Glossary of terms

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Letter compositions used in various genres of Islamic writings, including Qur'anic studies, hadith literature, etc. [Gacek Vademecum 2, 5–6].


Arabic alpha-numerical notation based on the arabic alphabet. [Gacek Vademecum 6]


Information on how the holding institution obtained the item.

Andalus ̄ı script

Script in Southern Spain, mentioned by name by Ibn H ̄aldu ̄n[d. 808/1406]. [Gacek Vademecum 8]

Approximate date

If the exact date isn't know, an approximate date is included in the metadata.

Arabic numerals

‘Arabic numerals' is a term for numerical system employed in the Western World. It was developed from the Hindu-Arabic numerals in use in the Islamic West. [Gacek Vademecum 13]


Every MS has to be described as a tripartite entity. These three parts are reflected in the AREAS of description. They deal with the following aspects of a MS book 1) physical construction/codicology, 2) intellectual content 3) history. Each of the filled in areas  constitutes a partial description, which being accompanied by a set of images is ready to go on-line. The number of fields covering each area is limited to those necessary and sufficient to register visible phenomena.


Both ‘autograph' and ‘holograph' are used as nouns and adjectives, and often interchangeably, although strictly speaking a ‘holograph' is a manuscript wholly written by the author. An ‘autograph' on the other hand can also mean a person's own signature, etc. [Gacek Vademecum 14]

Back matter

Describes the standard portions of text that occur at the end of the manuscrit (explicit, colophon).


Beginning of the writing, Arabic "in the Name of God". Dependent on the Divine attributes cited can be either Islamic or Christian.


Where there is no  incipt, the beginning is transcribed.


Bequest (endowment) statements found on the books vary from simple notes on the benefactor to the full legal documents and can apply to volumes, sets or entire collections. [Gacek Vademecum 16]


The covering around the text block

Birth-Death Statements

These statements start reciprocally with the verbs (wulida and m ̄ata) are normally to be found on the first folio/s of the textblock. [Gacek Vademecum 20]

Book ascription

Part of the  muqaddima. In the MSS books of the middle period esp. dealing with religious subjects the main preface may be preceded by what is called a "transmission statement" (riw ̄ayat al-kit ̄ab) ascribing given work to the original author via a chain of authorities (transmitters). [Gacek Vademecum 20]

Book binding

Arabic book binding is an elaboration on the process and tradition already developed by Christians and Jews. Islamic bookbinding can be divided into three major types: the so called "boxed binding", binding with flaps and binding without flaps. [Gacek Vademecum 21]

Book covers

The bound Arabic codex consists of two book covers (upper and lower), the lower is extended to form a flap. The most common boards were pasteboards, which consisted of layers of sheets of paper, placed one on top of the other. The book covers and a flap were usually decorated, either as a full cover decoration or the central motif decoration. [Gacek Vademecum 29]

Book loan statement

A statement about book loan, found occasionally [Gacek Vademecum 36].

Book titles

An Islamic book title was often used as a shelf-mark and together with the authors's name was included in a preface. The title could be found on the front of the text-block, above the basmalla, in certificates of transmission ij ̄aza, collational statements, front-edges. [Gacek Vademecum 37]


Rule borders, frames.

Cacography error

Scribal errors (mistakes),  which occur when the word is written illegibly due to too much ink on the nib. They were frequently corrected. [Gacek Vademecum 40]




One of the ways to delete a word or a group of words. [Gacek Vademecum 48]


Early and western Qur'ans were sometimes protected by a Satchel/pouch/case or a wrapper. [Gacek Vademecum 49]


Is the last word of the text on the b- page of the folio, usually written on its own below the last line and repeated as the first word on the next page. [Gacek Vademecum 50]

Certificate of transmission

Three main types of certificates of transmission are found in Arabic MSS: general certificate (ij ̄azah), audition certificate (ij ̄azah al-sam ̄a‘ ), certificate of presentation (ij ̄azah al-mun ̄awalah), which were composed according to a certain protocol. [Gacek Vademecum 51]

Chapter Heading

An element of dividing of an Islamic work, normally repeated in the table of contents [Gacek Vademecum 57]


Another term for paper.


An Islamic MS book is dated according to the time of night and day, day of the week, night, day, or decade of the month, name of the month, era. [Gacek Vademecum 60]


A collections of sheets of papyrus, parchment or paper, made into gatherings or quires, in most cases stitched together and attached to protective covers. [Gacek Vademecum 62]

Collation formula

A formula, which indicates the sequence of gatherings (quires) and number of folios within each quire: 12 xii= 12 quires, each comprises 12 folios.

