter day cataloguers in many eastern countries have generally named the papers on the basis of resemblance and hearsay, sometimes going against the facts of history. For example, having studied the entries in the Catalogue of the Kitābkhāna-i Millī-i Malik, I can say that Qur’ān no. 15, copied by Yāqūt al- Musta‘ṣimī in 680/1281-2, cannot have been written on Dawlatābādī paper because this type of paper is not mentioned in the sources before the 11th/17th century. The paper of another Qur’ān (no. 44), written in early naskhī script, has also been incorrectly classified as Dawlatābādī. Qur’ān no. 46, written in Kufic script, is described as having been written on tirma-iKhatā’ī, and the term tirma is certainly not nine hundred years old. These few examples lead me to believe that in speaking of the types of paper used in manuscripts, relying on the commonly used terms is imprudent.

The only correct criteria by which we can identify types of paper are those instances where librarians or owners of Arabic,persian and Turkish manuscripts have written an ‘arḍ (authentication and registration) on the manuscript. These include the title and visible features of the manuscript and generally the type of paper used. If the date of the ‘arḍ and the date of the calligraphy are close to each Other, it can be assumed that the name of the paper is that which was in vogue at the time of writing. Such terms can be found in certain catalogues for early periods, such as the Ardabīl Catalogue, which was compiled in 1172/1758-9 and has been published under the title Ganjīna-i Shaykh Ṣafī.[16] 1 have counted eleven types of paper mentioned in this work.

Fortunately, an inventory of the Ganjīna, apparently prepared around 1307/1889-90, has recently been published by Shahriyār Ḍirghām, but this only supplies references to deerskin, tirmah, and Khânbâlighï and Khaṭā’ī paper. Although a few Qur’āns in both catalogues are almost identical, their specific features are described differently in each. In my monograph I have sought to highlight these differences, as well as listing the terms and types of paper mentioned in the catalogue.

From the point of view of the Old sources (including the Fihrist of Ibn al-Nadīm and historical and literary works in Persian), the terms used to describe different types of paper fall into three categories:

Terms that refer to the place where the paper was made: e.g. Iṣfahānī, Baghdādī Dawlatābādī, Samarqandī, Shāmī and Hindī. Of these, Samarqandī and Shāmī paper are worthy of further mention.

Samarqandī was the most famous kind of paper. We find references to it from the 4th/10th century onwards, the earliest being in Hudūd al- ‘ālam, where the author says that Samarqandis the abode of Manicheans and that paper is produced there and from there taken all over the world.[17] The second earliest source is Safarnāma-i Naṣīr-i Khusraw (d. 481/1088), in which it is mentioned that the people of Ṭarābulus in Shām (present-day Tripoli in Lebanon) made paper of as good a quality as that of Samarqand or even better. This paper continued to be traded for Centuries in Iran. It is mentioned in Risāla-i mu‘arrifī-i kārvānsarāhā-i ‘aṣr-i Ṣafavī (“The Caravanserais of the Ṣafavid Period”, British Museum MS 9024), in which we are told that people from Samarqand sold paper in Maḥmüd Beikī's caravanserai. The poet of that era, Muḥsin Ta’thīrat, praises the high quality of Samarqandī paper in the following way:

When I write the praise of thy lips the letter becomes a garland. If the paper is daftarī [low quality] it becomes Samarqandī.

Persian-speaking poets have talked much about Shāmī paper, especially in the 9th-10th/15th-16th centuries. For instance, Amīr-i Khusraw Dihlavī mentions it in his Ghurrat al-kamāl, as well as providing useful information about making paper from silk in 20 couplets in his Qirān al-sa‘dayn. Another poet of the same period, Sirājī Sagzī, implies in one of his verses that Shāmī paper was white. Similarly, Amīr-i Khusraw compares it with morning:

When your face rose like the morning sun, the colour of my face turned yellow, like Shāmī paper decorated with saffron water.

Terms that relate to specific persons: e.g. Jayhānī, Sa‘dī, Rashīdī, Ṭalhī, ‘Ᾱdilshāhī, Manṣūrī and Nūḥī. Here we shall say a little more on Sa‘dī and ‘Ᾱdilshāhī paper, both of which were of good quality.

Reference to Sa‘di paper occurs in the dīwāns of two poets. One is Sūzanī Samarqandī and the other is ‘Abd al-Wāsī‘ Jabalī of Gharjistān (d. 555/1160). From the mention of Sa‘dï paper in the poetry of these two poets, both of whom lived in the same region, it is evident that this type of paper was well-known and highly valued in Khurāsān, and perhaps derived its name from a person of high rank such as Sa‘d al-Mulk or Sa‘d al-Dīn. Sūzanī says:

I was given two quires of Sa‘di paper by Shihāb al-Dīn Aḥmad, by order of Khwāja Mu’ayyad.

