A coptic stitch book with handmade paper

The Fascinating History of Coptic Stitch Bookbinding

Written by: SQUUSHED



Time to read 1 min

The Origins of Coptic Stitch Bookbinding

Coptic stitch bookbinding is an ancient technique that has stood the test of time. It originated in North Africa around the 2nd century AD. The Copts, who were early Christians in Egypt, used this method to bind their manuscripts, creating durable and beautiful books.

An example of a folio which would have originally been bound. This page dates from the 11th–12th century and was found in Cairo. It features an illustration of a hare. Other pages found include other animals, such as a lion. The text contains the title of the work, and the name of the author: Mantiq al-wahsh (Speech of the Wild Animal) by Ka‘b al-Ahbar. For more information on the piece, including it's suspected history, provenance and translations of the text, see the Met Museum's entry.

Hare illustration from a Coptic Folio
Image from The Met

The Coptic Stitch Technique

The distinctive feature of Coptic stitch bookbinding is its exposed spine that allows the book to lay completely flat when opened. A section of a Coptic stitch book is sewn through the folds and joined to the previous section using a chain stitch. This makes it ideal for journals, sketchbooks, and other types of books that need to stay open while in use.

A coptic journal open and lying flat

Materials Used

Traditionally, Coptic stitch binding uses materials such as linen thread to sew the sections together and wooden boards for the covers. The use of high-quality materials ensures the books' longevity.

Revival and Modern Application

While Coptic stitch bookbinding has its roots in ancient times, it has experienced a revival in recent years among book artists and crafters. Many artisans appreciate the beauty and functionality of this binding technique, incorporating it into their handmade books.

Today, Coptic stitch bookbinding is cherished for its historical significance, versatility, and aesthetic appeal. Whether you are a bookbinding enthusiast or simply appreciate the art of handmade books, exploring the history and technique of Coptic stitch binding can be a truly enriching experience.

Why Not Try It Yourself

We run regular Coptic stitch bookbinding workshops where you can make your own journal from scratch. Discover the meditative and fulfilling process of bookbinding today!

Leave a comment