Brush and Qalam. 200 Years of the collection
of the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts. Exhibition Catalogue. Ed. by I. F. Popova, A. D. Pritula, N. V. Yampolskaya. Saint Petersburg: The State Hermitage Publishers, 2018.
The exhibition ‘Brush and Qalam’ marks the 200th
anniversary of the Asiatic Museum (the Institute of Oriental
Manuscripts of the Russian Academy of Sciences),
one of the world’s richest collections of Oriental manuscripts.
The exhibition aims to showcase the beauty of
decoration as well as the variety and unique identity of
different types of Oriental books from the cultural and
The catalogue introduces its readers to a selection
of manuscripts and blockprints produced by peoples of
the East, whose array of book cultures over the last two
millennia spanned an area from Europe all the way to Japan.
For the sake of convenience, exhibits are grouped
into three big sections, each one concerned with a big
region characterised by the unity of culture and history:
1) Near East and Middle East; 2) India and Central Asia;
3) Far East. Largely formal, this separation is linked not
so much to geography as to the spread and movement
of cultures. Thus, at different points of time, the bulk of
Central Asia was dominated by different religious traditions,
first Buddhism and then Islam, which gave birth
to diverse book cultures, reaching back to India and the
Middle East respectively. It is for that reason that the
books created in this region are dealt with in two separate
sections. The same applies to India of the Mughal
period, which saw the bloom of the Muslim book culture,
so intimately linked to the Persian one, which is described
in the ‘Near East’ section.
The catalogue features 200 exhibits, among which
manuscripts and blockprints from the holdings of the
Institute of Oriental Manuscripts as well as artefacts related
to the production and use of books from the State
Hermitage Museum. This relationship is interpreted as
broadly as possible, embracing not only objects that are
directly associated with the making and reading of books
(brushes, qalams, pencases, inkwells, woodblocks), but
also religious items used alongside books (icons, crosses,
ornaments), visual parallels in decoration (clothes,
mural fragments), objects connected with their buyers
and owners (coins) and finally pieces reproducing the
cultural environment of the epoch. The manuscripts
from each section are put in chronological order, and
the objects are grouped so as to give a better picture of
the cultural and visual context within which books were
made and used in the East.
PDF-filesAnnotation, Contents, От Азиатского Музея к Институту восточных рукописей Российской академии наук, Summary
Random news: Announcements
43rd Zograph Readings “Interpreting traditional Indian texts” will be held at the IOM RAS on May 17–20, 2022. The program of the conference is now available.