An Investigation into 10-fold Geometric Patterns from 'The Topkapi Scroll' by Nick Crossling

May 2022 by Nick Crossling

The Topkapi Scroll is thought to have been compiled in the 15th or 16th century and of Iranian origin. Essentially, it is an architect's manual describing symmetrical designs for the decoration of flat and raised surfaces. The following drawings are reproductions of the two dimensional designs only.

The document is from a tradition of such manuals, but is of particular importance as it is so complete and well preserved. It is a fascinating body of work as not only does it give us lovely drawings of the designs we can see in monumental Islamic architecture, but also an insight into how the designs are constructed.

The designer(s) who compiled the original work only drew the minimum required section of each pattern. This can then be reflected or rotated to give the full design, which in turn can be repeated infinitely. Perfect for covering surface area. The construction lines were made by indentation into the paper and then the design was drawn in ink.

In the versions I have drawn up I have 'unfolded' the original drawing so as to give a more complete view of the design. The grey line is the actual pattern, whilst the red line is the grid upon which the pattern is constructed (originally the indentation). The blue lines form the base of the grid and you'll notice that they have the same form as parts of the actual pattern, only much larger in scale. This 'scaling up' of the pattern can also go on infinitely, providing you have a big enough piece of paper...

I've also drawn solid versions of each pattern filling various shapes with shades of grey. It's far from the traditional colouring schemes, but looks nice and allows for an appreciation how the different shapes interact with one another within the designs.

It's an on going project, so I've grouped the patterns as best I can and I'll add them in these groups. The first grouping and the probably the largest in the scroll are patterns based on ten fold symmetry, ie based on pentagons and decagons. These I have subdivided into three groups, so the first that you have here is 'ten fold group one' and perhaps the best way to appreciate it is to show a break down of the components that these designs have in common.