Prof. Angelo Michele Piemontese

In the beginning it was the Kufi that "as the eyewash illuminates the sight to the learned" then the abbirid vizier Ibn Muqla (M. 940) elaborated the Six Scriptures (aqlam-i sitta) derivatives: Tult, nasb, rayban, mubaqqaq, tawqi, line, with the Mongols (1250 dc) appeared the Persian taliq   gushed from the last two, finally the Nastaliq: thus says the traditional scheme of Persian calligraphic treatises. The history of the evolution of Arabic script is naturally more complex.

The organic nature of the system seems set in the 6th century d. C., the one before Islam. During the first caliphate, the omayyad (650-750 dc), ran the characters of the diplomat Galil 'eccelsa' (the father of all the scriptures), and of the induced cancelleresche Tumar  roll, nisf half, Tult "A third", to which the Persian is later added Dibag: ar. Tumar "roll"; capsule (of amulet). Parchment (tamaro 'to bury'), 'small tome; paper ',' cut, piece; roll volume; Volume '; ar. Dibag (also pers  Diba) 'silk fabric, brocade', dibaga 'preface; frontispiece '(also for dibaca).

The period of the subsequent Abbasid Caliphate was crucial in the formation of the whole Arab-Islamic civilization: its geopolitical center, Iraq, the living forge of the new culture of the world; the fresh capital, Baghdad, truly a "gift of God" as its Iranian name suggests. The decisive changes in writing (750-950 AD) are produced, therefore theorized in the treatment; perfected, the principles then elaborated remained valid until the arrival of the Mongols so that it concerns Persia, when a different era began for the art of writing and the production of the book, whose full splendor was with Timurid humanism (1th century ). The magnificent Timurd achievements determined the guidelines for the Safavid and Mughal writing and book schools (Persia and India, XNUMXth-XNUMXth century; the same for the Ottoman), and Qagiara (Persia, XNUMXth century; the XNUMXth, enlightenment for us, was obscurantism for them, it seems): each of which followed characteristic tastes of its own. The great centers that affected Persia, Cairo, Baghdad, Tabriz, Esfahan, Shiraz, Mashhad, Herat. But much, too much of the ancient, pre-Mongolian period, has been lost.

  1. KUFI. Since the faith consecrates the writing, and the first is consecrated to enter the book, it was also the first canonized with the Koranic codification (VIII-IX century). And the kufi 'cufic' unique among all the Islamic scriptures to take its name from a place of its birth: the city of Kufa (Southwestern Iraq, on the side of the road to Arabia), founded at the dawn of the conquest by an Arab colony (638 AD). Of epigraphic origin, endowed with the monumental symbolic authority, adaptable to parchment, it was the only writing of the Korans of the beginning (c. VIII-mid X century).

The Kufic was not exactly ideal for its intended purposes, presenting: limited number and type of letters, in embryo, contracted and uniform, devoid of diacritical and indecipherable points. The Koran dissolved it, distinguished it, curled it; body of characters crushed on the staff, static, black traced (as it will be in every writing) and solid, 'brushing' of a bulky rind, of slow execution; desired effect: hieratic solemnity, embellished and a little animated by the ornaments. Streamlined, trimmed, in the angle, marked by the kufic, writing of the 'posed' type, it retained the immobility and imbalance, between the compact linear register and the upper register of the band almost empty, congenital; gave way to Nashi, which seems to peel out of it, as a backbone from the casing (X-XI century). While the Korans welcome other faster scriptures, in step with the movement of dissemination of the faith, the kufic is diverted towards the facade and ornamental parts of the book: addition of palmettes at the top, hooks at the bottom, encircling with a background layout to vegetable coils camouflaged its original heaviness, "moving it" in the scratched band. It was the model of the classic treatment of rubrics in Qurans and luxury books: hooked writing, especially the Tult in a field of vegetable volutes, possibly stained by small flowers and leaflets.

