Islamic Treasures and Their Stories Revealed at Emery Walker's House

After research discovers details of his travels and interest in faith's art and culture

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Emery Walker

Islamic Art Collection at Emery Walker's House

William Morris Society

The Islamic Art and Material Culture Subject Specialist Network

The Art Workers' Guild

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New research has uncovered the fascinating details of engraver and photographer Emery Walker's interest in Islamic art and culture, inspired by his travels to Moorish Spain and Morocco.

Published on the Emery Walker’s House website, it illustrates how Emery, who lived from 1851 to 1933, a close friend of William Morris (1834-96) and a Master of The Art Workers' Guild, travelled to Spain and Morocco and encouraged his family to follow in his footsteps.

Research funded by the Islamic Art and Material Culture Subject Specialist Network and conducted by researcher Sara Choudhrey details how a network of his contemporaries, including William Morris and his family and playwright George Bernard Shaw, took an interest in Islamic visual and typographical forms and poetry which led to their acquiring objects related to the Islamic faith.

The web pages include a gallery of photographs and anecdotes from the archives of Emery Walker’s House with examples of some of the most beautiful and interesting objects in its collection.

The miniature Qur’an, measuring just 2.5cm in height. PICTURE: EMERY WALKER’S HOUSE

One of the most intriguing items that the Walkers owned was a miniature Qur’an, the holy book of Islam containing the revelations sent from God to the Prophet Muhammad in the 7th century.

This Qur’an, measuring just 2.5cm in height, was produced by miniature book specialist David Bryce at the turn of the 20th century. Styled after Ottoman and Mughal examples, this production was enabled through the discovery of the lithography print method, allowing wider circulation of printed books.

The Qur’an is encased within a silver locket embossed with a swirling pattern and designed with a circular magnifying glass portal to the front. The small script would have otherwise been difficult for everyday reading, but encased as it was, and designed to be hung from a chain, it served a very practical purpose. These miniature Qur’ans were supplied to Muslim soldiers serving in the First World War, providing spiritual support.

The collection also includes rugs beautiful Moroccan ceramics, including the items pictured below.

Emery Walker House is the most authentic Arts & Crafts home in Britain and packed with artefacts collected on travels around Europe and Africa or created by Walker’s friends and colleagues, leading protagonists in the Arts & Crafts Movement.

For those who want to visit the house in person, it opens on Thursdays and Saturdays for one hour guided tours. The house has extended its tour season to the end of November, and includes a display of the smaller Islamic items that are not usually on show. Tours are limited to just eight people, so early booking is advisable via the website.

August 23, 2018