Medieval Portland Senior Capstone: Final Draft of Preliminary Treatment

Ashley West. Art Conservation Project.

OWNER: Portland State University Special Collections

ARTIST: Calligrapher: Mirza Mohammad Kazema Valeh



The fold is where you can see the previous treatment.
Oxidation caused by Lapiz Lazuli ink



  • The Object: Illuminated manuscript of  texts of Bustān (The Orchard, 1257) and Gulistān (The Rose Garden, 1258) originally composed by the poet Majmūʻah-i Saʻdī. Mirza Mohammad Kazema Valeh is the calligrapher of this particular copy. The area of the book needing attention are the last two pages. Tarnished gold leaf cover them with geometrically painted lines with flowers. One page has a border while the other consists of half text, and the other half covered with a block of illustration.
  • History: The first page of the book contains the date, ‘1226 AH’ (1811 AD) in Arabic. This means that the book’s fabrication took place during the Qajar dynasty1. The calligrapher and book binder of this particular book is/are unknown. In keeping with consistency of Islamic art, the book has no figural illustrations. According to Marjan Anvari, an art conservator specializing in Medieval Islamic manuscripts, the pages were illustrated using Tazhib style2. Tazhib style is the geometric art style generally created by taking a larger polygon and creating smaller and smaller geometric shapes inside thus creating the precise detail seen in this book3. Though the date in which the illuminations were fabricated suggest Qajar dynasty, there is significant4
  • Fabrication: The book was bound with a leather cover. The ink and type of paper used is unknown until further examination can take place. All but the last two pages of the book.

2. Condition

  • Object Description: Overall, the bookbinding is stable. There are two current notable gold flakes missing from the second illuminated page of the book. There is also some slight lifting of the gold leaf.
  • Examination

3. Previous Treatment

  • There is evidence of previous treatment as the last page of the book shows signs of reformatting. The protective first and last pages were new editions.

Treatment Proposal 

  • Unfortunately, treatment on the gold leaf is absolutely unadviseable. The oxidation caused by the lapis lazuli can be slowed, but this is not an immediate concern. Water soluble ink was used in this book, so do not use water to clean dirt and grime.

Factors Influencing Treatment

  • Any attempts to treat the gold leaf would require unbinding the entire book. Doing so poses a much higher risk to the object. The best thing to do is just to practice safe handling.

Written and researched by Ashley West.

2016 Medieval Capstone Student


  1. Anvari, Marjan. Email Interview. 18 October 2016
  2.  Sarhangi, Reza. “Interlocking Star Polygons in Persian Architecture: The Special Case of the Decagram in Mosaic Designs.” Persian Architecture and Mathematics, 2012, 345-72. doi:10.1007/978-3-0348-0507-0_10.
  3. Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. “Qajar Dynasty”, accessed October 20, 2016,
  4. Anvari, Marjan. In-person interview and analysis. 1 November 2016

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