The progress of executive and ornamental growth of Kufic, registered on the medium paper, stimulated its artistic development on marble, brick, stucco, ceramic, metal and fabric, where it was instead flexible and rich in ranges: rectangular, flowery, embroidered, round, stylized, even 'sliding' (in ceramic). Devoted to imperiousness and petrification, the Kufic found its true fulfillment in the monumental epigraphy and architectural ornamentation, where it was solid, marked, extraordinarily long-lived, a bit like the square Roman capital. Writing of an ideological kind, preferred by the mosque, climbs on the pinnacles, stands out on the facades and walls, nestles in the tiles, expresses the ideals and dictates of dynasties (such as the Ghaznavide of Iran, XNUMXth-XNUMXth century): its classical varieties, alone, are defined by political regions; some of the ornaments, and of the book rubrics (where it was used until the XNUMXth century c.), has a character close to the Gothic, which according to some authors would have drawn its impetus from it (see; also remember the probable contact between Arabic and Latin script in the case of "Mozarabic cursive").

  1. muhaqqaq. Simultaneously with the formation of the minuscule carolina in the curiae of the Frankish Kingdom, the chancelleries of the Arab Empire worked on the elaboration of a cursive emancipated from the ancient blanket of scribes and stonecutters. The Omayyad clerks were large and stocky (the Tumar and companions required enormous calamis) with little functionality, but under the caliph Abbasid Harun al-Rascid the range of Muslim diplomacy had extended, using the card, from the T'ang to Charlemagne. The Iraqi "caliphal", the muhaqqaq 'Done'. 

This is compact, silhouetted, decisive, airy writing. Sharpens the teeth of the graphemes (class IV), turns the eyelets (III, V-VI, VIII), lengthens the stretched laces (VII-VIII), arches the tails, sinks the sections under the line of the staff (XII-XIII) making them then rise with hook-like offshoots, pierce the whole with high perpendicular rods (Vb, IX-X), constellating it with a clear rhomboid puncture. Result, in the mature phase: vertical bars (above) resting at a large angle on the sliding axis, where they take place in the undulations of the nodes (center, base), or tie up to the opposite limit of the saber irons (below the line of the staff) ; the auction ofalif it acts as a sextant or rudder bar, marks the inter-literal spaces, compasses the corners, defines the height of the fascia. Majestic in conformation, impetuous for the "brushing" features, the muhaqqaq it was the favorite script of the large-format Korans, perhaps marking the apex of cursive (XNUMXth-XNUMXth centuries), but growing too much in expansion of spaces and lengthening of laces, and pulling behind the dense hatching of the kufic, whose liturgical courtesy remained unmatched. Excessive waste because this "cubital" made a long way, even if only as a decorative one, along the way of the book, which finally discarded it in favor of Tult.

Since the system does not provide for the differentiation of the grapheme in capitalized and small letters along the syntagma, nor interpunction, it is remedied with the grading of the scale of the module on various measures: gali 'shining, radiant, ostentatious; full ', great; Hafi nestled, hidden; thin ', minute; Guhar 'powder': very tiny, so much so as to be distinguishable by eye watered down with eye drops, in the absence of a magnifying glass, and rather delight, calligraphic divertissement in which the Nashi, not for nothing the most orderly of scriptures. However, the variation of scale is allowed, practiced, in different parts of the book (the titles / the text), which usually involves and accepts only one, the median between the Hafi e gali, therefore anonymous, except when you have a mixed or bilingual text (eg dictionary, commentary, Arabic-Persian, Turkish-Persian).

Also, in this case it is a good idea to use a spelling in a larger body for the main text, and a different one in a minor body (ex. Nashi e sekaste) for the secondary, in equally black ink, or red for the glossed text; it is a common rule to write in a single spelling, scale and coloring, as required by the fundamental need for compactness of the system, limiting oneself to a red overlining of the words / phrases recalled.

The two-tone black (ordinary and main text) / red (secondary text or particular, exceptional member of the first) ensures the graphic alternation, with much greater clarity than the "tondo / italic" of our printed books, as on the glossy white sheet of those Persian manuscripts stand out the clearest contrast, brighter to the eye, continuous black tracing / tip of red (see the Greek incunabula in red and black, the opening words + / explicit of the mss. Late-antique in alternating red and black etc.). Of course, always in titles and glossatures, the luxury book uses colored inks or painted inscriptions, and other minutiae of flowering (eg to conveniently space the verses of poetry), but the canon is also here: plain text, solid, black , continuous, points and red lines.

