A Nag Hammadi binding

I have mentioned before that I like the challenge of making work for themed exhibitions. I also like participating in themed book swaps. Sometimes, like the current one I have signed up for with CBBAGSask, the theme is a concept. Sometimes, as in the swap that resulted in my producing today’s book, the theme is a binding style. In December 1945, some farmers from the town of Nag Hammadi, located on the west bank of the Nile about 80 kilometres north-west of Luxor, found a cache of 15 papyrus codices together with some loose pages in a sealed clay jar. The writings date back to the 2nd century AD. They are mostly Gnostic treatises, written in Coptic, and include the only complete copy of the Gospel of Thomas. The mother of one of the farmers burned one of the books and parts of a second (cooking his supper perhaps?) so only the loose pages and 12 books remain. The codices are bound in a style that is known as the Nag Hammadi binding. I could find no credit other than “a biblical scholar” for the preceding photo. Here is a photo of the almost complete cover of the Gospel of St Thomas from the Gospel of Saint Thomas Resource Center. For the swap books, we were required to make a modern and personal adaptation of the binding. I made the outer cover from glove leather, embellished with inlayed dots of coloured suede. I added Indian hand-painted wooden beads in matching colours. Here’s a close-up of the inlay. I did all the cutting with punches. I had to use a larger punch on the glove leather as the hole contracted after it was cut. The interior was lined with Indian cotton rag starch paper. (The originals were lined with papyrus.) The guards in the centre of the single signature were made from the same paper. The tackets (wrapped stitches) attaching the thongs and sewing the signature to the cover  are waxed cotton cord.


About Byopia Press

I have been working in the book arts field for more than twenty years, and operating Byopia Press with my husband David since the late 1990s. I began producing artist's books and altered books in 2004.
This entry was posted in book arts, bookbinding, Design and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A Nag Hammadi binding

  1. Ah, I remember that book. – Still beautiful! It was the first time I had seen inlays, and let me to later experiment with the technique. This here is really a beautiful example. I like how the dots are so colourful and how they are distributed across the covers.


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