TRLN Bookbinders

The Triangle Research Libraries Network (TRLN) Bookbinders is a group of staff members from the conservation labs of UNC, NC State and Duke University libraries that meet monthly to study historic book bindings and recreate them by making binding models. Membership to the group is by invitation only as our space is limited.

We have been meeting for a little over a year, and I’m far behind on reporting on our projects. I’ll be uploading several posts over the next few weeks for your reading enjoyment.

Our first project was to investigate Ethiopic bindings. We have several extant bindings in our Rare Book, Manuscript and Special Collections Library so we had a lot to look at.

Dating from the 4th Century C.E. the Ethiopic Binding, also sometimes called Coptic Binding, is the first multi-section binding known to exist. It was commonly used until the Middle Ages, but similar bindings are found through the 19th Century C.E. The text blocks were made of papyrus or parchment, however our models are paper. The boards are sewn directly onto the text block. These books were commonly covered with leather and carried in a leather case called a Mahdar. Many of our models were left uncovered so you can see the sewing structures. An in-depth discussion of the history of these bindings can be found in J.A. Szirmai’s “Archaeology of Medieval Bookbinding.”

The single book on left is by Jamie Bradway. Finished models by class participants.

More images from our sessions can be found on Flickr.




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