A catalogue of seals and talismans housed at the Ashmolean from the 8th to 19th century Islamic world, by Ludvik Kalus (published Oxford, 1986).
The Ashmolean Museum's collection contains ninety-four objects with inscriptions written in ‘positive’. Such objects originally had a protective function, but they were also used as adornments, especially in recent times. This was apparently the case with most of the objects catalogued here, particularly with those from J. B. Elliott's collection, given to the Bodleian Library in 1859, which were probably acquired in India. However, even when such objects were meant exclusively for adornment, they were engraved with the same texts as those of real talismans, and the only criterion for distinguishing the two different functions is the belief of their owner.
Gems are again the basic material used for these objects. They can be of many varieties, as is shown in the following table. From this table, it is obvious that the most used species is again cornelian, as was the case with the gem seals from both classical and post-classical periods. To explain this phenomenon it must be underlined here again that gems have particular protective virtues for Muslim people . Five of the objects here presented are in metal (gold , silver  and base metal ) which constitutes the ring part.
Gems used for talismans
1.3 [LI1008.1], 1.6 [LI1008.102]. 1.8 [LI1008.67], 1.9 [LI1008.70], 1.10 [LI1008.52], 1.11 [LI1008.43], 1.12 [LI1008.90], 1.14 [EAX.3465], 1.15 [LI1008.91], 1.16 [LI1008.53], 1.17 [LI1008.72], 1.19 [LI1008.69], 1.20 [LI1008.64], 1.21 [LI1008.73], 1.22 [LI1008.92], 1.24 [LI1008.48], 1.34 [LI1008.80], 1.35 [LI1008.12], 1.39 [EA2009.5], 1.53 [LI1008.85], 1.54 [LI1008.75]. 1.56 [LI1008.87], 1.57 [LI1008.55], 1.58 [LI1008.101], 1.60 [LI1008.71], 1.61 [LI1008.88], 1.62 [LI1008.81], 1.64 [LI1008.86], 1.65 [LI1008.103], 1.66 [LI1008.63], 1.67 [LI1008.42], 1.77 [LI1008.77], 1.78 [LI1008.76], 1.79 [LI1008.74], 1.82 [LI1008.58], 1.86 [LI1008.105], 1.87 [LI1008.106], 2.1.I [LI1008.6], 2.1.II(?) [LI1008.5], 2.2.II [LI1008.22], 2.2.III [LI1008.20], 2.3.II [LI1008.13], 2.5.I [LI1008.8]
Cornelian backed with transparent glass of the same colour
1.23 [LI1008.17], 1.32 [LI1008.18], 1.38 [LI1008.40], 1.46 [LI1008.35], 1.47 [LI1008.97], 1.48 [LI1008.98], 1.49 [LI1008.99], 1.50 [LI1008.100], 1.51 [LI1008.84], 1.68 [LI1008.51], 1.71 [LI1008.57], 1.89 [EA1969.79]
Chalcedony [pale orange]
Stone less dense than quartz and more dense than most chalcedonies and obsidian
Red glass (?)
The gem talismans are mostly bezels; there is only one object shaped as a biconvex cabochon . The horizontal section of these gems is mostly oval, though it is sometimes rectangular , rectangular with cut angles , oval pointed on the inferior side , or occasionally in the shape of a heart  or of an escutcheon . Seventeen gems are in silver or enamelled settings  and are part of pendants or bracelets.
Five objects classed in a separate group (II.2) [Composite talismans – jewels] can be considered as composite jewels/talismans. They are all real bracelets and are composed of three or four gem-stone, or occasionally glass, elements assembled in a silver or enamelled setting. Every element could in fact be considered as an independent item, but because of their symmetrical arrangement it is preferable to consider them as whole. All the elements are bezels, most of them are oval, but some are rectangular with cut angles, some oval with a point in the middle of the superior side and some are in the shape of an escutcheon.
