Books on Islamic Geometry & related topics

One of the reasons I created a beginner's online course & many instructional videos on YouTube was due to the lack of good books & resources for beginners wanting to draw patterns. In the last few years, the number of online resources has grown, they are of a high standard, provided for free, by some exceptional geometers. I recommend these highly as they are often better than the majority of books below.

If I haven't managed to talk you out of acquiring books... you'll find my opinion on the collection of books I've accumulated over the last few years with links to online resources dotted about too! I know there are many more relevent books out there, so if and when I get them, I'll add them in too.

The UK & USA flags link to Amazon. I earn a small commission for sending customers their way, with no extra cost to you.

I've categorised the books, according to their main focus:

Books to browse through for pleasure, inspiration and your own pattern analysis.  Four of them are collections of 19th century lithograph plates, a precursor to photography. These plates can be very detailed, comparable to modern day photos of the very same patterns in architecture or simple line drawings in either b&w or colour. Images from the original publications and many others are easily found online and organised superbly on Copyright laws no longer apply (70 years after the author’s death).

Islamic Art in Cairo, From the Seventh to the Eighteenth Centuries

By Emile Prisse d’Avennes  (1807- 1879)

French archaeologist, Egyptologist, architect and writer.

First published 1867-79


CONTENT: 200 plates with usually one image, more than half of which are in colour. The plates are categorised in to the following: Architecture; Ornament & Mosaic; Ceilings; Woodwork; Doors; Faience (ceramic tiles); Mashrabiya & Lattice work; Interiors; Glasswork; Carpets & tapestries; Arms & armour; Secular & Religious furnishings; Manuscripts; Qurans. There are then 34 further b&w plates – content mixed. Each has a short caption by Yasmeen Siddiqui as well as location details at the back of the book, with some gaps/missing information.

It is also available to view via with black & white as well as coloured plates.


ACQUIRED: I bought this on Amazon Marketplace.


VERDICT: The quality of the images in this book is brilliant. The exquisite detail, the quality of the book makes it the best when compared to the other books in this category.




Arabic Geometrical Pattern & Design

By Jules Bourgoin (1838 – 1908)

French Architect who worked in Cairo and Damascus.

First published in 1879.


CONTENT: I have a second hand copy of this as published in the Dover Pictorial Archive Series. There are 190 b&w line drawings of patterns and 10 further plates with one or more b&w detailed drawings of patterns. There are dotted lines on my copy, which may help some to draw the pattern. Not sure that it does, however it does help you see the breakdown of the repeat unit.


ACQUIRED: I bought this on Amazon Marketplace.


VERDICT: I love this book. I’ve used it a lot to get inspired. To look up patterns or find the next one I want to analyse, play with or teach. Granted it is very simple, line drawings, but they are of what I love! They are grouped by family of symmetry and get progressively more complex. The book becomes extremely useful with a copy of AJ Lee’s PDF that takes you to the source of the pattern (where he was able to find it). This added information adds the missing layer of beauty, as you can then see the pattern in it’s full glory, be it in plaster, woodwork, tiles or other material. Some he wasn’t able to find a source for. If they look particularly iffy, I avoid them as there are a few questionable patterns. For example the innaccuate eightfold rosette that I often mention, is incorrect in quite a few of the versions of it in this book. The twelvefold rosette from the Alhambra is also incorrect (plate 70) one that Mohamad Aljanabi explains in his excellent YouTube video.

Although this book has it’s flaws, I’ve still found it  useful and full of gems, it was very cheap. Bourgoin's work is also available to view via with a few plates in black and white and many in colour and the full set of line drawings as described above.


PATTERN INSTRUCTION: Although there are dotted lines to show you the underlying grid ( the squares, rectangles triangles or hexagons and circles within them that give you an idea of the repeat


Possible Sources for Bourgoin

By Tony Lee

The Arabian Antiquities of Spain, The Alhambra

By James Cavanah Murphy (1760 -1814)

An Irish Architect who travelled to Spain in 1802 to study Moorish Architecture for 7 years.

First published in 1816.


