Late Coptic Structure

by katekbarber

This semester I’m taking one elective course, a combined historic structures and fine binding class. Since historic structures are one of my favorite bindings to work on, I’m pretty excited to dive right in. We’ll be covering two models in the first half of the semester, a late coptic model and then a Byzantine model. Here are some in-process photos of my late coptic model.


After laminating 8 layers of papyrus and leaving them for days between blotters and under weight, it was time to hand trim these bad boys.

I decided to use handmade paper left over from last summer for my text block. Once the paper was folded, nipped, and trimmed, it was time to punch my sewing holes. The sewing for this book is a link stitch sewn in pairs of holes, so an even number of stations is required. Because the book is small, we opted for two pairs or four holes.


Because this is a sewn board binding, we started the sewing in the cover folio. Going from inside to outside, we work with four needles.


Here you can see the first loop inside the cover folio.


Here the needles are going from the cover folio into the first section.


Next, the needles of each pair are crossed and exit the opposite hole in its pair.


In this shot of the inside of the folio, you can see that the crossing creates two threads that pass between the pair of holes.


Here, I’ve exited the first signature and am ready to go into the second signature.


After entering the second signature, crossing the threads inside the signature, and exiting the other hole of the pair (….kind of confusing?), you loop under and around the bridge between the previous two sections, and tah-da, you have your first link.


Moving right along!


After sewing is complete, it’s time for consolidation.

I forgot to get pictures of the next few steps, but a linen spine lining came next. This was attached with pva/methyl mix and left to dry. After it was completely dry, it was time to sew the endbands. These endbands are much easier than they look….I think they look pretty fancy! They are essential just little loops. Like always, good and consistent tension is the key.

A big part of this structure is the cover design and embellishment. When I first heard that we were doing a late coptic model, I immediately wanted to do something inspired by the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain. I first learned about this amazing architectural wonder in an Islamic Architectural History course during my undergrad at Florida State. At the time, I remember being awe-struck by the patterning and embellishment, and it’s stayed present in my subconscious just waiting to sneak out in a project.

This one ended up being the inspiration for my final design.

This one ended up being the inspiration for my final design.


After several drafts, here is a drawing of my final design traced onto Japanese paper. This Japanese paper was then adhered with paste onto the back of the covering leather and will act as a template for my cutouts.


Starting the cutout process.


Cutouts and blind tooling on the back cover complete!

The next step is to address the colored leather layer that will sit behind the cut out. The colored sketch above shows how the color design will be broken up. Unfortunately, I didn’t get pictures of the piecing process. But basically, here’s the deal….I cut a piece of thin Japanese paper slightly larger than the area of the cutout and then placed this paper on top of my color coded template. Next, I selected three good sized pieces of colored leather and paired them on the Scharf-fix to an even thinness. Then, I cut and pieced them into shapes based on my color-coded template, pasted them out, and adhered them to the Japanese paper, butting the colors up to each other.

Here's the cover with the pieced layer adhered and the stitching started.

Here’s the cover with the two pieces adhered and the stitching started.

Most of the stitching is done here and I've started to add a metallic decorative stitching.
The color in this photo is really washed out, but you can see that most of the stitching is done after almost a whole Saturday of work!

We’ll be covering this little guy next week and I can hardly wait to see it all come together!