The Provenance of DM1

The place of origin for DM1 is unknown. The known existing folios contain no colophon or waqf notice. After its initial inscription, it possibly spent centuries in the library at the Mosque of ʿAmr ibn al-ʿĀṣ at Fustat, Egypt. This is its earliest known place of residence, and it may have been one of 250 codices known to have been kept there during the 7th to 10th centuries. From the Mosque ofʿʿAmr  during at least the 17th to 19th centuries the pages of this Qur’an were divided and sold to various international buyers and came to reside in the collections where they are now found. There is very limited information as to how the pages came into their current respective collections and this project is still researching this issue.

The Dutch scholar-collector Jacobus Golius (1596-1667) is a common thread for at least two collections: the Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel, Germany and the Bodleian Library’s at Oxford University. Sometime before 1666 the Duke Augustus of Brunswick-Lüneburg (1579-1666) received the pages as a gift for his library from Golius so that he could obtain a license to copy a different text in the Duke’s collection. This is perhaps the earliest record of pages from this particular codex existing outside of Egypt.

The Bodleian’s pages were acquired in 1714 through the purchase of a collection after the death of an Irish Anglican Archbishop who was also a scholar and manuscript collector named Narcissus Marsh (1638-1713). He had purchased these Qur’an folios in 1695 in a sale of Jacobus Golius’ private manuscripts, they representing the remainder of the codex from which he gave the pages to the Duke almost thirty years before. It is not known how Golius originally obtained this manuscript.

The Bibilotheque Nationale’s portion of the muṣḥaf came in from the collection of Asselin de Cherville (1772-1822), a French Orientalist and the chief translator for the French Consulate in Egypt. He lived in Cairo and after his death in 1822 his manuscripts came into the collection of the Bibilotheque Royale which later became the Bibilotheque Nationale. He would have had the opportunity to purchase his portion directly from the ʿAmr Mosque or a local dealer.

The Chester Beatty Library in Dublin was originally the private collection of Mr. Chester Beatty. He probably acquired these folios sometime between 1929 and 1930 when he acquired his first Kufic Qur’an manuscripts from a private dealer. It is known to have been in the collection by 1933 when Mr. Beatty lent it as one of 100 manuscripts to an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. The Chester Beatty Library’s part of the muṣḥaf contains perhaps the most spectacular illuminated pages that have survived out of any of the existing folios. There is no available documentation for the ownership of these pages before 1929.

There are six other libraries known that hold portions of this Qur’an, and the stories have not yet been obtained concerning their acquisition. The libraries are:

The Freer Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C.,

The Royal Library in Copenhagen, Denmark,

The Gotha State Library in Gotha, Germany,

The Museum für Islamische Kunst in Berlin,

The Topkapi Sarayi library in Istanbul, and

The Aya Sofya library in Istanbul.


Unfortunately, this example of manuscript dispersal through the sale of portions over an extended period of time is not at all uncommon. Manuscript catalogues for particular library collections usually list other known portions of a manuscript and where these portions reside. This project is a small step toward reuniting these dispersed manuscripts into the beautiful and majestic volumes that they were intended to be.