As already seen from Cufic, the book selects the scriptures produced by the system, and shares the tasks, not rejecting a priori none (they arrive, or are assigned, to the book after the proof of the Book). The uncoordinated, bulky, ungainly, coquettish or bully, are disadvantaged, end up in the spaces provided for rubrics and cartouches. There Rayhan 'basil' or Rihani «Basilica», a small-scale derivative of the muhaqqaq, therefore economics, it dampens the extroversion: it restricts the spacing on the staff, it moderates laces and strokes, but, with that name, it certainly does not correct its exuberant approach. In the short term, she too ended her career with the degree of retirees of book luxury: ornamentation of columns and headings.      

  1. Tult. Also rubricata this, among the cancellerschecal calipers had emerged the Tult (o tulut, 'a third', it is not clear with respect to what: perhaps, the inclination of the vertical strokes of the graphemes in comparison with the straight line of the staff; according to someone ⅓ is the original form of this writing compared to the measure of the traditional papyrus roll, cm. 14.5X18). Between the extension of the horizontal sections and the elevation of the verticals, we remain in the typological exaggeration of muhaqqaq, and, against the finiteness of this, on the branch of awkwardness.

The ramshackle, however, make messs without harassment: move the waters, make color, bring joy. Disproportionate, misplaced, the Tult thus holds the pace thanks to its flexibility: the undulation of the muhaqqaq on the median line it extends to the entire ductus, with general characterization and homogeneity. The laces of the graphemes are now bent and stretched (curved, contracted, elongated) as desired in the direction of the tracing (forward left), which indeed favors, due to the possibility of superimposing final graphic elements of a stripe with letters or strokes which leave an empty space on the right, and to prepare for an accordion movement, with which the play of spacing is guaranteed.

But malleability, if it is convenient in a single writing band, in the filling of a first line, cannot be replicated in infinite succession, as in true cursive, which is assigned by the law of uniformity. If it has not found this, the book has in return the index suitable for its representative parts, the standard of the cartouche, where the Tult there was a fixed or prevalent place, and uninterrupted use; primacy among the sisters aqlàm-ì sitta, which did not even touch the ideal italics Nashi, for a long time in desuetude, causes a revival of Persian book taste. Like any self-respecting ornamental writing, the Tult served monumental and artistic decoration; in the Timurido-Safavid age, executed on glazed tiles, it was the Galì tout court, and often the variant musalsal 'chained'.

Crossing of Tult and of the 'cancelleresca' (Diwani) Persian looks like the Tuğra, the concatenated par excellence, monumental signature in precious colored inks, meandering icon, pyramid of handwriting and paper of Safavid emperors and, especially, Ottomans (but also, in black ink, of règoli, governors and Viziers), which sometimes sneaks into closing the pompous book. Here, in the colophon where it is an autographed signature, typically in large-format Korans, there are usually other cartouche writings, induced by the tult: tawqi 'registration, annotation, signature', and its small-scale variant Riqa '(from) piece, coupon, ticket', exercised by calligraphers on individual sheets, as the mixed 'flowing, good', in turn typical of the oblique headers of the firmans (diplomas) Timurido-Safavidi.

Proportionate in the structure, sanctioned, the Tult it is Koranic writing, like muhaqqaq and rayhan.

  1. Nashi. Approval of graphical features and functional balance to their correct execution (dimension, shape, angle, spacing, cadence) are found with the Nashi 'transcriptional', o nash 'transcription', from ar. nasaha 'transcribe, copy', Nusha written, copy; manuscript, code, book '(usually for nusha-yi hatti in the last meaning). Of origins, it seems, epigraphic and introduced (better sanctioned) in the califfal chancellery from Ibn Muqla, "The inventor" of the six sisters, the Nashi it is already found on the heights of perfection in a famous Koran by Ibn Bawwàb (1000 c.). It is the first, true book cursive, the result of the complex centuries-old experimentation of Kufi, muhaqqaq, Rayhan e Tult.