Collation mark

Collation (as applied to codicology) is the establishment of the correct sequence of quires by means of catchwords, quire signatures and foliation. [Gacek Vademecum 69]


A "signing off" note. A colophon maybe constructed by the scribe or author. For this reason one can encounter two different colophons, i.e. a colophon of a manuscript or a  colophon of the work [Gacek Vademecum 71]


Description of the physical and material characteristics of the manuscripts


Date (Scribal): date of completion of the work as indicated in the colophon or elsewhere in the manuscript.

Date (Librarian): date of completion of the work as determined by the encoder / librarian.

Date (approximate): if the exact date of completion of the work is unknown, there is an approximate date in textual form, e. g. "beginning of 13th century".

Decorated Paper

Tinted (coloured) paper or paste or marbled paper. Can be hand made or printed. [Gacek Vademecum 89]

D̄ıw ̄an ̄ı Script

An Ottoman chancery script developed from ta‘l ̄ıq [Gacek Vademecum 95]


Bands at the head and tail of the spine, often sewn with coloured threads. [Gacek Vademecum 99]


Two (or more) folded leaves placed by the binder at the beginning and the end of the textblock. [Gacek Vademecum 100]


Where there is no actual Explicit and Colophon, the ending is transcribed.


A way of dating an event. Several eras were used in Islamic MS book production: Era of Creation (Anno Mundi) 1 Sept. 5509; Era of Martyrs or Era of Diocletian 29 Aug. 284; Era of Alexander 1 Oct. 312; Era of Yazdigird 16 June 632; Jalali (or Maliki) 15 March 1079; Spanish Era 1 Jan. 38; Ilahi calendar 1584; Hindu calendar 58 BC; Christian calendar (CE) [Gacek Vademecum 60]

European paper

Is divided into hand-made and machine-made and also into laid and wove. The characteristics of laid paper are chain and laid lines. The main difference between the European and Oriental paper is the presence of watermarks. [Gacek Vademecum 65]


A term, describing the end portion of the composition as opposed to colophon. [Gacek Vademecum 101]


Is an extension of the lower cover of the binding, when closed is placed either on top or under the upper cover. [Gacek Vademecum 103]


The numbering of leaves (folia) in the codex as opposed to the pagination. Mostly applied by cataloguer, however, the folios have been indicated by the actual scribes. [Gacek Vademecum 105]


Is the smallest codicological unit, also known as leaf. It has two surfaces recto and verso here referred to as a and b. [Gacek Vademecum 107]

Front matter

Describes the sections of text that occur at the beginning of a manuscript (incipit, basmalla, tahmid).

Furniture (on the binding)

Leatherwork and ironwork, e.g. fasteners

Gacek Vademecum

Abbreviation for Arabic manuscripts: a vademecum for readers, by Adam Gacek.Leiden; Boston : Brill, 2009.


See Quire

Ghubar script

The smallest curvilinear script used originally for pigeon post and secret messages. [Gacek Vademecum 113]

Glossae, scholia

A marginal comment or interlinear annotation referring to a word, group of words, passage, chapter, etc. The glossing of a text could be done in a systematic way by one person. [Gacek Vademecum 114]

Headpiece (‘unwan)

A decoration at the beginning of a composition or the head of a chapter or section. [Gacek Vademecum 119]

Hij ̄azi script

A general term for scripts or styles of writing used from about 650 until the first quarter of the 8th cent. [Gacek Vademecum 123]

Hindu-Arabic Numerals

Otherwise Arabic numerals. The Hindu decimal system was introduced into the Arab world in the mid. 8th cent but was not used extensively until 10th cent. [Gacek Vademecum 125]


An honorific compound of an Islamic name of which the last part is typically "al-Din", e.g. "Rashid ad-Din". 

Imitation watermark

A mark made by pressing paper between a male die and a flat piece of polished steel. The watermark is thereby embossed on the underside of the sheet, the top being quite smooth. [Gacek Vademecum 130]


The opening text of the manuscript work. It comprises the basmala to indicate the religious orientation, the tah. m ̄ıd to indicate the main topic of the work, the table of contents, the name of the author and the title/shelf-mark. Traditionally the incipit cataloguers begin to record with the words, following the  basmala, i.e. by omitting the invocation. [Gacek Vademecum 131]


The ink is distinguished by assigning it to mid ̄ad (carbon ink) and h. ibr (iron gall ink). [Gacek Vademecum 132]


The space between lines, whereas ‘interlineations' constitute the text and other information placed in the interline. [Gacek Vademecum 136]


A given name, most popular names are Muhammad and Ahmad.

