Messenger of Thought: Treasures from the Rare Middle East Collections 

Digital Exhibition at the University of Utah’s J. Willard Marriott Library

The written word records man’s intellectual and spiritual journey. Words, whether written on clay, papyrus, parchment, or paper, are a lasting memorial of humankind. If words are the essence of books, the materials used and the technologies developed to write those words are the building blocks of a captured culture. In books, verbal collaborates with visual, textual with textural. This collaboration enhances meaning and invites intimacy between writer and reader. The arts of the book – papermaking and decorating, calligraphy, illumination, binding, were highly developed in Middle Eastern culture early in its history – in the ancient lands in which the written word was first developed, where papyrus and pen were first used and artwork was first added to elucidate the text. The elegant Arabic alphabet lent itself to numerous decorative forms and abstract patterns, entrancing the eye even when direct images could not. From ancient times to the present, the written word and the craft of Middle Eastern bookmakers has established law, recorded history and myth, inspired faith, stimulated intellectual exploration, and created bonds between cultures both east and west.


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