Coptic stitch is the Madonna of bookbinding world - popular, versatile, relatable not to mention, beautiful! This binding requires no gluing and allows the book to open flat on its back, even turn 360 degrees!
What's more? The method has survived for almost 19 centuries! At the dawn of 2nd century AD the Egyptian Copts used a chain stitch to bind sheets of papyrus into multi-quire codices. This format became the preferred method for documenting and distributing sacred religious texts.
The book is sewn with a continuous thread and single needle. The cover is attached while sewing or after the sewing leaving the spine exposed. The Egyptians were known to use Papyrus board or deep red leather for the cover material.
The Nag Hammadi Codices
The earliest surviving example of Coptic Binding is the Nag Hammadi codices that were found in Egypt. These books contain writings of Gnostic tradition that was opposed by the early Christians. Fortunately for historians and bookbinders these codices were discovered in original form in 1945. These treasures containing over 1000 pages of written text are preserved in the Coptic Museum, Cairo.
Machine variation of coptic binding
In the modern world, coptic binding is popular for its flexibility and attractive sewing patterns. Technology has also made it possible to develop machines that ape this style however, it still lacks the finesse, delight and variety that you find in handcrafted books.
At Kaagazi, some skilled people from our workforce were introduced to this style. They were amazed with the fact that this binding required no glue and have developed a special fondness towards this style. However, it is not their preferred method of income as each book takes minimum 30 minutes to stitch.
Some of our students have also taken the art forward with practice and evolved them into small businesses. Besides retailing handcrafted products like Coptic notebooks, Kaagazi's agenda is to spread awareness and keep bookarts alive by conducting workshops, research, providing employment to binders.
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