CONTENT: A good A4 sized book. The 88 plates are all black & white, usually on the left page with a description on the left page of its location & context in the Alhambra. There are architectural drawing of plans and elevations, images of people and life, pattern detail of all aspects of Islamic Art (calligraphy, floral motifs and geometric pattern).


ACQUIRED: I was gifted this by one of my students, she found it in a local charity shop.


VERDICT: It’s a lovely luxury to flick through for fans of the Alhambra but not essential.  For those who trace patterns to paint them, the images are good size to do so.




The Grammar of Ornament

By Owen Jones (1809 – 1974), Welsh Architect, his early work on the Alhambra brought him to prominence, his seminal work, this design source book.  He played a key role in the Great Exhibition of 1851 and also the precursor to the V&A Museum.

First published in 1856.


CONTENT: My copy of this widely available and widely copied book is small under A5 sized book. 504 pages divided into 20 chapters on ornamental styles across Europe through the Middle East & North Africa to China. The quality of the images vary, they are plentiful and colourful.


ACQUIRED: I bought this on a trip to the V&A Museum.


VERDICT: I haven’t used it much, but recognise its value and the role it plays in valuing & cataloguing surface pattern. There is no pattern instruction.  It irks me that pattern is used so widely across the world, has its own layers of complexity and meaning  but somehow is not always considered “Art” by a narrow European point of view.

The patterns relevent to Islamic art are available to view via with a few plates in black and white and many in colour.




İslam Sanatında Geometrik Süsleme

By Yildiz Demiriz (1929 -2016), Turkish Academic & Art Historian

Published in 2004


CONTENT: This is vast catalogue of patterns and their locations. It’s an entirely b&w book in Turkish. It’s structured systematically in each section by family of symmetry, 4,6,8,10 fold and so on. For each pattern you have a line drawing on the left, photograph on the right (where available) and  below all the locations it can be found, usually in Turkey but for many in other places too. Some of the pattern illustrations are distorted and the quality of the print, paper and photos isn’t high quality.


ACQUIRED: Purchased in the book market (Sahaflar Carsisi) whilst in Istanbul, Turkey.


VERDICT:  When I first flicked through this book (407 pages) I was so pleased by it’s accessibility and highly useful content even though I speak not one dot of Turkish.  I’ve used it a lot to get inspired. To look up patterns or find the next one I want to analyse, play with or teach. The bonus of this book is that the pattern location is there in print next to the illustration & photo. With more or less 2 patterns on each page that’s around 800 patterns. Amazing. We have the internet at our finger tips, so I’ve often typed in the locations and found further and better images (sometimes found nothing!). It has an extensive bibliography (at the front and back!).




The Royal Alcazar of Seville With a Ruler And Compass

A Step –by –Step Outlining of Tile Designs

By Manuel Martinez Vela

Published 2019


CONTENT: It’s 178 pages are in full colour and walks you through the Royal Alcazar of Seville and more importantly to us, walks you through 25 patterns step-by-step (plus another 12 border patterns). The patterns range from the simple to complex, and come with extra info, photos and diagrams on their location, symmetries, tiles if they are mosaics as well as weave wherever applicable. It’s very thorough just like Manuel's Alhambra book.


ACQUIRED: I was sent my copy by Manuel! I'm a lucky person indeed. But he did provide links to where it could be bought. It's been published by a small publisher and links are available via their website.

People have also had success with International orders from Abe Books as well as the Spainish book sellers:

Available at Amazon US via Agapea

VERDICT:  I’m such a fan of Manuel's books, I think it's his communication skills from a life time of teaching that comes across. The photography, history, maps, diagrams, explainations that wrap around each pattern construction add to the brilliant richess of the book.


PATTERN INSTRUCTION: Yes! 36 in total patterns step by step! I'm yet to work through the book, but I recognise many of the construction menthods, so am reassurred that the Manuel doesnt change or simplify or distort the correct proportions of the patterns. This is highly valuable and important as we are as ever passing on the mathematics and geometry from these namesless masters from centuries gone by.

