New Resource: Islamic Manuscript Basics

Access the website here.

This site holds basic information and resources relating to the study of Islamic manuscripts. If you are new to thinking about the material aspects of Islamic manuscripts or are simply curious and want to know more, then this site is for you!

Islamic Manuscript Basics is a part of the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies, was created to go along with the Manuscripts of the Muslim World (MMW) project. It is meant to introduce novices to the basics of looking at Islamic manuscripts.


There are 7 content pages: BasicsBindingSubstrateLayoutScriptsDecorationNotes.

At the bottom of each page (except Notes) is a link to a short exercise that will let you test your knowledge. You can also access any of the exercises from the Exercises page.

Finally, the Glossary page has photos of additional aspects of manuscripts that may be of use to you, the References page has a short bibliography which will help you get started on further research, and the SIMS Resources page has explanations of tools and resources at The Schoenberg Institute of Manuscript Studies which may be of use to you.

Things to Know

As you work through these pages, keep in mind that manuscript making was a team effort and included papermakers, scribes, and binders at the very least. Fancy, or deluxe, manuscript production would also include (teams of) illustrators and illuminators.

You can find digital collections of Islamic manuscripts used on this website in OPenn, which hosts over 500 open-access, high-resolution digitized Islamic manuscripts from Philadelphia area collections and Columbia University. All images on this site are open access under Creative Commons licenses and have been taken from OPenn, unless otherwise stated.

Where to Start

If you are unfamiliar with Perso-Arabic script, please start with the Basics page, if you are familiar with it, then choose any other page to begin. We recommend beginning with Binding and working your way through the pages in order.

Happy learning!


Published by Roisin Astell

Roisin Astell received a First Class Honours in History of Art at the University of York (2014), under the supervision of Dr Emanuele Lugli. After spending a year learning French in Paris, Roisin then completed an MSt. in Medieval Studies at the University of Oxford (2016), where she was supervised by Professor Gervase Rosser and Professor Martin Kauffmann. In 2017, Roisin was awarded a CHASE AHRC studentship as a doctoral candidate at the University of Kent’s Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, under the supervision of Dr Emily Guerry.

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