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Enigmatic charms

medieval Arabic block printed amulets in American and European libraries and museums

SCHAEFER, Karl R. Leiden: Brill, 2006. xiii, 250 pp.
62 colour plates.

Ground-breaking study of the still little-known achievements of Arab printers and print designers of the 10th-15th centuries CE, before the introduction of printing in Europe. Some of these documents, mainly containing Qur'anic texts, prayers, invocations, etc., are crude and barely legible, but others display quite sophisticated designs involving calligraphic headpieces, transverse lettering, geometric panels, roundels, and the use of colour. There is also a great variety of script styles.

This book gives detailed descriptions of most of the pieces so far discovered in collections outside Egypt (where nearly all of them originate). The printed texts are given in Arabic, with English translations, and there are full colour illustrations of every piece.

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