Handwritten Quran, Dh5 million pen case: 8 rarest items at Dubai’s book-shaped library

Mohammed Bin Rashid Library opens to the public tomorrow, June 16



by

Nasreen Abdulla

Published: Wed 15 Jun 2022, 6:09 PM

Last updated: Wed 15 Jun 2022, 6:30 PM

The lectern-shaped Mohammed Bin Rashid Library (MBRL) will open to the public tomorrow, June 16. Residents are in for a world of wonder that showcases much more than just books.

The Dh1 billion project is spread over seven storeys, with nine libraries. It has a Treasure of the Library section that features some extremely rare exhibits and manuscripts, including one of the earliest copies of the Holy Quran and a pen case that has an emerald, ruby, and a diamond.

All exhibits in the section are amazing, but here are the top eight that blew our minds:

1. Manuscripts of handwritten Quran copies, 13th century

The most defining artistic achievement of the Islamic civilization in its formative stages is the development of calligraphic scripts to transcribe the Holy Quran. The driving force behind this was the impetus to transcribe the Quran in a beautiful manner.

This exhibit shows five parts of an original copy of the Quran, written in black ink and decorated by hand. These parts, from Iran, were painstakingly put together piece by piece.

2. A Dh 5 million pen case adorned with jewels, 16th century

An emerald, ruby and diamond set gold estate pen case, Deccan, Central India, late 10th AH/ 16th century.
An emerald, ruby and diamond set gold estate pen case, Deccan, Central India, late 10th AH/ 16th century.

This opulently decorated pen-case is designed to be tucked into the waist sash. Such pen cases were highly symbolic objects used in the distribution of rank and were typically given to court officials, especially viziers.

Procured at a sum of Dh 5 million, this exhibit is one of the most expensive items in the library.

3. Most popular Arabic grammar book in Europe, 17th century

The Grammatica Arabica, written by the Dutch Orientalist Thomas Erpenius (died 1624), was the first scientific grammar of Arabic written by a Western scholar. It remained unsurpassed as the most popular and influential guide to the rudiments of Arabic grammar until well into the 19th century.

This edition was printed by Erpenius' colleague, Franciscus Raphelengius (died 1597), who produced the first Arabic typeface used in Leiden.

4. Rare Ramayana manuscript, date unknown

The Ramayana, meaning Rama’s Journey, is one of the two important legends of Hinduism. It is often accompanied with detailed illustrations and almost nearly 24,000 verses.

This manuscript was a laborious undertaking as it may have been produced as a private commission for a noble patron.

5. A description of Egypt during Napoleon’s time, 19th century

The first edition of this 14-part encyclopedia was commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte during his visit to Egypt. It was the first scientific survey of the whole of Egypt and the largest printed work ever produced at the time.

It was a series of publications that involved the collaboration of about 150 scholars and scientists who accompanied Napoleon Bonaparte's expedition to Egypt. It contains accounts on various subjects such as language, agriculture, music and natural history.

Over 2000 artists and engravers worked on this publication, which is housed in a mahogany cabinet inspired by 19th century Parisian cabinet maker, Charles Morel.

6. A masterpiece of the Golden Age of Dutch cartography, 17th century

One of the most lavish and largest geographic works ever produced by Joannes Blaeu, (who died in 1673) is the Atlas Maior, which contained over 500 maps.

Through his father Willem Janszoon Blaeu, who was the official cartographer of the Dutch East India Company, Joannes had close ties with maritime navigators and seafarers. It led him to create the most comprehensive and expensive atlas of the 17th century.

This first edition of the Atlas Maior is written in Latin and consists of eleven volumes. The maps are also vibrantly colored by hand.

7. A beautiful manuscript scroll by the Japanese emperor, 17th century

This manuscript scroll of chapter 23 of the Lotus Sutra is written in gold ink on indigo-dyed paper decorated with floral designs in gold and silver.

This was part of a set of twenty-eight scrolls commissioned by the Japanese emperor Go Mizunoo, who reigned between 1611-1629, or his daughter, the Empress Meisho, to commemorate the 21st death anniversary of the Shogun Tokugawa leyasu (died 1616).

The scroll bears the crest of the Tokugawa family who ruled Japan as shoguns between 1603 and 1867.

8. A Shakespearean original, 17th century

The first issue of Shakespeare’s second folio, Comedies, Histories and Tragedies, containing 26 of his plays. Shakespeare is widely considered one of the greatest dramatists in the English language and is arguably one of the most famous writers ever.

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