Thesaurus Islamicus Foundation
Editio Electrum – Mamluk and Ilkhanid Masterpieces Collection

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The Thesaurus Islamicus Foundation is a not-for-profit educational trust established to advance, support and promote the protection, preservation, study and dissemination of the Islamic intellectual, cultural and artistic patrimony by any means deemed appropriate.  It prepares the highest quality critical editions of works of traditional Islamic literature and strives for the revivification of all Islamic arts, particularly those of the book

The Thesaurus Islamicus Foundation’s design studio, Editio Electrum, is pleased to present the Mamluk and Ilkhanid Masterpieces Collection of twelve double page Tradigital Prints based on selected openings from the finest medieval Qur’an manuscripts in Cairo’s Dar al-Kutub (the National Library and Archives of Egypt). Seven pairs of prints are reproductions of the ornamental frontispieces found at the beginning of Dar al-Kutub Qur’an manuscripts 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 72, and 81; and the remaining five pairs of prints are reproductions of illuminated text page openings from these same manuscripts. The twelve pairs of Editio Electrum Tradigital Prints are available for sale as a complete boxed set in a limited edition of two hundred and twenty-five.

It is said that tradition is copying. In traditional arts throughout the world, the apprentice is trained by imitating the master, in many cases by attempting to copy the master’s works directly. We live in an age of mass production and mass communication, and we are more familiar than ever with copied images, but there is a further consideration to the traditional practice of copying. The traditional copy is never mindless or automated, it is essential that the copy derive from the conscious understanding of what is being copied. What qualifies the apprentice’s attempts as successful is the degree to which they show the comprehension and reapplication of the visual language of the masterpiece. Copies that may seem quite far from exact in places may in fact be deemed better than some that, to our eyes at least, appear more accurate, because they never the less ‘say’ the same thing as the original, rather as a poem recited by a different voice remains the same poem. Accordingly, the twelve Editio Electrum prints are not photographic or automated copies that captures all the exigencies of the original manuscripts; rather, but in being completely reconstructed by hand using digital technology, they embody the idea of the designs, or the archetypal originals, in a new medium. In this sense they are better thought of as Platonic copies than as facsimile reproductions.

Referring to the many fine photographic reproductions in Shaykh Abu Bakr Siraj ad-Din’s recent publication, ‘Splendours of Qur’an Calligraphy & Illumination’, HRH The Prince of Wales has expressed the hope that “... these plates may help to revive the sacred art of illumination so that it may accompany once again the art of Quran calligraphy ...”. It is in this spirit that Editio Electrum aims to revivify the noble art of the ornamental arts of the Islamic book, the summit of which is the art of illuminating the Holy Qur’an. The motto of Editio Electrum is ‘Ancient Vision - Modern Technique’ and in reconstructing the twelve masterpieces of Qur’an illumination in the collection the Editio Electrum studio team has not only deciphered and understood the visual language of the medieval originals, but has also developed workshop techniques with the very latest in digital design and print technology to articulate this language in a new and exciting medium. In particular, the geometric elements of the designs have benefited from being freed from the limitations of paper and brush, the tools of the medieval craftsman; and, have been reconstructed using CAD software, now have an accuracy not found in the medieval manuscripts.

The prints are printed by Yon Art Printing of Korea with high grade offset litho inks and 23.5 carat gold leaf on Arches 100% cotton rag Aquarelle paper. The experience and expertise of Yon Art Printing is central to the success of the project. The uncompromising production values and patient attention to detail given to the twelve prints make them unique in the world of printing.

It is our hope that these prints will inspire all who see them and will serve as a reminder that, as the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad states:

‘God is Beautiful and He loves Beauty.’