Let us now turn to their inscriptions and their decoration. All but two of the inscriptions are on one face of the gem only. The two exceptions  have inscriptions on both faces. The inscriptions are usually in several lines. Normally there are one to six lines, but there can be eleven  or even sixteen . Some inscriptions are distributed in a decorative ensemble , some are divided between a central ground and a border  and one bilinear inscription is presented in tête-bêche . Another inscription which is in tughrā script is partly in 'positive' and partly in ‘negative' . All but one of the inscriptions are in cursive script; the exception is in kufic . There is one talisman with a very large (but short) inscription, and the letters of this inscription are covered with small inscriptions .
Non-epigraphic ornamentation on these talismans is not rare but is limited to floral motifs, the latter consisting of simple branches or small flower heads often very schematically designed.
The texts of the inscriptions reflect the religious, and especially the Quranic, character of Islamic magic. There are different invocations to God , the Names of God , the basmala , shahāda , expressions of submission to God  and other expressions relating to Him . Some of the talismans reflect the Shi’ite tradition with invocations to 'Alī , the Shi’ite shahāda , a very common quatrain celebrating 'Alī , and the names of Twelve Imams, or at least of some of them, sometimes with the name of Fāṭima . But the most usual and the most important texts are Quranic quotations. All such quotations are listed, together with those on the seals, in the Index of Quranic quotations at the end of this catalogue. Here it should be stressed that the commonest quotation, not surprisingly, is the ‘Verse of Throne' (Qur. II. 256/255)  which has great magical power, as well as the Sura 'Sincere Religion' (Qur. CXII) , such an excellent profession of faith
There are three talismans  which have their magical character underlined by the distribution of isolated words or isolated letters in rectangular or square compartments, or by the distribution of seven letters in seven lines, the order of the letters being different in every line. These inscriptions form a kind of 'magic square'. One short inscription with an invocation formed by an unintelligible word can be considered as a magic formula .
One talisman, non-epigraphic, is engraved with a group of magic signs called ‘the seven magic signs' . But there is another one, also non-epigraphic, which can be considered as a 'pseudo- talisman’  It seems to be a simple imitation in which three lines of inscription are replaced by three horizontal lines with a series of short vertical strokes.
Islamic talismans of this type very rarely bear a date, but there are two catalogued below which are dated to a year in the Islamic era. One of them has the year 1078/1667-8 , the other the year 1121/1709-10 . These will be important elements for dating other objects in future studies.
Composite talismans- jewels
 See supra, p. 1 n. 1
 No. 1.2 [LI897.1]
 No. 1.1 [EAX.3464]
 No. 1.70 [LI1008.2]
 No. 1.74 [LI1008.29]
 Nos. 1.3 [LI1008.1], 1.18 [LI1008.27], 1.23 [LI1008.17], 1.28 [LI1008.28], 1.30 [LI1008.30], 1.32 [LI1008.18], 1.35 [LI1008.12], 1.36 [LI1008.37], 1.39 [EA2009.5], 1.42 [LI1008.19], 1.44 [LI1008.16], 1.45 [LI1008.4], 1.52 [LI1008.26], 1.67 [LI1008.42], 1.70 [LI1008.2], 1.74 [LI1008.29] and 1.75 [LI1008.33]
 No. 2.3 (I) [LI1008.14]
 Nos. 1.6 [LI1008.102], 1.9 [LI1008.70], 1.13 [LI897.3], 1.22 [LI1008.92], 1.24 [LI1008.48], 1.28 [LI1008.28], 1.29 [LI1008.34], 1.30 [LI1008.30], 1.40 [LI1008.44], 1.42 [LI1008.19], 1.44 [LI1008.16], 1.45 [LI1008.4], 1.52 [LI1008.26], 1.53 [LI1008.85], 1.54 [LI1008.75], 1.70 [LI1008.2], 1.71 [LI1008.57], 1.72 [LI1008.38], 1.73 [LI1008.36], 1.74 [LI1008.29], 1.75 [LI1008.33], 2.2 (I) [LI1008.21], 2.4 (I) [LI1008.24] and 2.5 (I, II, III, IV).
