Coptic Binding Workshop with Julia Miller



It has been a while since I posted. Mostly because, well, grad school and other things. And while finding words is usually not a problem for me, lately anything longer than an photo caption has been a challenge–sad to admit, but it’s kind of true. For reasons I won’t go into now, I’ve temporarily lost my writing mojo. So this post, and possibly the next few, will be mostly photo based (but who doesn’t like photos?).

This past semester I was fortunate to participate in a weekend workshop with the legendary Julia Miller, author of Books Will Speak Plain: A Handbook for Identifying and Describing Historical Bindings. As a book historian and bench-trained conservator, Miller has done extensive research and model making of the Nag Hammadi codices. In this workshop we focused on the Morgan Library’s MS M.671.1, a 13th century prayer book written in a dialect of Coptic and Arabic. MS M.671.1 features an interesting combination of Coptic and Islamic binding characteristics–one that Miller believes to be transitional binding. The workshop was so great–not only did I come away with a historical model and Islamic endband mastery, but also with the realization that I just really want to be bookbinding historian extraordinaire Julia Miller.


MS M.671.1 measures 108 x 95 x 12 mm with cartonnage boards. Here I’m crinkling paper before pasting them together to create the cartonnage.


Applying gum arabic to some select interior folios for burnishing in the fashion of Islamic papers (scans of two interior pages shown here)


Busy working


Coptic sewing using hand-spun thread


The beginnings of an Islamic endband


Secondary part of the Islamic endband


preparing the leather for covering


Making our own leather stamping tools from wooden dowels




this must have been taken during lunch break


Lower cover (back) of Julia Miller’s model of MS M.671.1 which features the leather spine repair seen on the original


Upper cover (front) of Julia Miller’s model of MS M.671.1


tooling the cover


Making my goucho style leather toggle. A tightly wrapped strip of leather that is pierced with an awl and the tail fed through the pierced hole.


Miller’s historical toggle examples


Covered binding and completed Islamic endband


My completed model of MS M


completed model of MS M.671.1 — the original shows rather skewed tooling so I tried to stay true to that, despite my OCD.


completed model of MS M.671.1

2 thoughts on “Coptic Binding Workshop with Julia Miller

  1. Wow, very interesting! What a specialized field of work and a work of art. It looks very labor intensive, but very rewarding on a completed piece. Glad you benefited from the workshop and was so inspired. Are you able to keep in touch with Julia for future mentoring?

    Look forward to seeing you (hopefully) while back! Sounds like everyday thunderstorms during our stay.

    Ok, thanks for sharing! Aunt linda


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