Substantial, concrete, firm-and-move, the Nashi find the medium, productive module of such «cursive», adjusting its outline, structure, inclination, distribution, effectiveness of the ductus, whose rhythmic undulation is half-hidden, carried by its internal flow, not basaltic (Kufi) or exaggerated (muhaqqaq) or messed up (Tult). The key to the graphic system, which opens up the flowing and clear ductus, therefore adaptable to calligraphic expressiveness, from which it is enriched and varied without letting itself be displaced by the fundamental characteristics, is the coordination of the high / continuous / low overhangs and of the ligature / contrast contrast. caesura in the actuation of the calamus on the sheet plane, along the line of the staff. Operational convenience is achieved.

La Nashi it is the Koranic and book script of the second Islamic classicism (the first Persian, c. mid-X-XIII centuries), the most widespread and important from Egypt to "Eastern Islam", Persia and surrounding regions (hegemonized by it); the Muslim West was instead the domain of the 'Maghreb ', cursed cousin of the Nashi.

This adapted well, on a grand scale, to the needs of the ornate, illuminated, luxurious and monumental book; he demonstrated the same validity in the common books, where his vitality stood out; the apex, both of standardization in the bare book, and of canonicity in the valuable book, extends from about one thousand to fourteenth century.

Under the Mongols and the Timurids, its descending parable begins and is accentuated in the frequency of use, especially for books of fine literature, causing the rise of a new concurrent cursive, of Persian generation. Perhaps because she is the daughter of the authentic mother; there Kufi «Grown» on the books, the Nashi possesses a certain angular angularity, retains a shade of rigidity in its character line, which is then the essence of this "minuscule round", which can be classified as a semicursive: the tenuous slowdown that follows on the executive level is precisely the segmental support and the moment of calm that is appropriate for a "reasoned" writing such as the Nashi. Measured on the median clarity, it is a guide to the distinction for reading, and a stimulus for reflection: it transmits thought, since it is precisely designed to "transcribe" a message. When this is really important, pre-eminent, and determines the writing of the book, with which no other playful purposes are set, even in periods of partial eclipse Nashi remains the irreplaceable book round: then it is with greater clarity specialized writing, as well as for the Korans, for the historiographical and scientific literature.

The incisiveness of the Nashi it is canonical, wisely modulated, in the copying of historical, mathematical, geometric, astronomical texts, and on closer inspection one could see its characteristic varieties, such as the 'mathematical-astronomical'. On the other hand, after the decline (XIII-XV centuries) and the eclipse (XVI-XVIII centuries) the Nashi he took the revenge: strong of its nature, the rigor of the right means, it was the one chosen in the press (XX century). The standard characters of the Nashi they are the normal "printed" script in the entire Islamic world today.

  1. Nastaliq. Now, the librarian vocation of the Nashi, and its tendency to crystallization, accept modulations on the register of its ostinato bass, the distinction, but they cannot bear to be too tight on the string, either of the calligraphic elaboration (which, more than anything else, plays on the scalar measures), want of the continuous evolution of cursive: it is a limit, when the production of the book is directed by aesthetic purposes and tastes. There Nashi was therefore destined to 'lose ground in the book field, when a new art or conception of this affirmed itself in the Persia of the Mongols and Timurids (late XNUMXth-XNUMXth centuries), thanks to the encounter of the great experience of Egyptian-Iraqi production (and, in Persia itself, Seljuk), with the executive and pictorial technology of Chinese origin: from the grafting arose a different way, a more refined taste in writing and ornamentation of the book.

The concurrent writing was the cancelleresca taliq 'suspended', oblique with respect to the line, arisen (it seems) in the thirteenth century, codified in the fourteenth, adopted in the post-Mongolian Persian chancelleries or of the Persian school (Timurid, Ottoman, Safavid, Mughal). Powerful and arbitrary, as some have called it, the taliq pressed to enter the book: he had won the name of typical Persian writing, the first of mother country. But in order to really succeed, he needed a suitable script, which would dilute his erased character.

What could be, the daring, to scratch the serenity of Nashi ?

This had an aesthetic limit that put her in trouble, but after all, among the ancient six sisters, she was the only one evolved in books: it could not be replaced, and peace.