‘Abd al-Wāsi‘ speaks of this type of paper in the following way:

I have a Zandanījī[18] and paper. Both are good but both have defects: the first is not Bū Isḥāqī [cloth], and the second is not Sa‘di.

The famous calligrapher of the Ṣafavid period, Mīr ‘Imād Qazvīnī, preferred this type of paper to Dawlatābādī paper, both being from India. He also praised ‘Ᾱdilshāhī paper in his Ᾱdāb al-mashq :

‘Ᾱdilshāhī, having fewer grains, is the best paper.

So excellent is Ᾱdilshāhī paper that the artist considers it a thornless flower.

Its value is known to my pen, whose bestowal scatters the most precious pearls.

After that, Dawlatābādī, also called Sulṭānī, is good.

A manuscript whose paper is ‘Ᾱdilshāhī according to its ‘arḍ is ‘Ahdnāma-i Ḥaḍrat-i Amīr [i.e. ‘AIī ibn Abī Ṭālib], written for Sulṭan Ibrāhīm, the son of Shārukh (3rd/9th century). In the arḍ, dated 1046 AH (1636-7), the paper is described as qatwasaṭ-i kāghaz-i ‘Ᾱdilshāhī (“‘Ᾱdilshāhī paper in medium format”).

Terms that relate to the ingredients, type of usage, and/or size of the paper. e.g. abrīshamī, chahār baghal, ṭughrā’ī and, perhaps, Manṣūrī.

As regards Manṣūrī paper, we find paper of such a type mentioned in the Qābūsnāma (5th/l Ith century) in an anecdote concerning Sulṭān Maḥmūd Ghaznavī. (We should note here that in some mauscripts Manṣūrī paper is referred to as kāghaz-i Manṣūrī (Manṣūrī paper) while in others it is referred to as kāghaz-i qat‘-i Manṣūrī (paper in Manṣūrī format).) It is certain that this kind of paper derives its name from either Abū Manṣūrī‘Ᾱmir (495-524/1101-30) or to Manṣūrī b. Naṣr ‘Abd al-Raḥīm Kāghazī, who was himself a paper-manufacturer. Grohmann also considered durj-i Manṣūrī (mentioned in Ṣābī's Tuḥfat al- umarā‘) to have been named, like Manṣūrī paper, after Abu Manṣūr ‘Ᾱmir.

In a manuscript of ḥādīth (Tāj al-Dīn's Arba‘īn, written in the 8th/14th century) which I have seen in the Peking Mosque, Manṣūrī paper is mentioned as a superior paper in that it was used for writing in gold: “Now they Write in gold on Manṣūrīpaper.”

We should therefore conclude that there were two kinds of Manṣūrī paper in use in Islamic lands, differentiated by format and quality.

Miscellancous points

The diversity of terms used to describe the quality of paper and its trade and use is amply evident from the references in classical texts.

Amongst the more common terms is ṭabaq (leaf), which is seen in texts of prose and poetry from the 6th/12th century onwards. It is mentioned, or example, in al-Tawassul ilā al- tarassul by Bahā’ al-Dīn Muḥammad, the secretary of ‘Alā’ al- Dīn Takish Khwārazmshāh, Mirṣād al-‘ibād by Najm al-Dīn Dāya (d. 654/1256), and Laṭā’if al-ḥaqā’iq by Rashīd al-Dīn Faḍlallāh Hamadānī (d. 718/i318). The wording of a remark in the latter work may indicate the size of a ṭabaq :

When he wanted to improve the maps, he thought it necessary to increase the size of the paper on which they were drawn ... so he made big sheets of paper, each one being the size of six sheets, and then he drew those maps on them.

The following is a brief list of decorative techniques mentioned in historical and literary texts:

abrī kardanvariegating the paper
afshān kardan                              smearing the paper with splashes of gold and silver water or henna
pāk kardanremoving of earlier writing for re-use, removing of stains from paper
tadhhīb va tash‘ïrIllumination
jadwal kashīruling and marking out columns
do pūst kardanslicing the paper by halving its thickness
rang kardanDyeing
kuluft kardanthickening
kuhna kardanAgeing
majlis kashīminiature painting
masṭar kashīmalqng invisible lines for straight writing
muhra kashīglazing
waṣṣālīrebinding an old book.

For example, one poet wrote, using the word masṭar :

One who would prescribe the manners of asceticism should rule (masṭar zadan) his body with the design of the rush mat.

Mehrebān Aurangābādī mentions the word afshān in the following line:

What is the need to speak of my condition, O messenger? The letter has been smeared (afshān) with the blood of my heart.

Finally, what we know about the trade of paper and its price in different periods can also assist us sometimes in identifying the type of paper used in manuscripts. For example, paper made in Khurasān and Iṣfahān was often used in India, whilst various types of Indian paper were brought to Iran, and most of these can be identified in Persian manuscripts.

