Coptic Binding

Old Coptic book in the Nag Hammadi style

Early coptic book—Nag Hammadi style

lmbaumgartner

It seems appropriate  to write this first blog post about the binding that I love the most: the coptic binding, that is still with us, since the early Egyptian Christians, known at the Copts, started using it in the  2nd century A.D.  These original texts were bundles of pages, bound in simple leather coverings, which were then tied round with leather strips, to secure and protect the pages.  These bindings are known as the Nag Hammadi style of coptic binding.

The Nag Hammadi and the hard-covered coptic binding are the oldest of the ‘codex’ bindings— a codex, being a book as we know it today: pages bound together by stitching, and enclosed in a hard, protective covering.  Prior to the development of the coptic binding, most written information was preserved on papyrus scrolls or wax tablets.

Image of a wood covered coptic book]

Wood covered coptic book

Many of the books I make use this very old binding method.  I love this binding method because when books are sewn without a leather or cloth covering on the spine, it not only leaves the beautiful chain-link stitching visible, but when writing in this type of book (or looking at photos, or scrapbook images, if it is a photo album) the book will lie completely flat.  Most hard bound books will not open 180 degrees… but the coptic binding allows you to have a completely flat writing surface.  A joy for writing in!

A Coptic style book made by me

One of my coptic books

I make coptic bound books in many sizes… from Little Wee Books, most often covered with origami paper, to large (9 1/2” x 10”) photo albums, using 80 pound, acid-free paper on the inside, and then covered with hand-marbled papers from Payhembury Marbled Papers, of Cambridge, England.  Please look under Books- Coptic to see some sample images.

Enjoy the beauty of the coptic binding!

2 comments

  1. Impossible to improve upon this very old method. I really love the naturalness of the binding, and the practicality of having a completely flat surface to write – much easier for us left-handed folks.

    • Thanks for your comment Kelly 🙂
      It never occurred to me that this would be the perfect binding for someone who is left-handed, but I can see how this type of binding would be so much easier for someone writing from the left-hand side of the book! No ‘bump of the spine’ to navigate!!

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