If you can't get hold of the book, please do see his YouTube channel


The Alhambra With a Ruler And Compass

A Step –by –Step Outlining of Tiling and Plasterwork

By Manuel Martinez Vela

Published in 2017, 2nd edition published 2019 - with corrections to the first edition.


CONTENT: It’s 226 pages are in full colour and walks you through the Alhambra and more importantly to us, walks you through 43 patterns step-by-step! The patterns range from the simple to complex, come with extra info, photos and diagrams on their location, symmetries, tiles if they are mosaics as well as weave wherever applicable. It’s very thorough.


ACQUIRED: I bought this on Amazon Marketplace – in one of the luckiest moves I ever did make, I KNOW it is hard to find outside of Granada, but many have been able to find it at a whole range of online book sellers outside of Amazon. The book is available via the Alhambra Online shop & also the publisher's website. People have also had success with International orders from Abe Books.

So all I’ll say is best of luck!


VERDICT:  I’ve not been shy about expressing my love for this beautiful book. My only note of caution is, I haven’t worked through it all and if there are significant problems, I’m yet to find them.


PATTERN INSTRUCTION: Yes! 43 patterns step by step! The instructions often start with a square already subdivided into a grid. Which means you have to flick back to the appendix (it’s all referenced very well). Thus avoiding a bulked up book full of repetition. It took my lazy self a bit of time to get used to this flicking back and forth, and I’m sure my experience makes me take shortcuts, which others may not do so. I’m also one of those people who likes to find a quicker more efficient way (for more or less everything!) so some of the patterns, I’d draw them differently.


However the author doesn’t change or simplify or distort the Alhambra patterns. This is KEY! Islamic Geometric patterns look a certain way, each shape has certain angles, symmetries and proportions that means that they are correct individually, they are correct together as a fuller pattern and correct as a system to draw many patterns.

If you can't get hold of the book, please do see his YouTube channel


Islamic Design: A Genius for Geometry

By Daud Sutton

Published in 2007


CONTENT: 64 B&W pages containing a wide range of patterns organised systematically put together with beautiful illustrations throughout. The text for each of the 26 short chapters is useful, easy to read and browse through.  There are 5 useful appendices on further and related information.


ACQUIRED: I bought this on Amazon Marketplace.


VERDICT: An excellent resource for a wide range of patterns taking the reader through the families of symmetry comprehensively. There are plenty of illustrations and they are so very beautiful. Some are of patterns on their own, some with the underlying grid exposed or adjacent to the pattern and a few showing 4 or 5 steps to draw the pattern from almost scratch.  The pattern sources are not always stated. The analysis usually uses an underlying grid of polygons to show how they’re drawn. I don’t often use this method. Even though many patterns can be retrospectively analysed to show that such an underlying grid exists, for me, isn’t the most efficient method to draw the pattern by hand.  Just one illustration of Alhambra twelvefold rosette page 25 is one that Mohamad Aljanabi explains in his excellent YouTube video.


PATTERN INSTRUCTION: Yes, good for those with a bit of experience (if you're a beginner, get that experience by diving into my YouTube videos and then return to this book!). Even though there are only a few instructions for beginners who want to draw a pattern from scratch step by step there is plenty to read, digest and enjoy.  With a bit of experience, it’s good to try and draw from the diagrams in this book that force you to think and deconstruct some aspects of drawing the pattern. It’s an excellent endeavour that helps you to progress in drawing patterns


Anadolu Selcuklu Sanatinin Geometrik Dili (3 Volumes) (Turkish)

By Serap Ekizler Sönmez

Published in 2020


CONTENT: The Geometric Language of Anatolian Seljuk Art

A comprehensive 3 volumes of 64 historical artifacts from 23 cities with 118 patterns in various architectural structures, their analysis and how they emerged explained and shown in 1487 drawings.


ACQUIRED: Gifted. available from and other Turksih Websites for international shipping, also becoming mofre widely available from Amazon and Abebooks.


