A page from the Qur’an manuscript showing beautiful calligraphy All stories
Students

What is a manuscript?

Updated 1 September 2022

A manuscript is an original piece of work – either handwritten or typewritten. What distinguishes a manuscript from other sources is that it is the original and first copy of an author’s work. Reproductions or reprints of books are not considered manuscripts.

Before the printing press was introduced, all books and documents were classified as manuscripts. Manuscripts are therefore not identified according to their content, but solely on their originality. They could include books, scrolls, letters and illuminated drawings.

Older manuscripts are considered to be highly precious, as most were not duplicated. The printing press unequivocally changed the dynamic of written work, making documents more available than they had been before.

Illuminated manuscripts are decorated by hand using various colours. Beautiful and elaborate designs and drawings accentuate and support the adjacent texts. The earliest illuminated manuscripts can be dated back to the Middle Ages. Illuminated manuscripts were strictly produced in monasteries and were most commonly used for public or private devotion.

The Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) features an impressive collection of manuscripts, ranging from Qur'anic verses to epic poems.

Learn More

Share this page