MS Item

A manuscript (or manuscript part), may consist of one work, or many works. A work is an intellectual entity (a treatise for example) -  the unpublished equivalent to a published work. These works are called "items"   in the cataloguing tool.  Work.


Is the name of plant, which was used as a protection against book-worms and insects. [Gacek Vademecum 137]

Kufi script

Originally a script of the city of Kufa. It is normally understood as generic term for a great variety of old scripts used for copying Qur'ans. [Gacek Vademecum 138]


Honorific preceding the personal name of a parent, normally given to outstanding figures as a matter of honour.


A varnish of Chinese origin; in general lacquer was spread on pasterboards and possibly on papier mach ́e. Most of surviving specimens come from the Qajar period (19th cent.). [Gacek Vademecum 138]

Laid Paper

European paper with faint lines


A word or expression used as an epithet that may be an honorary title (such as al-Shaykh), used to describe an actual or attributed quality, or based on a family name or status. 


Used for variety of purposes, including bookbinding and satchels. Goat and sheep skins were used by Islamic craftsmen. [Gacek Vademecum 141]

Librarian date

Date assigned to the manuscript by the librarian or curator.

Line management, line justification

On the whole a scribe tried to arrange the body of the text in such a way as to create a more or less straight rectangular or square block of columns where the lines are justified. Words that do not fit into the main body of the text often extend into the outer margin. [Gacek Vademecum 146]

Maghrib ̄ı script

A generic name for a host of scripts used in the Islamic West and Sub-Saharan Africa. [Gacek Vademecum 147]

Magic square

A  square array of numbers with the property that the sum of the numbers in each vertical, horizontal or diagonal row is the same. [Gacek Vademecum 150]


An  almond-shaped ornament found in painted decoration and on book covers. [Gacek Vademecum 151]


A hand-written book, liber manuscriptus, designed for written (oral) dissemination. As such a manuscript is opposed to an archival item, which is designed for a limited use. A manuscript book has therefore common features in its appearance, production, arrangement of material and usage.

Manuscript description

A description of a  manuscript, a hand-written book as an object of artisans activity, as a museum piece and an intellectual item.

Marbled paper

A method of decorating paper by floating the colours on the surface of a viscous fluid and transferring the manipulated colored designs to paper. [Gacek Vademecum 156]


A term used for the inscriptions found outside the body of the main text. [Gacek Vademecum 156]

Middle of the quire mark

Quires are sewn in the middle through the fold and the middle conjugate leaf is sometimes marked by the bookbinder. [Gacek Vademecum 159]


A ruling board with threads pressed against the folio to perform ruling. [Gacek Vademecum 204]

Muh.aqqaq script

An old script whose earliest features are unknown. By the 13th cent. the muh.aqqaq became a book-hand, more specifically a Qur'anic script. [Gacek Vademecum 160]


Arabic for "introduction" or "introductory statement".


An Islamic name comprises several components among which are:  patronymic, ism,   laqab,  kunyah,  hitab,   nisbah.

Naskh script

A book hand par excellence of the Islamic east which came to scene at the end of the 10th cent. [Gacek Vademecum 162]

Nasta‘liq script

A Persian script commonly used in Iran in the 14th century.  [Gacek Vademecum 165]


A proper adjective ending in " ̄ı" indicating origin, birthplace, homeland or residence or other kinds of attributions.


In order to draw attention to some part of the main text the copyist would often resort to placing a word or phrase (already mentioned in the body) in the margin. These words are called side-heads. They were commonly introduced by the word qif "stop". [Gacek Vademecum 168]


Omission is a common scribal error. Omissions are normally placed between lines or in the margins. [Gacek Vademecum 170]

Oriental paper

See European Paper


A way of rubrication of a word or phrase. [Gacek Vademecum 173]


Statements of ownership are found in colophons, on the margins, in the by-leaves. [Gacek Vademecum 173]


A set of numeric parameters, which identify numerically an Arabic script. Consists of the proportion between the tallest and the widest letters (al ̄ıf and b ̄a'), the density (number of letter joints per line multiplied by the number of lines on the page), the angle slopes of connected al ̄ıf and the bar of k ̄af.

