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The Cosmic Script

Sacred Geometry and the Science of Arabic Penmanship

Ahmed Moustafa, Stefan Sperl


A landmark publication in the study of Islamic calligraphy, exploring the historical and cultural roots of this quintessential Islamic artform


This is the first comprehensive exploration of the ‘Proportioned Script’, an Arabic writing system attributed to the Abbasid wazir (minister) Ibn Muqla and the master scribe Ibn al-Bawwab that has dominated the art of Arabic and Islamic penmanship from the 10th century to the present day. A remarkable work of original scholarship that ranges across multiple disciplines – history, literature, philosophy, theology, sacred geometry and calligraphy, Drs Moustafa and Sperl have succeeded in unearthing the very foundations of Arabic penmanship, with implications for the arts of Islam as a whole.

Volume One, Sources and Principles of the Geometry of Letters, traces the origin of the Proportioned Script to the cross-cultural encounter between Greek learning and the scientific, artistic and philosophical pursuits of classical Islam. On the basis of instructions in surviving sources it identifies a grid module that serves as a common foundation for the design of all the Arabic letter shapes.

In Volume Two, From Geometric Pattern to Living Form, the authors construct each of the letter shapes on the grid module and compare their findings to samples traced by two classical master scribes. They conclude by examining the religious, aesthetic and cosmological significance of the Proportioned Script in the wider context of the Islamic cultural heritage.

Winner of the World Award for the Book of the Year of the Islamic Republic of Iran 2016

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'This monumental work offers a comprehensive and convincing new account of the geometry of the Arabic script, accomplishing in the process a revolution at the intersection of art, mathematics and spirituality. It is essential reading for anyone interested in Islamic art, calligraphy and the beauty of geometry'
Carl W. Ernst

Product Information

Book Details

Format: Hardback (no jacket) in slipcase

Size: 28.0 x 33.5 cm

Extent: 724 pp

Publication date: 3 November 2014

ISBN: 9780500517666

About the Author

Ahmed Moustafa is an acclaimed artist and scholar in the art of Islam. Numerous of his works have been acquired by major museum and private collections worldwide, including the British Museum and the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

Stefan Sperl is Senior Lecturer in Arabic at the London School of Oriental and African Studies. His published work covers aspects of classical Arabic literature, Islamic Studies and Middle Eastern Studies.

List of Contributors

Jeremy Henzell-Thomas