VERDICT: The actual books are stunning (thye seem to live on my desk catching the light!). The content is just wow. So well put together, the visual communication is brilliant; I know Serap is so good at this anyway, always making me see things in a different way, making connections between things I had seen separate. There are so many architectural photos I’ve not seen too. The story telling of the patterns, the step by steps, the different renderings of patterns and their variations, so very beautiful and comprehensive. The three volumes cover six, four, twelve, five and tenfold, so beautifully. I can’t wait to actually get drawing.


PATTERN INSTRUCTION: Yes, many! With access points for beginners and then many underlying grids showing the structure of patterns and their varlations.


Arts & Crafts of the Islamic Lands: Principles, Materials Practice, by Khaled Azzam & The Prince's School of Traditional Arts.

Published in 2013


CONTENT: A complete resource for traditional arts with detailed information and practical guides divided in to 3 Parts: Principles, Materials & Preparation and Methods & Techniques. It’s a hardback, good quality book with colour photos and colour illustrations. I love the photos of art work by PSTA alumni throughout the book, they add richness and bring to life the detailed step by step practical content. Also a very useful bibliography and notes section.

ACQUIRED: from Amazon.

VERDICT:  I must confess, I’ve only really used 38 out of the 286 pages on geometry. A tad predictable for me! This geometry section is very comprehensive and before you reach any guides to drawing patterns, there is a lot of content on geometry & proportions in nature/the universe & architecture. The pattern instruction does heavily rely on an underlying grid of polygons being the means by which patterns are constructed. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t often use this method. Even though many patterns can be retrospectively analysed to show that such an underlying grid exists, for me, it isn’t the most efficient method to draw the pattern by hand. It also leads to patterns that I haven’t seen any historical examples of. This also means that pattern sources aren’t always shown (or may not exist). But none of this is enough to stop me highly recommending it as I’ve used it repeatedly! Although I wasn’t able to access it fully and freely when I was a beginner, it forced me to think and problem solve my way through pattern construction – something I’ve heard from other people too. Definitely a skill I’ve benefited from. Having a book that provides you content and food for thought beyond the beginner level makes it a better companion for a longer learning process as you learn more and more about Islamic Geometry Patterns, with the bonus of dabbling in related topics and practices.


Arabesques: Art Decoratif Au Maroc, by Jean-Marc Castera and Francoise Peuriot

Published in 1996


CONTENT: A large 480 glossy paged hardback book with an abundance of high quality photos, instruction and illustrations. The book begins with small sections on Islamic history, pattern history, calligraphy and its application, floral motifs and their applications. Then at least a third of the book is about geometry, specifically that found in Morocco. The book takes you through progressively harder and more complex systematically, showing how they can be drawn freehand, without a compass on gridded paper.  It also shows how you can bring together different elements and motifs to create a more complex pattern. The varieties of interwoven patterns found in Morocco have their own section, which is followed by a section on simpler motifs and a fairly hefty 100 page section on Muqarnas. There is a section dedicated to the various crafts that use these patterns – Zellige, plaster carving, zouak and finally the principle sites where these patterns are found in Morocco.


ACQUIRED:  At the Louvre in Paris. My copy is in French. But once I flicked through it, I knew it was worth investing 104 EURO and lugging home all 4kgs of it! AT the time it was very expensive on Amazon and almost impossible to acquire in English below £500. I think now the French copy is less than £40, a bargain!


VERDICT: Brilliant. Just flicking through it now, it is rich with photography of the highest standard. These photos  of pattern and architecture are beautiful, inspirational and some very practically useful as they are perfectly square, undistorted and zoomed into the detail of the pattern.  Besides this, we have Castera’s illustrations, I’d seen so many of them uncredited on the internet and to find them in the book was brilliant. Such amazing detail and instruction.

 I haven’t needed to read the text to access the content, but on occasion, have used the google translate  app to translate any text I really want to understand.


PATTERN INSTRUCTION: Yes, but not as we know it! Castera works very differently to how I and many of us do. But, I have used this book to work his way and it helped me understand how to access and draw the patterns my way too. The patterns specifically relate to those in Morocco, but there is enough variety and richness in this to still make it a useful. If you are an absolute beginner, you can easily start with this book and progress to much more complex patterns, if you don’t mind skipping the compass and ruler part.


