Sunday, June 10, 2007

A Workshop on 3rd Century codices

I just spent the weekend at a bookbinding workshop with Susan Mills, offered through the continuing education program at NSCAD (Nova Scotia College of Art and Design). This is quite exciting for two reasons: first, because there are very few bookbinding-related activities in this area so any chance to do stuff with other bookbinders is great; and second, because it was about a fabulous historical binding that I'd never seen or heard of before.

So we learned how to make Coptic Single-Quire bindings. There were 13 of these books discovered in 1945, buried in a jar in Egypt, dating back to the 3rd or 4th Century - often referred to as the Nag Hammadi codices. These would have been account books or other stationery books, where the textblock could be easily replaced whenever necessary. They were all papyrus and most were single quires.

That is the best part. These books have just one stack of pages, all folded together, up to 40 sheets. The text block needs to be pressed for a long time to get it to fold happily. The leather covers were lined with papyrus to make them stiffer. And they have ties at the top and bottom and a wrap-around strap or tie on the fore edge. The original books were quite large so they probably needed all these ties to keep the books closed properly.

I was able to finish three of these books, one is leather and the others have paper covers. They are each made a bit differently. The brown paper book was done entirely non-adhesive. The leather book is the only one with papyrus in the covers. I also added the pretty paper flyleaf to these books. And the dark red paper cover is the only one with pasted endpapers, but no flyleaf.

The binding itself consists of tackets through the quire and cover. I have tried to make tackets before and was never successful, but I mastered it today. All of the books have several tiny tackets in the corners for reinforcement so I got lots of practice.

1 comment:

Carol said...

I missed this earlier but found it through today's post. I can see I'll have to make one from what I can see in your photos and from anything I can find in my books on very early bindings. (Szirmai [sp?] etc.)