Throughout the Ottoman Empire, book binding became a significant craft from around 1421-51 when the Sultan Murat II was in power. Murat’s literary interests have been greatly attributed to the development of book arts which continued to flourish after his rule and is considered to have peaked during the sixteenth century, known as the classical era of Ottoman book binding.
This book cover is dated from around 1500, however the practice of reusing the covers of older manuscripts on new text blocks, as well as the fact that manuscripts were easily transportable goods which were often produced for diverse audiences, have made them difficult to accurately date or historicise.
This cover is an example of a partial leather technique; cardboard has been covered with brown leather which frames rectangles of red velvet on the front and back cover. The technique was first developed during the late fifteenth century but did not become common until the sixteenth century. During this time, advancements in leatherwork meant that it could be produced in a vast array of colours. The simple ornamentation creates an elegant aesthetic which is reinforced by a repeated arabesque pattern on the internal side of the cover. The inside of the cover was usually a secondary consideration to artists; however, the featured design contributes to the overall beauty of this book.
The hand-written title on the spine states that this was a Sufist guide book. Although there were different orders of Sufism throughout the Empire, the practice may be defined as a form of Islamic mysticism and connection to the divine. It became popular in the 1500s as it provided a more personal and intimate alternative to theological scholarship.