The Minbar of Saladin: Reconstructing a Jewel of Islamic Art, by Lynette Singer

​ First Published in 2008

CONTENT: A large hardback book, 208 pages with many coloured photos and illustrations. This book tells the story of the reconstruction project of the Minbar in Al Aqsa Masjid in Jerusalem and much more. It accompanied a documentary film called “stairway to Heaven and some copies of the book still have the DVD useful for those who have the means to play it, if not, YouTube. The book gives a thorough back story of Jerusalem with a great deal of historical context accompanied by photos and illustrations throughout. Next, a chapter on the details of the fire, its impact and aftermath. We then go in to the world of pattern: Sacred geometry, nature, Christian & Islamic Art, all beautifully depicted through b&w photos of the minbar and many other manuscripts, objects and architecture.  There is a short section on practical geometry. The book then documents the project of recreating the minbar, the craftsmen, the geometers and everyone else in between that allowed this minbar to be unveiled in 2006. The legacy of this project feels as important as the minbar itself. I always like the extra bits, so the Forewords, further reading, glossary & index are present and correct and useful.


ACQUIRED: from Amazon Marketplace. 


VERDICT:  I really enjoyed browsing through this book. The photos & illustrations really enrich the content. Then to have a documentary too is a win win situation!


PATTERN INSTRUCTION: The hidden gem in this book is the short practical geometry section by Paul Marchant. There are four pattern constructions in this section, each one expanded with related the geometry illustrations in between. As there is an eightfold, fivefold pattern and 2 sixfold patterns, this section helps you to distinguish between the families of symmetry. I don’t think they are entirely accessible for absolute beginners but for those of you have drawn a little and are persistent, you’ll find enough information to draw these 4 patterns. For the more experienced, there are perhaps another 4 patterns dispersed throughout the book worth analysing.


Islamic Geometric Design by Eric Broug

Published in 2013


CONTENT: A large 256 page hardback book with illustrations and beautiful photography throughout.  It starts with the history & evolution of the designs from the earliest patterns; through curvilinear elements to the patterns we can describe as Islamic geometric patterns divided into their families of symmetry. There is useful glossary, and bibliography as well as illustration credits and index.


ACQUIRED:  Gifted to me by a friend who saw my interest in Islamic Geometry begin to blossom!


VERDICT: I love one aspect of this book - its photography. The photographs of the patterns and architecture are top notch, there is such a wide range of examples from across the Islamic Lands and some very unusual ones too it also helps gain an insight into the locations, themes and the chronology of patterns. Unfortunately it is littered with errors in design and proportion in the illustrations and how to draw section. As this is said to be the purpose of it, I find it difficult to enjoy. Often these errors are directly next to a photograph of the pattern so they are now easy for me to spot. As a beginner I happily drew what I could from it, but as I developed my ability to see these subtle but so very important differences, the book went down in my estimation and I just stopped referring to it altogether. As I flick through it now I’ve found errors (some are of the same error being referred to multiple times) on pages 18, 26, 29,33, 59, 69, 73, 74, 77, 106, 116, 117, 162, 186 before arriving at the “how to draw patterns sections in the appendix.


PATTERN INSTRUCTION:  Yes but with problems in proportions and methodology. In the appendix section, a lot of the methodology is peculiar, as though no one has actually road tested the instructions to see if it is something one can follow. The starting points themselves require construction, or a template, but neither is referenced nor is the source of the original pattern in situ.  For example on page 198, the first shape is a hexagon ( in the second it is all of a sudden divided into 12 – how!? There is no reference or instruction on how to draw a hexagon or divide it in to 12 (page 22 for the hexagon by the way). The same could be said for 195 and the starting point of a square. If say you have found a way to draw a hexagon or square, the way forward for both are very odd and would lead to many inaccuracies.  To create a repeat of these shapes, I certainly wouldn’t use this approach. These are so far just the grids. Next we have actual pattern instruction. They often have a difficult starting point and the two patterns on page 211 & 233 are excessively complicated. Four of the 19 patterns have errors in the proportions: pages 200, 204, 208, 212. On Youtube, I illustrate the 2 correct methods for the classic eightfold zellige pattern and also compare the correct method against the approximated method. The same for the how to draw the  tenfold pattern from Mustansiriya Madrasa, Baghdad. I learnt to see these problems initally when I was learning with Art of Islamic Pattern and then more clearly through the videos of Mohamad Aljanabi.


