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9th Century Koran Returned to Turkey



9th Century Koran Returned to Turkey
By STEPHEN MANNING

BALTIMORE (AP) -- John Hopkins University on Monday returned a section of a rare
ninth century Koran to Turkey, which will reunite it with the rest of the holy
book at an Istanbul museum. The first 18 chapters of the Gold Koran disappeared
from Turkey sometime after 1756. The section entered the Hopkins collection in
1942 as part of a bequest of rare books. In 1998 it was appraised at between
$1.9 million and $2.9 million. "I am pleased that this Koran will now be
restored to its original home and reclaim its place as an important part of the
Turkish national heritage,'' M. Istemihan Talay, minister of culture for Turkey,
said during a ceremony at the Turkish Embassy in Washington. The Gold Koran is
believed to have been created in either north Africa or an area that is part of
modern-day Iraq. It is written in the early Arabic script Kufa, with lettering
made of gold leaf. "This is the only intact example of the practice of copying
the Koran into gold,'' said Marianna Shreve Simpson, director of curatorial
affairs for the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore. The half that wound up at
Hopkins was last recorded in Turkey during an inventory conducted in 1756.
Hopkins found out in 1993 that its section was part of a larger work but had no
evidence it was improperly removed from Turkey, said James G. Neal, the
university's dean of libraries. The Turkish Embassy asked Hopkins to return the
rare document after it was displayed at the Walters Art Gallery in 1997. School
officials decided to do so because its origin was unclear. As part of an
agreement signed Monday, Turkey acknowledged that Hopkins did not act improperly
in obtaining the Gold Koran. The section will be housed with the rest of the
work in the Nuruosmaniye Library.

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