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Work of Many Hands: The Art of Islamic Bookmaking

May 1, 2006–August 28, 2006
Gallery 101A

The printing press came late to the Islamic world, in part because it was eclipsed by the popularity of elegant, handmade books that celebrate the beauty of the written word. This exhibition is a two-part series to explore the complex process of Islamic bookmaking with a selection of elegant manuscript pages, book bindings, and writers' tools from the Art Institute's collection.

Part I: May 1–July 3
Part II: July 8–August 28

Kings, governors, scholars, and other wealthy patrons encouraged bookmaking into a highly developed art form, investing large sums of money in illustrated copies of popular literary works (both religious and secular). Their enthusiasm resulted in the sponsorship of large workshops where many specialists gathered. Paper makers, pigment mixers, illustrators, calligraphers, leather craftsmen, librarians, and others all contributed their unique talents to the bookmaking process. This exhibition gives visitors an understanding of the collaborative artisans in Islamic bookmaking and an appreciation for the skills that went into each object of art.


Art Institute of Chicago


Tanya Treptow, Art Institute of Chicago

Page from a Manuscript with Illuminated Border of Birds among Flowering Branches, 16th century. Persia. Art Insitute of Chicago.