Recently, while examining Déroche's catalogue of Quranic manuscripts at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, I ran into an extremely unusual Quran fragment consisting of three folios, that goes by the name BnF Arabe 329f. While in many ways it looks like a fairly standard Kufic Quran with especially typical features of the style D (and more specifically style Kufic D V), it has one feature so unusual that it cause Déroche to put it in the 'Unclassified' class. Occasionally in the case of the parallel double stroke letters (ڪ، ص، ض، ط، ظ) that are connected on both sides, we find that the double stroke is actually placed on top of the baseline, creating a three-layered cake of horizontal bars.
This rather striking practice, is certainly only an optional way of writing these forms, as three of the words found in this document are also found without the floating parallel-line letters.
In all three cases the form without the floating form is significantly shorter, and it rather seems that the floating forms in this style are part of mašq, i.e. the stretching of letters within a word. Note also that the shape of the ظ changes from a typical Kufi D.Vb (and New Style) sloped and curved shape to a straight shape typical of the other Kufic D styles (as well as Kufic A, B, C, E and F) the moment it is no longer placed on top of the baseline.
This practice of what I'll call here "Floating Mašq", was at the time of writing of Déroche's 1983 catalogue of BnF documents completely unknown, not just within the BnF collection, but everywhere.
Imagine my surprise when I recently ran into this exact same feature in the Palermo Quran (372 AH/982–3 CE), a beautiful and almost complete Quran document written in New Style, the calligraphic script style that seems to have come in vogue as Kufic was falling out of vogue. While sadly the Palermo Quran only has a few images available, from these few pictures it is clear that the same Floating Mašq feature shows up in this document. This, surprisingly, goes completely without comment to Déroche in his 1992 examination of the Nasser D. Khalili collection. The three cases of this that I have found in the pictures provided by Déroche are the following:
This feature is so rare, that finding it in two different documents (the only two known to have it), is bound to be meaningful. It seems to me that these similarities of a development in the way these signs are treated must be considered mutual influence of some kind. They may come from a similar, and otherwise somewhat isolated calligraphic tradition to explain this similarity. Knowing that the Palermo Quran is, well, from Palermo, we might want to consider the origins of BnF Arabe 329f to also be from Sicily, where this Floating Mašq may have been innovated.
There is however a striking problem: This feature cuts right across two different styles, namely Kufi D(V) and New Style III. But as Déroche points out the D.V group (which consists of several dated Qurans, e.g. dated to 299 AH and 307 AH) already show some influence from more cursive scripts, and apparently, also New Style. D.Vc. has a typically New Style like final nūn and mīm and D.Vb may have the typical slanted ط/ظ also found in New Style.
Besides these 'New Styleisms' found in D.V which are also clearly present in this document (see above). There are also other typical features of New Style present in this document, giving a strong impression that this document may have been produced in a time that the specific Palermo-style New Style with its Floating Mašq was already the typical calligraphic style of the time that BnF Arabe 329f was producedm and that BnF Arabe 329f was an intentional throwback to the lush and large Kufic D.V styles.
One typical feature of New Style is the strongly curved bottom of denticles and the lām: in medial position that descends well below the baseline. This is especially pronounced in the Palermo Quran, for example:
This kind of behavior (and the slanted cascading of multiple denticles as seen in tankiṣūna above), far more than new letter shapes, is what to me gives New Style its distinctive character. It, moreover, is a behaviour one never sees in Kufi, and it's not regular in BnF Arabe 329f, but we do find it in several places, especially in front of ه.
The first example of that is visiable in ʕuṣbah above, but it can be found in other places as well, e.g.
This behaviour is a clear similarity it shares especially with the Palermo Quran. Therefore, this documents on several accounts shows signs of being like the Palermo Quran. I would therefore venture to say that this Kufic style Quran, BnF Arabe 329f, should be viewed as coming from a scribal tradition closely related to that of Palermo Quran, and therefore I will venture a guess and suggest that this document, too, was produced in Sicily and probably around the same time as the production of the Palermo Quran.