Khaṭṭ and Kitāb—calligraphy and book—are two of the distinctive features of Islamic civilization. Millions of Islamic manuscripts spread throughout the world are vivid reminders that Muslims are “people of the book” (ahl al-kitāb) in several meanings of the phrase. And many of these books were written in scripts meant not just to be functional, but as aesthetic expressions of a deep commitment to learning, art, and religious devotion. We are very fortunate at McGill to be custodians of exquisite exemplars of these books and writings, as well as implements used to produce them. And we are equally fortunate to have one of the world’s leading authorities on Islamic calligraphy and codicology associated with the Institute of Islamic Studies, Mr. Adam Gacek. Mr. Gacek served admirably for many years as head of the Islamic Studies Library and more recently has been a faculty lecturer in the Institute of Islamic Studies and a research associate with the Rational Sciences in Islam project housed at the Institute. This exhibit, “Strokes and Hairlines, Elegant Writing and its Place in Muslim Book Culture,” brings together remarkable and beautiful examples from our collections that provide important windows not only on the bookmaker’s craft but also on the world of learning in Islamic lands. Mr. Gacek has put together an exhibit accompanied by this descriptive booklet that are delights to both mind and eye. We are currently commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Institute’s founding, and “Strokes and Hairlines” is an ideal way to celebrate both the Islamic cultural heritage and the Institute’s long commitment to the study of Islamic codicology and calligraphy. Thanks to a generous gift from the government of Qatar, the exhibit will run from February 11- June 30, 2013 in the McLennan Library Building Lobby and will be supplemented and enhanced in February 2013—our “month of calligraphy”—by lectures and workshops by Mr. Gacek as well as by the renowned calligraphers Mr. Haji Noor Deen and Dr. Hilal Kazan, who will be coming from China and Turkey, respectively. I invite you to visit our website, http://www.mcgill.ca/ islamicstudies/60-years, where you will find details on these events and many more to follow that highlight the theme of our 60th anniversary celebration, “The Diversity of Islam.”
F. Jamil Ragep
Professor and Director
Institute of Islamic Studies
Acknowledgements by Adam Gacek
Thanks and gratitude to friends and colleagues for their assistance with the exhibition and the production of this booklet, in particular, Prof. Jamil Ragep, Kathryn Kalemkerian, Amy Buckland, Jennifer Garland, Stephen Millier, Sean Swanick, and Joel Natanblut.