I asked Gleeson Library’s Head of Special Collections, John Hawk, if there are any fun examples of these types of bindings in the Rare Book Room. He pulled a wonderful variety of examples. This is Part 1 of the treasures discovered, and will include items representing coptic binding. Coptic binding is one of the oldest ways of creating a codex, and one of the most simple, as it leaves the spine exposed. See my blog post for more information.
This item is a great example of a rare book not being old–it is decidedly contemporary yet uses one of the oldest methods of book binding. Its covers are wooden, which also echoes the origins of the form, and contains a long poem and illustrations.
This next one does not have a title or author, and in fact, it does not have a record in our catalog, Ignacio. It is a coptic bound Ethiopian manuscript probably from the 19th century, which makes it fairly “young” for a hand-copied codex, yet it demonstrates all the hallmarks of medieval European manuscripts: it is hand-written on vellum (animal skin, probably calf, sheep or goat), it is illuminated, and each page has prickings that were used for ruling (or lining).
If you would like to learn more about medieval manuscripts, I encourage you to visit the Medieval Manuscript Manual. These items–and much, much more–are available to be consulted in person in the Rare Book Room.
See you next time when we’ll talk about limp vellum binding!