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To celebrate Vikings Live, we have replaced our Roman alphabet with the runic alphabet used by the Vikings, the Scandinavian ‘Younger Futhark’. The ‘Younger Futhark’ has only 16 letters, so we have used some of the runic letters more than once or combined two runes for one Roman letter.

For an excellent introduction to runes, we recommend Martin Findell’s book published by British Museum Press.

More information about how we have ‘runified’ this site


Line and spirituality
modern calligraphy by Mishkin Qalam and Muhammad-cAli

12 March – 19 June 2013

Recommend this exhibition

These works represent an important but little known chapter in the history of Middle Eastern calligraphy. Mishkin Qalam (1826–1912) and Mirza Muhammad-[ayn]Ali (1853–1937) shared close ties to Bahá’u’lláh (1817–1892), the Iranian prophet-founder of Bahá’í Faith.

Although rooted in Bábism, which partly stems from the Shi[ayn]a branch of Islam, Bahá’í Faith has gained worldwide recognition as an independent religion advocating the oneness of humanity under a single god, guided by the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh (‘Glory of God’).

Mishkin Qalam trained as a calligrapher, painter and poet in Isfahan, Iran. He learned of Bahá’u’lláh during his travels to Aleppo, Syria, and was inspired to copy Bahá’í teachings and invocations. Muhammad-[ayn]Ali, on the other hand, was Bahá’u’lláh’s son and second in line to succeed as leader of the faith.

Most of the calligraphy shown here comes from a group of over thirty works recently given to the British Museum by a generous anonymous donation. They include spiritual invocations, calligraphy exercises and poetry written in Persian and Arabic.

Calligraphy exercise by Muhammad-cAli, dated 1322 AH/AD 1904-5. Ink on marbled paper.