Trash or Treasure: Vintage page likely from the Quran

Khristi Zimmeth
Special to The Detroit News
Judy Mattila with her framed pages from a book.

Bordered in gold, the two pages featuring intricate writing and decorated margins have long intrigued owners Bob and Judy Mattila.

“We are interested in having this item appraised,” Judy wrote in an email to the column hoping to find out more about the item. “It appears to be a page from an old book. We're not sure what language it's written in -- possibly Arabic?  It looks like it may have gold leaf on it. The page itself is about 10 x 12 inches.”

  The item was a gift in the 1970s, Judy told appraiser Brian Thomczek at an appraisal session held at the Michigan Design Center in Troy. “We received this framed page as a wedding gift in 1975 from Peggy deSalle, a woman who owned an art gallery in Birmingham.  My husband worked for her at the time.  We've been curious about it for years. “

According to, Peggy deSalle trained as an art photographer and worked for the art conservator at the DIA before opening the Little Gallery in Birmingham in 1950, the Detroit area’s first art gallery. She died in 1985.

Thomczek confirmed that the language was probably Arabic and that the page appeared to be from an Islamic holy book. “The detail in this is beautiful,” he mused as he looked more closely. “This could be hundreds of years old.”

He also praised the framing, adding that whoever framed it clearly knew what they were doing because there is no damage to the delicate paper. “It looks like they used acid-free materials, which is the correct way to frame things if you want to make sure they last.”

He said the page is probably from the Quran or another Islamic holy book, and added that they could identify it for sure by stopping at the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn. “They could probably help you decipher it,” he said.

Even without definite identification the appraiser valued the piece at “at least $200 to $300,” adding “If you can find out more about the age, that could go up.”

The Mattilas decided to take the appraiser up on his advice. After the appraisal session in Troy, they stopped at the Islamic Association of Greater Detroit in Rochester Hills.  There they met a young man who looked at the framed book page and said that it was indeed from the Quran.  “He could read Arabic but wasn't sure what part of the Quran it was from,” they wrote in a follow-up email. “He said the Imam would be able to tell us but he wasn't there at the time. So that answers that question.”

The couple has had it hung in their home since their wedding. “We are thinking about what to do with it,” Judy said.

     Do you have an object you would like to know more about? Send a photo and description that includes how you acquired the object to: The Detroit News, Trash or Treasure?, 160 W. Fort St., Detroit, MI 48226. Include your name and daytime telephone number. You may also send your photo and description to If chosen you’ll need to bring the items to an appraisal session. Letters are edited for style and clarity. Photos cannot be returned.                               

About this item

Item: Framed book page

Owned by: Bob and Judy Mattila

Appraised by: Brian Thomczek

Estimated value: $200 and up