Page Layout

See Line management


The  numbering of pages in the codex as opposed to the foliation [Gacek Vademecum 179]

Painted decoration

A non-figurative design or form of book art including geometric motifs and various patterns like chainwork, ropework and the like. [Gacek Vademecum 179]

Painted Illustration

A figurative form of art embracing animal and human forms. [Gacek Vademecum 182]


A plant (reed) was been used to prepare a material (support) for writing on as

long ago as 3000 BC [Gacek Vademecum 193]


The predominant writing material used in the Near East throughout most of the 6th and 7th centuries [Gacek Vademecum 195]


A compound of an Islamic name with Ibn (son) as the first word, e.g. Ibn Hazm


The introductory section of the Arabic compositions (works)  comprising

basmallah tah. m ̄ıd and other parts and invocations [Gacek Vademecum 200]


The ruling with the ruling board mistara began quite early. In some mss the margins were also ruled to accommodate glosses. [Gacek Vademecum 204]


Gatherings containing one or a number of folios(bifolia), inserted into each other. Quires may also have only one leaf, or a number of single separated or unsewn double leaves. Leaves may be added after the quire has been sewn. [Gacek Vademecum 210]

Quire Signature

A sign, which ensures the correct sequence of quires and leaves within the text-block. It could be written in letters or alpha-numerically. [Gacek Vademecum 213]

MS Part

Within a single "book", a manuscript may contain different "parts". In this context, "part" is used to denote different manuscripts that are bound together. They will have different histories, preparation methods, materials, but have for reasons probably unknown, been bound up together.

Rayhani script

A smaller version of the muh. aqqaq script. [Gacek Vademecum 223]

Riq‘a script

A smaller version of the tawq ̄ı‘ script [Gacek Vademecum 224]


Distinguishes headings, chapter headings and paragraphs, etc. within the text, usually by the use of red ink. [Gacek Vademecum 227]

Rule Borders; Frames

A single line or several lines drawn around the main text. [Gacek Vademecum 229]

Ruq‘a script

A script developed from the Ottoman Turkish d ̄ıw ̄an ̄ı. [Gacek Vademecum 232]


Pouch or case for carrying texts

Scribal date

See Dates

Scribal errors

Scribal errors (omissions, cacography, metathesis, additions, substitutions) could be either involuntary or intentional. Involuntary mistakes are caused by a number of factors, resulting in misreading the source. They reflect the level of education of a scribe and his interaction with the text, and are an important source for the cultural history of the work. Intentional errors can not always be easily discernible. [Gacek Vademecum 234]


Off-prints of a seal, evidences of ownership statements. [Gacek Vademecum 243]

Secret alphabets

Cryptography, i.e. recording the text with unusual alphabets was widely used. The survey of alphabets can be found in Ibn Wah. shiyah (9th cent.) [Gacek Vademecum 245]


In most codices a link-stich using two sewing stations was employed. Four sewing stations are also encountered. Sometimes it the pages are sewn onto cords or tapes.


A unique identifier for the  manuscript.

Shikastah script

A Persian script, which originated at the beginning of the 17th cent.



Spine (binding style) 

The spine is either flush or moulded.

Support material 

Chart (paper) or parchment.

Support material (sewing)

Indicates material used for the support of the binding structure: cord, parchment, etc.

Table of Contents

Some MSS contain the fihrist or Table of Contents, placed in front of the text-block. [Gacek Vademecum 259]


A decorated page or area or panel around the end of the text and the colophon. [Gacek Vademecum 262]

Ta‘l ̄ıq script

A Persian chancery script par exellence, which was most probably influenced by tawq ̄ı‘ [Gacek Vademecum 263]

Tawq ̄ı‘ script

A chancery script, a smaller version of thulth. [Gacek Vademecum 263]

Textual dividers

Various forms (vignettes, dots, etc.) probably used as aides for reading. [Gacek Vademecum 268]

Textual variants

A common source of textual variations are misreadings during transcription or result of existence of several versions of one and the same text used buy the scribe. Textual variations are  often indicated on the margins. [Gacek Vademecum 271]


A band, part of the Satchel or binding, used as a fastener.

Thuluth script

One of the old Arabic chancery scripts with pronounced curvilinear features.  [Gacek Vademecum 274]

Title page

A title page in a book is the page which carries the title and other information pertaining to its authorship and transmission. [Gacek Vade- mecum 277]


A technique used in bookbinding whereby a design is made by various small hand tools as opposed to a design made by stamping. [Gacek Vademecum 280]


Head piece

Virtual keyboard (VKB)

The VKB can be used to enter Arabic, English, and ZDMG transliteration script. The VKB is accessed in the top right menu. When opening a manuscript record, the VKB will automatically be toggled on.

ZDMG Transliteration

Transliteration rules according to the Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenlaendischen Gesellschaft