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Ibn al-Bawwab – Master Calligrapher

late 10th century-1022 A.D.

Full name: Abu’l-Hasan ‘Ali Ibn Hilal, known as Ibn al-Bawwab (“Son of the Doorman”)

What he did:

  • Refined the rules of Ibn Muqla’s six scripts
  • Developed a system of proportional measurement such that each letter could be measured by its height and width in dots

Biography:

  • Born a commoner, the son of a doorkeeper
  • Began his career as a house painter, then became a book illuminator
  • Took up calligraphy, mastered the known calligraphy scripts, and developed a few new scripts
  • Was an imam in a mosque in Baghdad
  • Was a bit eccentric and wore odd clothes
  • Wrote a famous poem about calligraphy (see right)
  • Wrote 64 copies of the Koran, only one of which still exists (in Dublin’s Chester Beatty Library)

Proportional writing system using dots

Above text source: http://calligraphyqalam.com/people/ibn-al-bawwab.html


He was known also under the name of Ibn al-Sitri, famous calligrapher of the Buwayhid period who died in Baghdad in 1022. He frequented the governmental circles of the period, as he was closely attached to the vizier Fakhr al Mulk Abu Ghalib Muhammad b. Khalaf at Baghdad and was for some time in charge of the library of Buwayhid Baha al-Dawla at Shiraz.

He was also an illuminator (at least one outstanding example of his work surviving), a devout man who knew the Quran by heart and is said to have reproduced sixty-four copies of it, and a man of letters who was well versed in the law and who wrote a treatise and a didactic poem on the art of writing.

His real claim to fame, however, according to the early Arab authors, was to have perfected the style of writing invented, about a century earlier, by his famous predecessor, the vizier Ibn Muqla and to have brought it to a degree of well-balanced elegance which was to be surpassed later only by the efforts of Yaqut al-Mustasimi. It nevertheless seems likely that we are today in a position to evaluate the calligraphy of Ibn Bawwab through the unique example of it in a Quran in the Chester Beatty Library (MS K. 16), signed by Ibn Bawwab and dated 391/1000-1, whose calligraphy is as splendid as its illuminations.

 

Ibn-al-Bawwab's Quranic Manuscript

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