Stitching Coptic-Bound Books

Coptic book binding workshop at WU Libraries’ Julian Edison Department of Special Collections

On Saturday, June 8, a group of library and book enthusiasts had the chance to learn about coptic binding at the Washington University Libraries’ Julian Edison Department of Special Collections. Led by Danielle Creech, Head of Preservation and Digitization, and Cassie Brand, Curator of Rare Books, participants not only perused works from the collections that were coptic-bound, but also had the opportunity to take home a pocket journal of their own making as well.

The workshop started with a viewing of examples of coptic-bound books from the department’s collections. This form of binding, also known as coptic sewing, leaves the spine of the book exposed, revealing the stitches that connect the pages of the book. As the various art books on display highlighted, the chain stitch that allows the book to lie completely flat makes it ideal for journals, sketchbooks, and art projects.

After the viewing, the group headed into the Special Collections Mendel classroom, where they would learn to make their own coptic-bound book.

Coptic book binding workshop at WU Libraries’ Julian Edison Department of Special Collections

The first step was creating the covers by pasting paper onto board, which participants took to with great creative gusto. Doing so gave the boards time to dry as the group prepared the paper for binding. Soon, everyone was using the prepared curved needles to stitch the paper together.

The task was more challenging than previous bookbinding workshops, but with the guidance of Danielle Creech and her humor-laced instructions, as well as Cassie Brand’s aid, the group successfully finished the workshop with their new notebooks.

For anyone interested in further pursuing variations on coptic binding, Danielle recommends Volume I Non-Adhesive Binding: Books Without Paste or Glue by Keith Smith ( or any number of great YouTube tutorials.

-Angela He



About the author

Reference and Outreach Supervisor in Special Collections.