It is my hope that this short article has demonstrated the importance of the Persian literary tradition as a source for the history of paper and the identifcation of its various types.

[1] We have preferred to reproduce the Persian pronunciation of this word instead of the more technically correct kāghidh.

[2] See J. von Karabacek, “Das arabische Papier. Eine historisch-antiquarische Untersuchung”, Mittheilungen aus der Sammlung der Papyrus Erzherzog Rainer, II-III(Vienna, 1887), 87-178; idem, “Neue Quellen zur Papiergeschichte”, Mittheilungen aus der Sammlungder Papyrus Erzherzog Rainer, IV (Vienna, 1888), 75-122; Cl. Huart, Les Calligraphes et les miniaturistes de l'orient musulman (Paris, 1908), 8-11; F. Babinger, Zur Geschichte der Papier-erzeugung im osmanischen Reiche (Berlin, 1931); J. P. E. Pedersen, Den arabiske bog (Copenhagen, 1946) [= The Arabic Book, tr. G. French, ed. with an introduction by R. Hillenbrand (Princeton, 1984)]; A. Grohmann, From the World of Arabic Papyri (Cairo, 1952), 49-57; idem, Arabische Paläographie, I, Denkschriften der österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, philosophisch-historische Klasse, XCIV (1967), 98-105; M. Levey, Medieval Arabic Bookmaking and Its Relation to Early Chemistry and Pharmacology, Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, New Series, LII/4 (Philadelphia, 1962); R. Sellheim, Materialien zur arabischen Literaturgeschichte, I (Wiesbaden, 1976) and II (Stuttgart,

[3] Y. Porter, Peinture et arts du livre: essai sur la littérature technique indo-persane (Paris, 1992).

[4] Ḥudūd al-‘ālam, ed. M. Sotude (Tehran, 1340/1961), 107-8.

[5] Māfarrūkhī, Maḥāsin-i Iṣfahān, tr. into Persian and amplified by Ḥusayn b. Muḥammad b. Abī al-Riḍā’ al-Ḥusaynī al-‘Alawī, ed. ‘Abbās Iqbāl (Tehran, 1328/1949).

[6] Porter, peinture, 25.

[7] Rashī al-Dīn Faḍlallāh Hamadānī, Ᾱthār va-aḥyā’, ed. M.Sotoodeh and I. Afshār (Tehran, 1368/1989).

[8] A city in Iraq once famous for its reed pens.

[9] There is an introductory article on such works by Muḥammad Taqī Dānishpazhūh, who has also published some of them. Others have been published by Aḥmad Guleḥīn Ma‘ānī, Riḍā Māyel Heravī, Fikrī Saljūqi, Parvīz Azkā‘i and, more recently, Y. Porter.

[10] Ḥubaysh Tiflīsī, Bayān al-ṣinā‘at, ed. I. Afshār, FIZ, V/4 (Tehran, 1336/1957), 298-457.

[11] Y. Porter,“Un traité de Simi Neyshâpuri, artiste et polygraphe”, Studia Iranica, XIV/2 (1985), 179-98. For an English translation of this treatise, see W.M. Thackston, “A Treatise on Calligraphic Arts: a Description of Paper, Colours, Inks and Pens by Simi of Nishapur”, Intellectual Studies in Islam, ed. M.M. Mazzaoui and V.B. Moreen (Salt Lake City, 1990), 219-28.

[12] Porter, Peinture, 49-50.

[13] Dā’irat al-ma‘ārif-i buzurg-i islāmī, II (Tehran, 1368), 570-4; Y. Zakā”, “Kāghaz-i abrī”, Āyandeh, XVI (1369), 371-9.

[14] Jamālī Yazdī, Farrukhnāma-i Jamālī, ed. I. Afshār (Tehran, 11346/1967).

[15] Muḥammad Ḥāfiẓ Iṣfahānī, Se risāla dar ikhtirā‘āt-i ṣan‘atī: Sā‘at, āsīā, dastgāh-i rawghan-kashī, “Natījat al-dawla”, ed. T. Bīnesh (Tehran, 1350/1971).

[16] Ganjīna-i Shaykh Ṣafī (Ardabīl Catalogue), (Tabriz, 1980).

[17] See n. 4 above.

[18] A type of cloak (khirqa).

Source note:

This article was published in the following book:

The Codicology of Islamic Manuscripts: Proceedings of the second conference of Al_Furqān Islamic Heritage Foundation, 4_5 December 1993_ Arabic version, 1997, Al-Furqān Islamic Heritage Foundation, London, UK, pp. 77-91.

Please note that some of the images used in this online version of this article might not be part of the published version of this article within the respective book.
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