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Marie Efthymiou

Marie Efthymiou. L’art du livre en Asie centrale de la fin du XVIe siècle au début du XXe siècle. Étude des manuscrits coraniques de l’Institut d’Orientalisme Abū Rayḥān Bīrūnī

Compte-rendu réalisé par Iván Szántó
Référence(s) :

Marie Efthymiou. L’art du livre en Asie centrale de la fin du XVIe siècle au début du XXe siècle. Étude des manuscrits coraniques de l’Institut d’Orientalisme Abū Rayḥān Bīrūnī. Leiden & Boston: Brill, 2015, 249 p., 59 ill. ; ISBN: 978-90-04-27894-3 [hardback], 978-90-04-28401-2 [e-book])

Texte intégral

1This general survey of Qur’ans is based on material from one collection, the Abū Rayḥān Bīrūnī Institute of Oriental Studies, Tashkent, as the latter is housing the most comprehensive ensemble of Central Asian manuscripts. In geographic terms, the range of volumes under discussion covers an area from Ḫīva to Marv, while the chronology stretches between the beginning of the 17th century and the October revolution. Thus, Efthymiou’s work warrants the attention of both those with an interest in the study of Central Asian manuscripts and those who seek information regarding this particular collection. The manuscript heritage of Central Asia has been the subject of a growing number of recent catalogues and monographs, published in the wake of the fall of the Soviet Union, yet this work highlights a field, notably the production of Qur’ans, which after having suffered systematic decimation during the Soviet period, has not yet received the same amount of interest as other genres.

2The two parts of the book discuss manuscripts in a twofold deconstruction; the first one breaks them down into their physical constituents, while the second explores the phases of their production. In her book, Efthymiou challenges several axiomatised assumptions that are inherited from Soviet scholarship. One of these assumptions distinguishes between good quality silk paper, attributed to Samarqand and Ḫūqand, and inferior mulberry paper, assigned to provincial mills. As the author points out on the basis of chemical analysis, such distinction cannot be made, for in Ḫūqand most paper appears to have been made of rags, while in Samarqand locally available hemp fibre may have been the principal source for paper manufacture. Gradually both were replaced by imported papers from Russia. The results of chemical investigations regarding inks, gold, bindings, etc., are also discussed in the book. With respect to the formats of Central Asian Qur’an manuscripts, the author emphasizes their functional diversity, as exemplified by small talismanic codices and large volumes intended for waqf libraries. Regional characteristics, including the predominance of quaternion binding (gatherings made of four folded sheets), a clearly recognisable variant of nasḫ script, the wide use of colophons – often bilingual Persian and Turkish texts –, are taken into consideration as well. An interesting suggestion is made regarding the continuity of Timurid practices of illumination and the close parallels of the latter with Indian techniques; this suggestion is substantiated by pointing out the Central Asian origins of the Mughal state. In general, a gradual strengthening of Indian-inspired elements is observed at the expense of Persian features, although the latter remain present, too. A notable local peculiarity is the exceptionally large number of signed bindings datable between the mid-18th century and the early Soviet period. The ṣaḥḥāfs, or binders, often bore the title mullā. This, on the one hand, situates their craft within the religious hierarchy, yet, on the other hand, the growing emphasis on names and signatures point to a certain democratisation of book production. Such tendencies, however, did not save it from extinction during the Soviet period when oral transmission once again became the principal means of religious learning.

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Iván Szántó. Marie Efthymiou, « Marie Efthymiou. L’art du livre en Asie centrale de la fin du XVIe siècle au début du XXe siècle. Étude des manuscrits coraniques de l’Institut d’Orientalisme Abū Rayḥān Bīrūnī », Abstracta Iranica [En ligne], Volume 37-38-39 | 2018, document 32, mis en ligne le 10 mars 2018, consulté le 26 novembre 2020. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/abstractairanica/49802 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/abstractairanica.49802

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