Eastern Art Online, Yousef Jameel Centre for Islamic and Asian Art

Ashmolean − Eastern Art Online, Yousef Jameel Centre for Islamic and Asian Art

Catalogue of Islamic Seals and Talismans

A catalogue of seals and talismans housed at the Ashmolean from the 8th to 19th century Islamic world, by Ludvik Kalus (published Oxford, 1986).

Islamic Seals and Talismans by Ludvik Kalus

Editor's preface

On behalf of the Department of Eastern Art of the Ashmolean Museum, I would like to extend warm thanks to Dr. Ludvik Kalus for his work in compiling this catalogue of the Islamic seals and talismans in the Department's collection. Such catalogues are the bread and butter of art historians, but are demanding to write both in terms of time and scholarship. Dr. Kalus has already produced a catalogue of the Islamic seals and talismans in the Bibliothèque Nationale, and his publication of the Ashmolean's collection will mean that there is now a broad foundation on which future studies of such objects can be built.

The seals and talismans in the Ashmolean Museum come from a number of sources. Some are on loan from Colleges in the University, and their origins are shrouded in mystery. Others are on loan from the Bodleian Library and were given to the University by individuals whose names have lived on after them. J. B. Elliott, for example, was a member of the Bengal Civil Service and spent more than fifty years in India, particularly in Patna and Lucknow, collecting manuscripts, coins, swords and gem-stone seals. He donated his collection to the University in 1859. The coins are now in the Heberden Coin Room in the Ashmolean Museum, the swords and daggers in the Pitt-Rivers Museum. Another benefactor was Sir Charles Warren, who in 1876 and 1888 presented the Bodleian Library with numerous Near Eastern coins, mainly of Mamluk date, found in the course of his survey of Palestine. It may well be that Warren's seals and talismans were also acquired in this area.

Other seals and talismans were given direct to the Ashmolean Museum. Such are, for example, those donated by the Rev. G. J. Chester (1830-1892), an assiduous collector of antiquities who made numerous visits to Egypt, Syria and Palestine. The Bodleian Library, the British Museum, the FitzWilliam Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum also benefited from his generosity. From the bequest of Sir Arthur Evans in 1941 came a small number of seals, and in more recent times other donations have extended and improved these collections, those of Ian Campbell, Mrs. Crowdy and Mr. van Lier. It is therefore appropriate to dedicate this volume to the donors who through their generosity have brought the collection into being.

I should like to take this opportunity of thanking David Brown for his advice, Imogen Bertin and Richard White for their help in putting the English and Arabic texts onto the University computer before the project was taken over by the Oxford University Press, and Stephen Cope and John Cooper for their work on the University computer for Oxford University Press. Thanks too to Paul Luna of the O.U.P., and to Ian Charlton, Publications Officer at the Ashmolean; also to Geraldine Beasley of the Ashmolean's Photographic Department who did painstaking work preparing the photographs.

All measurements are given in millimetres. Accession numbers are those recorded in the registers of the Department of Eastern Art, except where two are given. In that case the first are those of the Department of Antiquities, the second those of the Department of Eastern Art, indicating that the objects were transferred at some point and re-registered. “Dim.” is the abbreviation used for “Dimensions”.

J. W. Allan


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