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Office of News and Information
Johns Hopkins University
3003 N. Charles Street, Suite 100
Baltimore, Maryland 21218-3843
Phone: (410) 516-7160 | Fax (410) 516-5251

February 28, 2000
CONTACT: Dennis O'Shea

Background on the Gold Koran

The Gold Koran is believed to have been copied in the 9th century either in north Africa or in an area that is part of modern-day Iraq.

The Johns Hopkins portion of the Gold Koran is about 3 inches thick with pages about 11 inches high and 15 inches across. It is written on parchment in Kufic, an early Arabic script named for the town of Kufa in what is now Iraq. Kufa was a major center of Islamic culture in the 8th and 9th centuries.

The letters were first outlined in gum or animal glue. Gold leaf cut to size was placed on the letter shapes, then burnished to a high shine. The gold letters were then outlined in brown ink. Vocalization marks above the letters were done in red and blue pigments, later reinforced with carbon black ink.

The Hopkins portion currently has a red goatskin leather binding that probably dates from the 18th century, decorated with tooling in form of medallions and a vine motif border. The inside cover is also tooled leather, a binding style developed by Muslim craftsmen in the 15th century.

Unlike an illuminated religious manuscript that might have been produced in Western Europe, the Gold Koran does not depict any figures, because the Koran forbids the worship of idols and icons.

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