Arabic Scripts - 14th-16th centuries

14th-16th centuries


Demonstrating variations in formality of script and position of letters.

14th Century

Mardin, Chaldean Cathedral, CCM 83, f. 38r, 1334 January 7

The scribe of this manuscript uses a relatively casual script. The ductus is angled more downward (from right to left) than is typical for Naskh. Vowels and diacritics are only sparingly given. Even the dots for the letters are not always present, e.g. the yāʾ in yakūn of line 1. The lemmata (the Gospel text, in this case) are indicated by qāla with red overline, followed by the appropriate evangelist’s name, and the commentary is introduced by aqūl with red overline; other commentators are introduced like the Gospel is, as in line 8 (here al-mufassir, referring to Theodore of Mopsuestia, as also in the last line).

Ibn al-Ṭayyib, Gospel Commentary

Mardin, Chaldean Cathedral, CCM 83, f. 38r. Image provided by HMML.

The final hāʾ in qawluhu at the end of line 8.
The mīm in al-samāʾ and ismuka (both 3 lines from bottom) is simply a deep, downward-pointing arrow.

Mardin, Chaldean Cathedral, CCM 56, f. 188r, 1345

There is some variation in line thickness. Vowels and diacritics often indicated. Note: the shape of the non-final hāʾ in waǧhihi (line 6), more compressed than usual.

Acts of the Apostles

Mardin, Chaldean Cathedral, CCM 56, f. 188r. Image provided by HMML.

Mardin, Chaldean Cathedral, CCM 53, f. 9v, 13th/14th century

The script here is relatively uniform in line thickness. Some vowels and diacritics are present, but not consistently. There are some four-dotted dividers (as often in Syriac manuscripts). The rubricated section title is in a different type of writing, but easily legible. The tear in the bottom half of the page (nine lines from bottom on the Arabic side) interferes slightly with legibility.

Gospel Lectionary, Syriac and Arabic parallel

Mardin, Chaldean Cathedral, CCM 53, f. 9v. Image provided by HMML.

The final yāʾ, again backwards-pointing, in (line 1) and (line 3).
The fluidity of the letter heights in some words, e.g. al-samāʾ (line 3).
The shape of the ʿayn in ka-ʿaẓīmihi (8 lines from bottom) may not be immediately obvious.
The final hāʾ in ka-sayyidihi (7 lines from bottom).
The curved marks above the rāʾ and under the ḥāʾ (5 lines from bottom) signify that these letters are to be read as rāʾ and ḥāʾ and not as the dotted letters zāy, jīm, or ḫāʾ. The use of these marks is known as Ihmāl (“neglect,” referring to the leaving-off of dots). See Jan Just Witkam, “The Neglect Neglected: To Point or Not to Point, That Is the Question,” Journal of Islamic Manuscripts 6/2-3 (2015): 376-408.

Mardin, Church of the Forty Martys, CFMM 251, f. 73v, 14th century (?)

This hand shows the clarity that a careful scribe could attain when the manuscript (and patron) merited it. There are occasional vowels and diacritics, and some variation in line-thickness; note that the pen used for the red ink shows more variation.

Synaxarion, Rūm Orthodox

Mardin, Church of the Forty Martys, CFMM 251, f. 73v. Image provided by HMML.

The closeness of some words, especially when the final letter ends in a sublinear curve, e.g. allaḏīin — here written alladīn, presumably to reflect that pronunciation — kānū (line 4), ʿalá al-iḍṭihād (line 6), and ilá l-kanīsa (line 9).
The combination ǧīm-ʿayn in ǧamaʿū (7 lines from bottom; also ǧamīʿ in the next line) is written with the first of the letters almost on top of the other. See also fa-ǧamaʿū in the last line, with fāʾ.
In the next to last line, the shape of the word ṣaḥīḥ, which has a clear downward slope, and the dots of the yāʾ a bit to the right due to position of the ḥāʾ.

15th Century

Mardin, Church of the Forty Martys, CFMM 311, f. 100r, 15th/16th century

The script is again relatively straightforward, but more casual than the previous example. The chapter numbers and titles are rubricated.

Collection of Canons

Mardin, Church of the Forty Martys, CFMM 311, f. 100r. Image provided by HMML.

As in some other manuscripts, the non-final kāf generally has its top arm separate from the rest of the letter (e.g., yakūn in line 1).
The close writing, and the shape of the final mīm, in ilayhim (line 4).
Letters that float higher than the other letters: the ʿayn of ʿamalihi (line 6, at end); and, because of their position before the ǧīm/ḥāʾ/ḫāʾ-shape, the mīm of muḫtalifan (line 7), the yāʾ of yaǧib (line 9), and the nūn of al-nuǧūm (last line).
The closed gīm of min/li-aǧli when touching lām (lines 3, 11, and 4 lines from bottom).
In al-qiddīsīn (last line) the word is not written on a level, but the last half of the word floats higher; the dots of the two yāʾs are only vaguely where we might expect them to be.

16th Century

Jerusalem, Saint Mark's Monastery, SMMJ 262, f. 148v, 1524 September 12

The script here was written with a rather thick-nibbed pen, with little distinction in line thickness.

Old Testament Lectionary

Jerusalem, Saint Mark's Monastery, SMMJ 262, f. 148v. Image provided by HMML.

The alif sometimes, but not always, has a serif, as in and waǧadahā (both in line 1) and fīhā (line 6).
The disconnected alif of lām-alif in ẓilāl (line 5), and elsewhere. The lone or unjoined lām-alif, however, has the alif connected, as in wa-lā (line 7).

Midyat, Dayro d-Mor Gabriel, MGMT 118, p. 73, 1533/34 September 17

This scribe’s hand has little variation in line thickness and is angular in some places. The writing is a bit shaky, but there are few surprises in the letterforms.

Gospel Lectionary

Midyat, Dayro d-Mor Gabriel, MGMT 118, p. 73. Image provided by HMML.

The attached final mīm, as in wa-ʿilm (5 lines from bottom) and ʿalayhim (3 lines from bottom), is a very tight circle.
The shape of the final yāʾ in (4 lines from bottom) and ilá (3 lines from bottom).
The sīn has a v- or y-shaped mark over it; see examples in the last three lines. (The šīn has the expected three dots over it.)

Mardin, Chaldean Cathedral, CCM 92, f. 15r, 16th/17th century

The writing here seems to come from a well-practiced scribe. It is fairly fully vocalized and otherwise marked with diacritics. There is some variation in line thickness; see e.g. ǧamīʿ in line 6. There are some smudges in the first few and the last few lines.

The two rubricated section titles are not consistent in terms of color; in the second one, the dots are black, while they are partly red, partly black (or missing) in the first.

Gospels in the version of Asʿad ibn al-ʿAssāl (see f. 74r)

Mardin, Chaldean Cathedral, CCM 92, f. 15r. Image provided by HMML.

In some places the letters do not quite sit on the line, as in fa-lammā daḫala (line 2).
The alif of lām-alif is unconnected as in the first occurrence of qāʾilan in line 5, or connected, as in the second occurrence in the same line.
Note the extreme slant of the lām of the article in al-ǧumūʿ (line 9).
The combination bāʾ-rāʾ in bi-raʾīs (line 10) is simply a sloping line.

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