Dr Alison Ota, the director of the Royal Asiatic Society, visited the John Rylands Library today to inspect our giant Koran manuscript. Dr Ota is an expert in Mamluk bindings, and her curiosity was sparked by our digitised images. She was joined by John Mumford, Head of Manuscript Conservation at the National Library of Egypt. After inspecting the binding and viewing the digitised pages in highest resolution, Dr Ota was able to confirm that both manuscript and binding are from the Mamluk period, probably produced between 1357and 1379. This is much earlier than the previous dating – Mingana’s catalogue gives it as early 16th century, dated from the seal of the library of Sultan Kansuh al-Ghuri. She confirmed that the manuscript has been rebound in its original boards, which constitute a very rare and fine example of Mamluk binding and tooling.
By amazing co-incidence we showed Dr Ota a newspaper article detailing the visit from the King of Egypt to see the manuscript in 1927 and realised that it happened exactly 85 years ago today. The story was reported in the Manchester Guardian on 21st July 1927. It’s the second Egyptian co-incidence in 24 hours. By chance, John Mumford arrived in Manchester last night and so visited the opening of Faces and Voices, our new exhibition. He hadn’t realised that the exhibition features mummy masks from Fayum, a region that a few years ago John had introduced to our Collection Care Manager, Caroline Checkley-Scott. The Rylands links with Egypt deepen….