Islamic Art and Architecture: System of Geometric by Issam El-Said and Tarek El-Bouri

First Published in 1993


CONTENT: A large A4 sized hardback book, 136 pages of illustrations & diagrams. Given the title of the book, there are only two b&w photos of patterns in architecture (besides the cover). The book has two main sections: Geometric Pattern in Islamic Art and Man & Measure. The second section isn’t one I’ve used and there is a lot of extra mathematics in both sections that aren’t necessary for you to draw the patterns. Some may find it fascinating, but as a mathematician I don’t find it particularly engaging for me to dip into more fully. There is additional content by way of Notes, bibliography, a Foreword and Introduction.


ACQUIRED: from Amazon Marketplace. It’s out of print, so may be expensive – therefore not easy to find at a reasonable price.​ I dont think it's essential and worth paying a "silly amount" for on marketplace and would highly recommend sourcing it at your library if you're very keen.


VERDICT:  Definitely accessible for beginners with plenty of simple as well as a few advanced in the 56 patterns. Some of the simple "patterns", just seem like underlying grids of polygons. Also, some of the patterns are odd/unusual, especially in their tiling. For example, a classic eightfold zellige pattern on page 33, is tiled such that there are large squares between them. This is fairly unusual and I've not really seen it like this. The pattern on page 111 (and therefore 110) is our oft occuring error with the Alhambra twelvefold rosette. One that Mohamad Aljanabi explains in his excellent YouTube video.

Some other unusual patterns/tilings are on 35, 52, 54, 55, 90, knowing more about them and where they exisit, would allay these reservations. This really is the main issue with the book, I dislike the lack of photos and pattern sources. If there is no reference to where these patterns can be found, you can't cross check their authenticity.


Islamic Geometric Patterns by Eric Broug

First published 2008


CONTENT:  This 120 page sturdy paperback book is a step by step guide to drawing patterns aimed at beginners. It’s widely available and has been translated into many languages. Following the introduction pages, the first chapter gives details of the geometry basics, the second chapter is the step by step guides to draw 19 patterns categorised as Easy, Intermediate & Difficult. There is a short “Further Reading” page and a short biography of the Author at the back. Although sources are named there aren’t any photos of the patterns in these places to compare and cross reference.


ACQUIRED: Amazon marketplace.


VERDICT: I bought this book early on when I started learning to draw Islamic Geometric Patterns. It seemed ideal that such a book existed, so I dived in and drew lots. But as I did, some things seemed odd, but I didn’t know if it was me or the book. As I learned & discovered more I started noticing the errors and learnt of how to see errors from my more experienced friends and teachers. I was really disappointed, I lost trust in the content and stopped using it altogether. Later on, I did go through it and make note of the mistakes in the pattern index so I knew what's what.


PATTERN INSTRUCTION: Yes, but flawed.  Firstly, errors in where the patterns are from. The patterns are named according to where they are found, but without a photo of the pattern in that place. When I went to Fes in Morocco, I eagerly searched for the pattern in the Qarawiyyn Mosque (page 104). It wasn’t there and happens to be in the Attarine Medressa round the corner (but it's proportions are incorrect in the book anyway). The pattern from the Huand Hatun Complex (page 62), I also tried searching for online, but with no luck. On this pattern has no sources and leads back to Bourgoin plate 44. Bourgoin’s plates although a good book has many flaws itself, which are simply repeated in this book. I didnt look up and crosss check other patterns.

Secondly, some of the methods are overly complex especially for the simpler patterns.  There is something on page 20, which mentions good and bad and their balance. I found this amusing as this very principle is broken through the book.

Lastly, 6 of the 19 patterns are incorrect (pages 30, 66, 71, 82, 88, 99 and 104 – mostly the Level 3 - Difficult patterns). They lead to incorrectly proportioned patterns and distortions that would have never been found in the real world.


