Handmade sketchbooks and notebooks for writers and artists Handmade sketchbooks and notebooks for writers and artists – RESHA

The thing about hand bound sketchbooks

Author - Divyashree Thacker

Book binding tools Coptic book binding spine


A Japanese method of binding books with an open spine is a chain stitch or also called coptic stitch binding. This is a great method for book covers that are individual boards instead of completely being wrapped around the entire journal. You are basically binding all the signatures and covers together with a connected stitch that holds everything together tightly, but with super flexibility. The pages will open up completely flat and that’s a big reason why this method is so popular.

Coptic bindings are seen as the first “true” manuscript in book history.

Dating from the second century, Coptic bindings use a multiple loop stitch to bind page sections to a front and back cover. This method of sewing together paged documents was common practice through the eleventh century. “True” Coptic bindings leave the spine exposed, but some later examples of this technique have been encased in leather wrappings.


Vintage handmade sketchbook with handmade sheets


The Coptic method of binding was first used to bind together leaves of papyrus in Egypt, and evolved alongside the dynamic technologies, binding everything from parchment to paper books. Tracing the history of Coptic Bookbinding from early uses through modern applications can help illuminate its relation to advancements in the technology of the book.

The transition from scroll to binding was a long one, but it is connected to the spread of Christianity.

Beginning in the 2nd century AD in the eastern Mediterranean basin, the Egyptian Copts used a chain stitch to bind sheets of papyrus into the first single- quire or multi-quire codices.


Vintage book binding


This book-style became the preferred format for texts in the new Christian religion. In most cases, pages or quires were sewn together with a continuous thread and a single needle. The cover would be attached after the pages were sewn, protecting the front and back of the book, while leaving the spine exposed. The pages could then be opened completely flat.

The Copts were known to use pasteboard (made from papyrus) or lush, red leather as cover materials

The most well-known early examples of bindings in the Coptic tradition are a series of Gnostic texts found near the Egyptian town of Nag Hammadi. In Sixth through Ninth-century Europe, manuscripts were written on parchment and vellum, rather than the papyrus of eastern Egyptian Christian tradition. Since vellum and parchment are prone to curling, heavier wood boards replaced leather flaps as the binding of choice. The earliest surviving European book is the St. Cuthbert Gospel.

The Coptic influence is seen in the structure of the flax-thread stitching which holds the pages of the book together.

The Coptic binding technique is used today by artists and hobbyists alike. The form is appreciated for its simplicity and durability. Not only can the binding be done easily by hand, it requires little tooling beyond an awl, and needs no adhesive. Coptic bindings are ideal for limited run artists’ books, as the exposed spine allows for pages to open flat, and also lends a true handmade quality. Handmade notebooks and journals, bound in the Coptic tradition, are popular items.

Sketchbook of an illustrator