An illuminated manuscript is a manuscript in which the text is supplemented with such decoration as initials, borders (marginalia) and miniature illustrations. In the strictest definition, the term refers only to manuscripts decorated with gold or silver; but in both common usage and modern scholarship, the term refers to any decorated or illustrated manuscript. Far Eastern and Mesoamerican works are described as painted. Islamic manuscripts may be referred to as illuminated, illustrated or painted works.
(A sample of an Illuminated Manuscript of Sūrat al-Fātiḥah)
The teachers and artisans in this field, use such art in various books to make the golden pages of the literal and religious texts more beautiful; therefore, the pages are designed by tree and flower pattern arabesque designs.
The background of using this art in designing the Iranian books goes back to Sasanian era. After Islam, the illuminated manuscripts were taken by the Islamic and Arab governments then were named as “Islamic Art”. Although this art lost its eloquence, it gained dynamism again.
Illuminated manuscript reached its peak when the people in the Seljuk Empire and the Timurid Era started working as professional artisans in this field; that was the reason why this art blossomed and the most beautiful manuscripts were generated.
The kings called painters, bookbinders and the craftsmen from various regions of Iran and started to work in the libraries of the capital city; thus, invaluable masterpieces were created that adorned the Iranian museums in the world. Although this art was decelerated when the western culture conquered the country, illuminated manuscripts are still full-blown with the invaluable efforts by the eminent and committed Iranian artisans.
The Schools of the Illuminated Manuscripts
Like other art categories, Illuminated manuscripts consist of various schools and eras such as Seljuk, Bukhara, Timurid, Safavid, Qajar and other various eras. The differences between various manuscript types are about the colors, the way the letters are put next to each other on a page and how they are painted. In fact, we can say that the illuminated manuscripts of various eras manifest the feelings and spirits of those times. This art in the fourth century was very simple, in the fifth and sixth centuries serene and coherent than in the eighth century majestic and powerful, also in the ninth and the tenth centuries this art was very elegant and luxurious.
When we look at the illuminated manuscripts of the recent eras, we can find the salient effects of the Iranian Illuminated Manuscripts in other countries such as India, Turkey and other Arab countries. The artists that emigrated from Iran to India during the early Safavid Empire were the founders of the schools of Iranian and Indian painting school who created various invaluable masterpieces. The unique masterpieces by the Mongolian Indian artists manifests the strict relationship between this school and the painting schools in Iran and India.
If there is such an art in Turkey today, it is because of the Iranian artists that founded it by immigrating to Turkey.
Iranian Illuminated Manuscript
The history of Quran Illumination goes back to determining the decorative cadres with the information about the Surah, verses, the thirty segments of Quran as well as the signs for the prostration verses. It was the time when the Muslims became more interested in Quran bit by bit and fell in love with its beauty. Later on, the artists decided to do the illuminated manuscripts more carefully. As a result, this art was no longer simple and found a decorative aspect especially for the Qurans that belonged to the kings and the big heads. This was one of the main reasons why this art got completed.
The artistic productions in the Timurid era was one of the most important and common types of Illuminated works. The Timurid dynasty all encouraged the art of writing books; “Sultan Baysongor Bahador Khan” was the biggest and the most important of them who was the son of Shahrokh. This king himself was an artist who enjoyed learning the techniques of inscription, calligraphy, illuminated works and painting. He gathered many artists from around the Timurid Empire and founded a library in Harat special for this job. The papermakers, calligraphers, illuminated workers, bookbinders, painters and so on had perfect circumstances there. The religious books of this city are of the most precious and beautiful books that are produced so far.
The Qurans that were produced in this era and belonged to Shahrokh and Baysonqor were among the most beautiful illuminated manuscripts. Gold and Lapis lazuli were the main materials that were used to decorate and illuminate the books and the Quran.
مقاله سید اخلاقی؛ پریسا، (1389)، دانشنامه کوچک صنایع دستی ایران، تهران: قصیده، چاپ دوم