Therefore, a mediation was necessary, among the claims of the taliq and the integrity of the Nashi. The mixed rose Nastaliq, artificial and hybrid also in the name (nashi + taliq). The coincidences will be random, but not entirely insignificant: more or less in the same period, the Italian humanists, dissatisfied with the rigid linearism of the Gothic, produced the 'semi-Gothic' book (what else is the nashi in correlation to the Kufi ?) to achieve the airy elegance of littera antiqua, refined and inclined as "cancelleresca italica"; it was, in essence, roughly the line of research of late-Mongol and Timurid, Persian and Turkish humanists. Grafting of mature times, the nasttflìq "Persica" emigrated with its scribes to the areas where the Persian literary taste predominated: the Ottoman Empire (formerly under Mohammed the Conqueror) and Mughals, evolving into respective varieties (plump and heavy Indian, Turkish of scarce refinement).

La Nastaliq it is of a synthetic-figural type, and calculated to effect: "absorption" of the outline and of the writing in the frame of the book. It loves the long draft and the soft shading of the letters: it stretches and brushes the laces stretched on the line of the staff (classes VII, VIII a), joins and lengthens the teeth (IV) like a sickle, obtaining a sinuous horizontal line that makes as a ruler of the writing band, as the rod (X) was the sextant of the muhaqqaq- then, it tightens the eyelets (III, V-VI), swells the tails to a crescent (I-II, IV-V a, IX b), loosens the curl (III), plunges the trunks (XII-XIII).

The chancery obliquity of the talìq, learned the angle lesson of the Nashi, is corrected with a distended and turgid ductus, spatial-linear guide, balancing the high field, is the elongated bar of IX a whose skewed overall character softens to (S), while 'the perpendicular rods (V b, IX b, X) become thinner, almost appearing as "wings". It's a bit like the reverse of the muhaqqaq, which was shipwrecked in the waste of space (emptying of the writing band).

As "relaxing", the layout of the Nastaliq instead, it fills it in a few jets: at the end of line, especially with poetic lines, and frequent writing a final stroke (or letter) above a plate (eg VII c) with backward turn to the right, and filling the empty segment up. It is a fallback to which other writings also occur (Tult, nashi), if they do not prefer to shrink or crumple the character that "is found at the edge of the left margin of the staff, impassable due to the prohibition of the breaking of the word and its alignment; in Nastaliq the remedy becomes functional, ensuring a greater balance on the vertical of the field: possibly, if the "final letter" VII b is present, the detachment of the overwritten section, with respect to the line of the staff, is healed with the backward stretching of the tail of VII b, like our squiggle underlining eg a signature. Sanctioned by Mir calligraphers Ali Tabrizi and Sultan Ali Mashadi (XV century), the sliding and capricious nastcfliq you your favorite book writing until the nineteenth century, specializing in the art book, e. in the representation of the poetic text or of literary intent: it entered into epigraphy (from the XNUMXth century), but such coquetry did not make it accept the Koranic scripture.

  1. VARIOUS. Safavide variant of the Nastaliq, its reduced scale (therefore sharpened in the ductus) with backfire cancellation (towards the taliq), and the sekasté 'broken / breaking', a synthetic script that shatters graphemes, words and graphic norms, composing pieces of homogeneous pen jets by itself. There sekaste it is the corsivissima: perfected (seventeenth century), enters the book (eighteenth-nineteenth centuries), becomes ministerial, merchant, epistolary, daily, ordinary.

Other important writings that enter into a sense of perfection, or some point at the moment in the Persian book, are: bihari Indian, specialized in the Koran or its commentary (Tafsir) with the Arabic text in the middle and the Persian comment in the margin (nashi); there siyaqat 'ciphered writing, on account', the mercantile curse, homologated on the scale of numbers (of Indian origin, these are written from left to right, as we do). In addition, the fantastic or figural, bench of calligraphic virtuosity, combinations of scythes and hooks in a snaking path that outline animals, buildings, boats, etc.

with the pre-text of Koranic or poetic passages: Tavus 'peacock', Larzè 'Flickering', Golzar 'flower bed' (bodies of letters strewn with flowers), zolf-e arùs 'wedding curl' (with oval letters and curled tails), Hilali 'crescent', badr al-kamal 'a lunapiena' (filling the queues), Manasir 'from diplomas' (tails twisted in one sense or another, according to one writing of praise, promotion, or blame, derogation), mutannà 'ambiguous, twofold, double': the same written addressed and united on the plane, therefore "visible" specularly, on the right and the reverse at the same time; and via drawing.

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