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The art of letter writing

The art of letter writing Tim Stanley on a celebration of Şeyh Hamdullah and the 500-year-old calligraphy tradition that almost vanished

  • The illuminated first page from a landmark book on mental health, Sustenance for Body and Soul by Abu Zayd al-Balkhi (850–934). The manuscript was copied by Şeyh Hamdullah for Mehmed the Conqueror. It represents his style early in his career (Süleymaniye Yazma Eser Kütüphanesi, Ayasofya 3740)

There is no doubt that Şeyh (Sheikh) Hamdullah is the most famous calligrapher in the Ottoman tradition, and there has long been a desire in Turkey to link him with Süleyman the Magnificent, the most famous ruler of the Empire. For this reason it is often said that he died after Süleyman’s accession in 1520, although his demise probably took place a few years earlier. Over five centuries this difference has shrunk in importance, and so now we can celebrate the career of this great calligrapher that ended with his death roughly 500 years ago…

To see the full article, see the Connoisseur pages of Cornucopia 62.

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