The Flap & The Gold

Coptic sewing with wooden boards.
Coptic sewing with wooden boards.

Islamic bindings are similar in construction to Coptic bindings. The signatures were sewn together unsupported using a linkstitch with decorative endbands sewn or woven at the head and tail. Wooden boards were incorporated in the sewing process and later covered with leather and decorated.

The Islamic world influenced bookbinding in several ways, but there are two characteristics in particular that stand apart from the rest. The first comes in the form of a small flap that extends from the back board of the

16th Century Islamic binding. Image from Metropolitan Museum of Art.
16th Century Islamic binding. Image from Metropolitan Museum of Art.

binding. This small flap served several purposes; it protected the foredge of the textblock and as an added bonus it could be tucked inside the text and used as a bookmark. The second element the Western world adopted was the decorative tooling and gold applied to the leather covers. As you can see in the image to the right the leather covers were highly decorated with both gold and blind tooling, colorful inlays as well as onlays. In addition to the exterior decoration, Islamic bookbinders also lined the inside of the cover boards in leather, an element known as a doublure. This provided another surface for decoration and often was used as a method of attachment between the cover board and the textblock.

As trade routes opened up and more Eastern goods made their way into Europe the foredge flap was not adopted by Western bookbinders, the use of decorative tooling on bindings was widely adopted and is still used and enjoyed by bookbinders today.

Links to make you think and get your hands moving:

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