The vast corpus of Qur'ānic manuscripts preserved for centuries in the library of the Great Mosque of al-Qayrawān (Tunisia), now almost entirely relocated to the National Museum of Raqqāda, is an important source of information on the development of penmanship, illumination, and bookbinding in the Ifrīqiyan region from the 3rd/9th century onwards.
Unfortunately, nowhere to the west of al-Qayrawān it is possible to find a similarly rich and ancient collection of Quranic material, which could help us reconstruct the history of copying the Sacred Book in early Islamic Morocco and al-Andalus.
A dispersed group of codices in horizontal format and Kufic script, generally dated to the 4th/10th century, is all we possess in terms of the earliest material evidence for the production of fine monumental Qur'āns in the Muslim West [fig. 1]. The script employed in these manuscripts did not essentially differ from coeval eastern Kūfic hands; however, the page layout is generally more compact (with wide margins and 9-12 lines of text per page) and instances of large calligraphic scripts seem to be missing. The use of gold for the illumination is often replaced or enriched by decorative motifs in coloured inks.
 KHANOUSSI, Mustapha (editor), De Carthage à Kairouan: 2000 ans d'art et d'histoire en Tunisie [exhibition catalogue], Paris 1992, pp. 224-258.
More significantly, it is the complex system of vocalisation and orthoepic signs employed in these codices that undoubtedly reveals their Maghribī origin. Thanks to the Córdoban scholar 'Uthmān b. Sa'īd al-Dānī (d. 1053 AD) and his treatise on Qur'ānic vocalisation, we now know that only the western nuqqāṭ (plural of nāqiṭ, meaning "dotter" or "vocaliser") employed yellow dots to mark hamzat al-qaṭ', blue dots for hamzat al-waṣl, red superscript alifs, and red semicircles for shadda. This distinctive practice, which is never found in Qur'āns from the Muslim East, is clearly visible on a number of sparse folios that are regularly sold at auction, as well as in more complete manuscripts in public and private collections, and in Moroccan libraries such as the Qarawiyyīn of Fes and the National Library of Rabat.
Related to this group is also a single-volume 'pocket' Qur'ān now in the Tareq Rajab Museum (Kuwait), dated by its colophon to the year 393 AH (1003 AD), written in a diminutive Kūfic hand and remarkably complete, representing the earliest dated musḥaf from the Muslim West to have survived [fig. 2].
 Al-Dānī's treatise Al-Muḥkam fī naqṭ al-Maṣaḥif and its description of the Andalusian conventions for vocalising the Qur'ān are extensively discussed in GEORGE, Alain, 'Coloured dots and the question of regional origins in early Qur'ans', forthcoming (2014).
 See, for instance, mss. 901, 902, 903 in the Qarawiyyīn Library. Dalīl Ma'riḍ Maṣāḥif al-Maghrib [exhibition catalogue], Rabat 2011, pp. 68-73.
 SAFWAT, Nabil, FEHÉRVÁRI, Geza, ZAKARIYA, Mohammad, The Harmony of Letters. Islamic Calligraphy from the Tareq Rajab Museum (Kuwait), Singapore 1997, pp. 36-7.
Both the "Nurse's Qur'ān" and the Rabat Qur'ān are among the largest parchment copies of the Sacred Book ever produced, with pages sharing similar dimensions (44 x 30 cm the former, and 42 x 36 cm the latter). The vocalisation of the Rabat Qur'ān, while typically Maghribī on the one hand (see the yellow dots for hamzat al-qaṭ' and the red superscript alifs), shows on the other the influence of non-Qur'ānic practices, such as the shaddas in the shape of a small shīn (with no dots), also found in the "Nurse's Qur'ān".These and other features allow us to date the Rabat codex to the late 4th/10th or early 5th/11th century, and to suggest the royal city of Fes as its place of production.
We know from historical sources that parchment Kūfic Qur'āns continued to be copied in al-Andalus well into the 11th century: the historian Ibn al-Fayyāḍ, writing around the year 1020 AD, saw "in the eastern quarter of Córdoba one hundred and seventy women copying Qur'ānic manuscripts in "Kūfic" hands for the local mosque". Despite this, the distinctively round cursive scripts employed since the previous century in the Maghrib for copying non-Qur'ānic manuscripts begun to appear in Adalusian Qur'āns around the year 1000 AD, and in the second half of the 4th/11th century they had already completely replaced the old Kūfic hands. Two fragments of the first dated Qur'āns featuring these Maghribī cursive scripts were discovered by François Déroche in the library of the Turkish and Islamic Art Museum of Istanbul; they originally belonged to horizontal codices copied in the years 398 AH (1008 AD) and 432 AH (1040 AD) respectively.
 An almost complete volume of the "Nurse's Qur'ān" is in the Raqqāda Museum, while sparse folios are part of other collections, including the MET Museum of New York (n. 2007.191).
 Dalīl Ma'riḍ Maṣāḥif al-Maghrib, pp. 34-35.
 BINSHARIFAH, Muhammad, 'Naẓra ḥawla al-khaṭṭ al-Andalusī', in A. C. Binebine (ed.), Al-Makhṭūṭ al-ʿArabī wa-ʿilm al-makhṭūṭāt (Le manuscrit arabe et la codicologie), Rabat 1994, pp. 73-85: 76.
 DÉROCHE, François, 'Deux fragments coraniques maghrébins anciens au Musée des arts turcs et islamiques d'Istanbul', in Revue des Études Islamiques 59, 1991, pp. 229-236.
 KHEMIR, Sabiha, 'The Arts of the Book', in J. Dodds (ed.), Al-Andalus: the Art of Islamic Spain, New York 1992, p. 304 n. 74.
 Christie’s London, King's Street, 09/10/1990, lot n. 46.