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Manuscript copies of the Koran that are so small that they fit comfortably in the palm of a hand are probably among the most remarkable editions of Islam’s holy scripture. These miniature or pendant Korans were produced in various forms, most commonly as codices in the shape of an octagonal prism or as scrolls. When one opens them, one is immediately struck by the almost microscopic script, which has a line spacing of often only two or three millimetres.
This study by Cornelius Berthold is the first monograph on these objects, which combine the paradoxical properties of being complete books, but at the same time are hardly suitable for reading. On the basis of hundreds of surviving manuscripts, their physical characteristics are analyzed and recurring types of miniature Korans are described. The study also elaborates on their context of usage, a difficult to delineate field of magico-religious concepts and practices. Actual eyewitness accounts that explicitly describe how pendant Korans were used are few and far between. Nevertheless, against this backdrop, it is possible to substantiate and expand on the two main narratives found in previous scholarship, according to which pendant Korans were used as amulets worn on one’s body or as religious symbols attached to military standards.