Thursday–Saturday, December 1–3
Turkish Embassy and Ripley Center Lecture Hall

Watch the symposium online

Costly paper, finely tooled bindings, special scripts, and intricate illumination are among the characteristics that distinguish the manuscripts in The Art of the Qur’an. In this symposium, investigate the materiality of luxury copies of the Qur’an made between the eighth and the seventeenth century from Herat to Istanbul. Also learn about the complex and layered significance these Qur’ans acquired as they changed ownership. Speakers examine the volumes in their historical, cultural, and artistic contexts and discuss their use as potent symbols of piety and political and religious authority. The symposium is organized in conjunction with the exhibition The Art of the Qur’an: Treasures from the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts and is made possible in part through the support of the El-Hibri Foundation.


Thursday, December 1, 6:30–7:30 pm

Turkish Embassy
Keynote Lecture: Let’s Start with the Questions: Jane McAuliffe, Library of Congress

Friday, December 2, 9:15 am–4:30 pm

Ripley Center Lecture Hall

9:15–9:45am: Coffee
9:45–10 am: Welcome and introduction
10–11:20 am: Presentations
  • Astâr al-awwâlîn: The Qur’anic Handwritten Tradition and its Beginnings
    François Déroche, Collège de France, Paris
  • The Imperial Ghaznavid Qur’ans: A Case of Collaborative Productions 
    Alya Karame, University of Edinburgh
11:20–11:40 am: Break
11:40 am–1 pm: Presentations
  • Grandeur and Gold: Qur’an Codices for Sultan Uljaytu and the Ilkhanid Court
    Sheila Blair, Boston College
  • Mamluk Qur’ans: Opulence and Splendor of the Islamic Book
    Alison Ohta, Royal Asiatic Society, London
1–2:30 pm:  Lunch break
2:30–4:30 pm: Presentations
  • A Luxury Market? Yāqūt al-Musta‘ṣimī’s Qur’ans
    Nourane ben Azzouna, University of Strasbourg
  • Rendering the Word of God: The Art of Qur’ans with Interlinear Persian and Turkish Translations
    Ünver Rüstem, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore
  • A Sixteenth-Century Shiraz Masterpiece: Chester Beatty’s Ruzbihan Qur’an
    Elaine Wright, Chester Beatty Library, Dublin

Saturday, December 3, 9:30 am–12:30 pm

Ripley Center Lecture Hall

9:30-10 am: Coffee
10am-12pm: Presentations
    • Rise of the En’am-I serif: Investigating the Production of Selections of Suras in the Sixteenth-Century Ottoman Empire
      Simon Rettig, Freer|Sackler
    • Sight and Sound in Early Qur’ans
      Alain George, University of Edinburgh
    • The Qur’anic Soundscape of Mimar Sinan’s Mosques
      Nina Ergin, Koç University, Istanbul
12-12:30 pm: concluding remarks, Julian Raby Freer|Sackler


The Word Illuminated: Form and Function of Qur’anic Manuscripts is made possible in part through the support of the El-Hibri Foundation.

Program offered in conjunction with The Art of the Qur’an: Treasures from the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, organized by the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Republic of Turkey.

We would like to thank the Turkish Embassy in Washington, DC for hosting the keynote lecture.

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Republic of Turkey ministry of culture and tourism logo



Principal Sponsors:



Major Sponsors:

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roshan cultural heritage institute logo

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Additional support is provided by Hagop Kevorkian Fund, El-Hibri Foundation, Capital One, and an anonymous donor.