 No. 1.2 [LI897.1]
 No. 1.14 [EAX.3465]
 No. 1.4 [LI902.6]
 No. 1.55 [EAX.3302]
 Nos. 1.5 [LI1008.59], 1.6 [LI1008.102], 1.28 [LI1008.28], 1.29 [LI1008.34], 1.30 [LI1008.30], 1.40 [LI1008.44], 1.41 [LI1008.46], 1.53 [LI1008.85], 1.55 [EAX.3302], 1.71 [LI1008.57], 1.73 [LI1008.36], 1.81 [LI1008.104], 2.2 [LI1008.21, LI1008.22, and LI1008.20] and 2.5 [LI1008.8, LI1008.9, LI1008.10, and LI1008.11]
 Nos. 1.1 [EAX.3464], 1.30 [LI1008.30], 1.41 [LI1008.46], 1.53 [LI1008.85], 1.83 [LI897.5], 2.1 [LI1008.6, LI1008.5, LI1008.7, and LI1008.108], 2.3 [LI1008.14, LI1008.13, and LI1008.15] and 2.4 [LI1008.24, LI1008.25, and LI1008.23]
 Nos. 1.2 [LI897.1], 1.3 [LI1008.1], 1.4 [LI902.6], 1.13 [LI897.3], 1.41 [LI1008.46], 1.47 [LI1008.97], 1.48 [LI1008.98], 1.49 [LI1008.99], 1.50 [LI1008.100], 1.51 [LI1008.84] and 1.52 [LI1008.26]
 No. 1.13 [LI897.3]
 Nos. 1.22 [LI1008.92], 1.23 [LI1008.17], 1.24 [LI1008.48], 1.25 LI1008.41], 1.26 [LI1008.32], 1.27 [LI1008.60], 1.28 [LI1008.28], 1.29 [LI1008.34], 2.3 [LI1008.14, LI1008.13, and LI1008.15] and 2.5 [LI1008.8, LI1008.9, LI1008.10, and LI1008.11]
 Nos. 1.33 [LI1008.47], 1.34 [LI1008.80], 1.35 [LI1008.12], 1.36 [LI1008.37], 1.37 [LI1008.39], 1.38 [LI1008.40], 1.39 [EA2009.5], 1.40 [LI1008.44], 1.41 [LI1008.46], 1.42 [LI1008.19], 1.43 [LI1008.31], 1.44 [LI1008.16], 1.45 [LI1008.4], 1.70 [LI1008.2], 2.4 [LI1008.24, LI1008.25, and LI1008.23] and 2.5 [LI1008.8, LI1008.9, LI1008.10, and LI1008.11]
 Nos. 1.58 [LI1008.101], 1.64 [LI1008.86], 1.65 [LI1008.103], 1.66 [LI1008.63], 1.67 [LI1008.42], 1.68 [LI1008.51], 1.69 [LI1008.65], 1.70 [LI1008.2], 1.71 [LI1008.57], 1.72 [LI1008.38], 1.73 [LI1008.36], 1.74 [LI1008.29], 1.75 [LI1008.33], 2.2 [LI1008.21, LI1008.22, and LI1008.20], 2.3 [LI1008.14, LI1008.13, and LI1008.15] and 2.5 [LI1008.8, LI1008.9, LI1008.10, and LI1008.11]
 No. 1.86 [LI1008.105]
 No. 1.89 [EA1969.79]
 No. 1.88 [LI1008.107]
 No. 2.3 (III) [LI1008.15]
 No. 1.26 [LI1008.32]
Object information may not accurately reflect the actual contents of the original publication, since our online objects contain current information held in our collections database. Click on 'buy this publication' to purchase printed versions of our online publications, where available, or contact the Jameel Study Centre to arrange access to books on our collections that are now out of print.