Charles V and the Tunisian Qur’ans
By Nuria de Castilla | Published on August 28, 2019
During the 16th century, a growing interest for the Islamic world led to an effort by Westerners in acquiring Arabic manuscripts. The text of the Qur’an is among those which most interested Western scholars, but the acquisition of Qur’anic manuscripts in an Islamic country was at the same time problematic for a Westerner. This is the reason why many of the Qur’anic manuscripts which entered European collections during the 16th century are spoils of war, taken on the battlefield. For this reason, Charles V’s expedition in Tunis in 1535 is of special importance since the capture of a major Islamic city gave the possibility to have access to higher quality copies. For the first time, I intend to offer an inventory and an analysis of the various Qur’anic copies which were taken as booty during this expedition and which have been preserved up to date. I shall also examine how they were integrated into Western libraries and eventually helped the development of Arabic studies in 16th century Europe.