Paper fragment, framed in glass. Dark cream paper with seven lines of black text. There is line of text on the reverse.
The art of papermaking was a secret that had been kept within China since its invention at some time between 100 BC and AD 100. After the battle of Talas in AD 751, Chinese prisoners of war with a knowledge of papermaking were ordered to produce paper in Samarkand. This made the technology available to what became the Muslim world. By 793 the first of five factories, set up by Haroun-el-Raschid, was operational in Baghdad.
The present document is on paper that was made in one of Haroun-el-Raschid's mills and dates to between 802 and 809. It was originally a contract that was cut into eight pieces immediately upon its signing; the reverse bears one of the signatures. The price of the whole sheet was around £2,300 in today's money, which is evidence of the value of the new paper at the time. Each part of the document was later written on with the Islamic proclamation of faith: 'There is only one God...' and sold as an amulet.
The other interesting thing about this item is that, although the paper has been confirmed as having been manufactured as stated above, the Islamic proclamation of faith was written some time later in Egypt.
This could have been because it was originally a contract between someone from Baghdad and an Egyptian, or else a merchant from Baghdad went to Egypt and it was obtained by someone there. All this purely conjecture!
This is another of my favourite items from the collection.
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w: 75, h: 121, d: -