The 2nd edition is being published in 2019, here’s hoping it has done away with the errors!


Ruler & Compass: Practical Geometric Constructions

By Andrew Sutton

Published in 2009


CONTENT: 64 B&W pages containing a wealth of geometric constructions (nearing 200 of them!) from the absolute basics, the fundamentals of geometry, then constructing polygons, to some really interesting constructions further through the book. Each construction has just one diagram, with letters at intersections, below which is a short paragraph of steps in what could be described as “geometry shorthand” to construct the drawing in alphabetical order.


ACQUIRED: I bought this on Amazon Marketplace.


VERDICT: Excellent and very comprehensive, considering how small and inexpensive it is, it is very much worthwhile. Don’t be put off by the code, learn to read and follow the instructions (read the introduction to help) and you can access this wealth of drawings. When I got stuck, I often looked it up on YouTube and was all good.


PATTERN INSTRUCTION: No instruction for Islamic Geometric Patterns, but plentiful instruction for those who enjoy drawing by hand. When I began learning about Islamic Geometry, I needed something like this. When follow patterns step by step it is limiting as you find yourself learning by rote. If you want to develop what you know, add to it, adapt it then having these fundamentals to hand is essential.


Drawing Geometry: A Primer of Basic Forms for Artists, Designers and Architects

By Jon Allen

Published in 2007


CONTENT: An 88 paged good sized book with illustrations and colour photos. The majority of which are practical instructions on how to draw various sized regular polygons with a compass and ruler. There are additional constructions and a fascinating appendix, showing the trig proofs (not everyone’s cup of tea I know!) as well as additional tips on equipment & drawing. Just over 40 constructions, sometimes described with one other times multiple diagrams with a plain English paragraph next to each one.


ACQUIRED: I bought this on Amazon Marketplace.


VERDICT: This is easier to follow than Daud Sutton’s book, but there are far fewer constructions (40 ish compared to 200 ish!). So I obviously have to have BOTH. I know some people are overwhelmed by these drawings that come with minimal or coded explanation. So this book is definitely pitched at a more basic level – very much suitable for beginners.


PATTERN INSTRUCTION: No instruction for Islamic Geometric Patterns, but plentiful instruction for those who enjoy drawing by hand. As I’ve said before when I began learning about Islamic Geometry, I needed something like this. When follow patterns step by step it is limiting as you find yourself learning by rote. If you want to develop what you know, add to it, adapt it then having the fundamentals to hand is essential.


Islamic Geometric Patterns: Their Historical Development and Traditional Methods of Construction, by Jay Bonner

An extensive book which helps categorise methods and chronology and history of the patterns. A very through resource but no pattern instruction

Islamic Design: A Mathematical Approach (Mathematics and the Built Environment) by Brian Wichmann & David Wade

Another thorough and extensive book which helps categorise patterns, methods and chronology and history of the patterns. A very through resource but no pattern instruction.

THE WOODEN BOOK SERIES are small but mighty gems that you have to stop yourself collecting!!


Wooden Books are a small publishers based in Glastonbury, Somerset, UK. Established by John Martineau, a graduate of the PSTA, he published his first book, Book of Coincidences, based on his MA project. Many other PSTA alumni & friends have authored and helped build this collection of beautiful & fascinating books, often witty and a touch magical!


All are black white with 64 pages, no photographs, only illustrations. They can be bought as individual books: paperback in the UK (15.1 x 0.7 x 14.3 cm), and a little bigger, hardback in the USA (17.7 x 1.3 x 14.7cm). The individual books are also available as PDFs via the Wooden Books website.


If you wish to collect them, they are available in hardback as book bind ups : Quadrivium, Trivium, Sceincia, Designa. Each one made up of six books, with a fair amount of extra content thrown in. You may also  purchase larger collections, available in many other combinations including your own bespoke set of 12 or 24.


