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Rare Ottoman Engraved Stamp for Talismanic Printing

Ottoman Balkans or Turkey
circa 18th century

length: 17.6cm, width 13.6cm, weight: 188g



private collection, London, UK.

This hand-shaped stamp made of engraved bronze is from the Ottoman world (possibly the Balkans or perhaps Ottoman Turkey itself.) It dates to around the 18th century.

Such stamps are rare. Almost none have been published.

The face of the stamp is engraved with talismanic symbols, Koranic-related verses and prayers in the mirror image.

A round metal flange by which to hold the stamp and impress it, is soldered to the back.

It is likely that such stamps were used to print pieces of paper with motifs and Koranic-related verses that will provide the possessors with talismanic protection. Paper so imprinted could be rolled up and kept inside a pendant silver container of similar (known in Arabic as a hirz). Also, it is possible that such stamps were used to imprint textile maybe for use in flags and banners or even talismanic shirts that might have been worn beneath armour, again as a protective device for the wearer.

The engraved script on this stamp included the names of various prophets: Moses, Jonah, Noah, Jesus, Isaac, Solomon, Elias, and so on. At the bottom Ali is named – but this need not imply that the stamp is a Shia piece because no mention is made of any imams, and the way in which Ali is written also appears on Egyptian and Ottoman flags and banners.
The prophets are described in terms of their relationship with God, for example ‘Moses the speaker with God’, ‘Jesus, the Soul of God’, ‘Abraham, the ‘khalil’ of God’, ‘Ismail, the sacrificer for God’.

A related, but much smaller hand-shaped stamp in brass and dated 1154 AH (1741-42 AD) is in the Nasser D. Khilili Collection and is illustrated in Leonie (2016, p. p. 87) and Maddison & Savage-Smith (1997, p. 140).

The stamp is in excellent condition. The final image shows a photographic negative of the face of the stamp so that the script can be read correctly. This is how an imprint of the stamp will look.


Leonie, F. (ed.)., Power and Protection: Islamic Art and the Supernatural, Ashmolean Museum, 2016.

Maddison, F. & E. Savage-Smith, The Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art: Science, Tools & Magic, Part One: Body and Spirit, Mapping the Universe, The Nour Foundation, 1997.

Pers. comm., Seif El Rashidi, London, July 2019.

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