The Persian art of decorating book covers

The Persian art of decorating book covers influenced European styles.

The art of binding and the protection of scripts are as old as writing itself. The contribution made by Muslim craftsmen has been a significant element in the history of this craft and the contribution of Persian craftsmen is particularly important.

It was Persian artists who introduced a range of innovative ideas, both technical as well as artistic, and these were to have a profound impact on subsequent bindings and decorative styles.  In the earlier period of book production within the Islamic world, book covers were generally decorated in a restrained manner. However, around the sixteenth century, Persia took a lead in artistic styles thereby initiating a glorious period for Persian book crafts.  New methods of book production and completely revolutionary techniques were introduced and these were to have a lasting impact on Islamic book production for centuries to come.

The main areas of innovation centered on painted book covers, in effect treating many of these bindings as a vehicle for painting similar to that undertaken by miniaturists: elaborate gilding, stamped covers, lacquer painted covers are some examples.

Persian craftsmen introduced a range of extraordinary innovations that had a lasting effect not only in the Muslim world but also on European binders.

Log on to the website of The Institute of Ismaili Studies to view decorative Persian book covers at www.iis.ac.uk/view_article.asp?ContentID=105133

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