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National Taiwan Library repairs 500-year-old Quran

'Book Hospital' tasked with repairing ancient Quran damaged by time, elements

500-year-old Quran being repaired (CNA photo)

500-year-old Quran being repaired (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The National Taiwan Library accepted a commission to restore a 500-year-old handwritten version of the Quran.

The ancient text was given to Tzu Chi Buddhist Humanitarian Foundation Master Cheng Yen (證嚴) by a Tzu Chi Turkish volunteer, Faisal Hu (胡光中), over two years ago, per CNA.

Hsu Mei-wen (徐美文), a book restorer at Taiwan Book Hospital of National Taiwan Library, was entrusted with the job. With 15 years of experience, Hsu quickly devoted herself to absorbing the book's lessons and teachings.

National Taiwan Library repairs 500-year-old Quran
The painstaking work of book restoration. (CNA photo)

When Master Cheng received the book, cigarette beetles were feeding on the pages. The first step of repair was hypoxic deworming to remove the insects.

Upon closer investigation, it was also found that this Quran was hand copied by four different people using different inks. It contains 75 chapters and was completed between the 15th century and 16th century.

To restore this ancient text and preserve its antique nature, Hsu spent eight months finding linen fibers. She was able to secure identical paper from a warehouse which was later dyed with a mineral pigment to create a similar look. Next, very thin Japanese tengu paper was applied to damaged pages.

National Taiwan Library repairs 500-year-old Quran
A close-up look at repairs of an ancient Quran. (CNA photo)

Hsu worked diligently on this time-intensive task, taking up to half a day to repair just one page. With only the book's cover and binding yet to be completed, Hsu believes the repair will be finished by the end of April.