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Applied Arts: Coptic Bookbinding Workshop April 12, 2010

Posted by claralieu in Applied Arts, book arts.
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This past weekend the Applied Arts Program hosted the Coptic Bookbinding workshop, the last of our 2009-2010 workshop season. The workshop was led by Katherine McCanless Ruffin, the Book Arts Program Director here at Wellesley College and held in the Book Arts Lab on the fourth floor of the Clapp Library. The Coptic stitch technique evolved from the fourth century.  The essential idea behind this specific stitch is that the sewing in the book is exposed across the backbone.

Coptic Bookbinding Workshop

Katherine suggested the books “Volume I: Non-Adhesive Binding: Books Without Paste or Glue” by Kevin Smith and “Bookbinding: It’s Background and Technique” by Edith Diehl as references for the techniques taught at this workshop.

Coptic Bookbinding Workshop: Katherine McCanless Ruffin

(Above) Workshop instructor Katherine McCanless Ruffin demonstrates the Coptic stitching technique.  Note the fact that she is demonstrated on an oversized book model, as the stitches on the actual sized books would be too difficult for a large group of people to be able to see clearly during her demonstration.

Coptic Bookbinding Workshop

(Above) A workshop participant works uses a tool to punch the holes into the book pages. This ensures that the holes punched are precisely lined up every time.

What struck me about the techniques in bookbinding is all of the amazing specificity of the tools and machines used; many of the manual machines looked like they were from Medieval times, simply because there has been no need to change them over the centuries.

Coptic Bookbinding Workshop

Even the thread and curved needles used in bookbinding are specific to the technique:  Katherine recommended BookMakers, a company where you can purchase dyed Irish linen thread and curved needles. In the above photo you can see a little “pillow” in the upper left hand corner, which is filled with lead bits to act as a weight on the book pages.

Coptic Bookbinding Workshop

(Above) A workshop participant completes their book.

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