Curves: Flowers, Foliates & Flourishes in the Formal Decorative Arts

By Lisa DeLong

Published in 2013


CONTENT: 64 B&W pages which could be described as a pattern sourcebook from a wide range of decorative arts. However it is more than this as it breaks down the various elements used in these art forms. The most valuable content is the additional 25 or so illustrations dotted throughout which reveal/demonstrate how these patterns can be drawn through their symmetry or their underlying grid of geometry.


ACQUIRED: I bought this on Amazon Marketplace.


VERDICT: An excellent and beautiful resource which I used to draw many islimi style patterns. I copied one and then from the instruction and references invented my own patterns. I think it’s especially powerful when a book enables you to do this.


PATTERN INSTRUCTION: No Islamic Geometric Patterns, however those of us who dabble in geometry often want to draw these curved designs in their own right or as embellishments. The 25 or so illustrations that enable you to do this can be very useful for this. Not step by step from scratch, but certainly enough information to try them out.


The Golden Section: Nature’s Greatest Secret

By Scott Olsen

Published in 2006


CONTENT: 64 B&W pages, divided into 26 short chapters, with mainly text on the left page and illustrations on the right hand side. It takes you through describing Phi and its many examples and applications in the sciences, history & nature. Beautifully illustrated as expected with Wooden books.


ACQUIRED: I bought this on Amazon Marketplace.


VERDICT:  Useful and beautiful reference book on a fascinating subject that overlaps with Islamic Geometric Patterns when we delve into 5fold symmetry. There are many books & online resources and videos on this topic, bit as a fan of wooden books, it had to happen!


PATTERN INSTRUCTION: No Islamic Geometric pattern instruction


Quadrivium: The Four Classical Liberal Arts of Number, Geometry, Music & Cosmology

A hardback bind up of six books from the Wooden Books Series:


Sacred Number by Miranda Lundy, published in 2005

Sacred Geometry by Miranda Lundy, published in 2001

Platonic & Archimedean Solids by Daud Sutton, published in 2002

Harmonograph by Anthony Ashton, published in 2008

The Elements of Music by Jason Martineau, published in 2001

A Little Book of Coincidence by John Martineau, published in 2009


CONTENT: By collecting together the six books, you get some nice extras in these 420 pages. There is a fascinating Foreword by Keith Critchlow, the collective appendices and then some, a useful Index and a bibliography. I don’t know if I’m the only one who does this, but I always look at the bibliography of a book pretty early. It’s as though I want to know that the author keeps good company!


ACQUIRED: I bought this on Amazon.


(QUICK) VERDICT:  The power of a collection like this is, that you buy them for a few of the titles and end up getting insight into other fascinating subjects.


PATTERN INSTRUCTION: No step by step Islamic Geometric Pattern instruction, but in the  Sacred Geometry Chapter/book there are plenty of brilliant illustrations that have enough information to draw yourself if you have a little experience and enjoy drawing by hand. I found “ the Sand Reckoner’s diagrams on page 79 massively useful. I created animated versions of how to divide a square into 2x2, 3x3 and 4x4 on YouTube.


There are many Islamic Pattern colouring books for children and adults available. There's two aspects I consider valuable, firstly are the patterns actually correct/authentic and the quality of the paper. the thicker paper make colouring in pencil, pen and even paint a possibility. Below are ones looked at and/or used

24 Patterns for Drawing The Alhambra

Manuel Martinez Vela

Verdict: Brilliant workbook style colouring book. 24 high gloss colour pages showing each pattern & their location in the Alhambra. This is folllowed by thick, good quality colouring pages, where the pattern has to be picked out from all the construction lines. The book is ringbound and has a wrap around cover.

As with the rest of Manuel Martinez Vela's books, it's been published by a small publisher and links are available via their website​People have also had success with International orders from Abe Books as well as the Spainish book sellers:,,

Available at Amazon US via Agapea

Alhambra Geometric: Patterns Coloring Book

Mohamad Aljanabi

VERDICT: A paperback book of 30 beautiful patterns printed on one side only on fairly thin paper. So best suited for colouring pencils or better still, tracing and transferring to paper/canvas of your choice!

Two other colouring books are also available on Amazon

Buy on Amazon UK

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