Published online by Cambridge University Press: 01 March 2009
This paper examines the history of glass colouring. It reviews Kitāb al-Durra al-maknūna of Jābir ibn Ḥayyān, which deals with the subject. The manuscript of this practical treatise was discovered recently. Part one of the paper deals with Jābir as a philosopher and chemist. The art of lustre-painting on glass originated in Syria during the Umayyad Caliphate in the eighth century and was soon practised in the neighbouring area. The paper reviews Arabic literature that deals with the colouring of glass until the 13th century, and with pre-Islamic and Latin books of recipes that deal with glass colouring. Recipes for cast coloured glass are very few and scant in non-Arabic literature, and lustre-painting on glass was not mentioned in any treatise outside Arabic, even in the works of Theophilus and Neri. The colouring of glass gemstones by colour diffusion is not mentioned also. The paper compares the recipes of Kitāb al-Durra with the results of modern analysis of existing Islamic stained glass objects. There is a close correspondence, and the main indispensable ingredients in both cases are silver and copper compounds. Part one ends with an account of lāzaward as cobalt oxide in glass colouring. Part two of the paper gives a representative selection of recipes from Kitāb al-Durra for the three methods of glass colouring.