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In Sixth through Ninth-century Europe, manuscripts were written on parchment and vellum, rather than the papyrus of eastern Egyptian Christian tradition.Since vellum and parchment are prone to curling, heavier wood boards replaced leather flaps as the binding of choice (Fig.
This method of sewing together paged documents was common practice through the eleventh century (Peterson, 41).The form is appreciated for its simplicity and durability.Not only can the binding be done easily by hand, it requires little tooling beyond an awl, and needs no adhesive.This book-style became the preferred format for texts in the new Christian religion (Gardner 42-45).In most cases, pages or quires were sewn together with a continuous thread and a single needle.Tracing the history of Coptic Bookbinding from early uses through modern applications can help illuminate its relation to advancements in the technology of the book.
The transition from scroll to binding was a long one, but it is connected to the spread of Christianity.
Beginning in the 2nd century AD in the eastern Mediterranean basin, the Egyptian Copts used a chain stitch (Fig.
1) to bind sheets of papyrus into the first single-quire or multi-quire codices.
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The book, produced in the Monastery of Wearmouth-Jarrow retains its original bindings, revealing an intimate connection between the Coptic bindings of Eastern Christianity and the advancement of book technology in Europe.