Let us show you how to make a book. It’s like an iPad but with less glare and retina-searing brightness.
The Coptic Binding
Coptic books are awesome. You really don't need to know much more than that, but if you are so inclined, go ahead and read on, but don't say I didn't warn you.
Just A Wee Bit O’ History
Have you ever found yourself staring quizzically at those things filling the library stacks? You know, they’re kind of hard on the outside and filled with paper on the inside. Those of us in the ‘biz call those leaves but it’s really just a highfalutin way of saying paper. If you’re anything like me, then the answer is a resounding yes.
You may or may not remember this, but books didn’t always open up the way we’re accustomed to. They used to be rolled up around a stick into scroll form. As you can imagine, this made accessing information rather difficult. A modern* analogy would be that of a cassette tape. If you want to listen to Rick Astley’s classic single Never Gonna Give You Up you’d need to pop your copy of Whenever You Need Somebody into the tape deck and seek out the song, guessing approximately where it starts**.
* Assuming you’re over the age of 18. If you’re younger than that, cassettes preceded CDs.
** Coincidentally, Never Gonna Give You Up is track one, so you wouldn’t really have to spend much time searching for it.
Eventually, the Copts had had enough of searching through scrolls for what is undoubtedly their version of the Konami Code, and decided that they needed a better book. Long story short, they came up with what we now know as the codex, but you just call it a book. It might seem like a simple idea, but this simple discovery changed the course of the book as we know it.
This particular style of binding features an exposed spine, with a decorative but sturdy stitching holding it all together. The books open completely flat with no gutter, which can be a real boon for drawing.
To give you an idea of just how important this was, let me take you back to high school algebra. Your teacher has given you the odd problems so you can check your answers. Imagine you can’t just flip to the back of the book and find the answer page. No, before the Copts, you’d have needed to unravel your algebra book down the block and have your friend down the street send you the answer via pony express.
So here’s the deal, we’re going to show you how to make one of these books. You’ve probably never seen a Coptic book before because they’re not very common. As far as I know, they aren’t machine-made but I’ve watched enough How It’s Made to know that anything is possible.
What To Expect
You will spend sixty to ninety minutes with Krissy and myself and you don’t need to bring anything, other than inspired curiosity and your physical person. We will supply all of the tools, materials, witicisms, and know-how.
Together, we will create from scratch a small coptic book handbound by yourself. The books will be approximately 5.5″ x 4.25″ (h x w) in size and will have naked book board as a cover. This frees you up to do whatever you want to it. Draw on it with a Sharpie, gnaw on it, put coffee mugs and teacups on it to give it a stained, Instagram-inspired look. Or just leave it plain, the choice is yours.
At the culmination of the workshop you will have created a book. If your destiny is to be the Grand Poobah of bookbinding, then your book will come out perfect. If, however, you are anything like us and probably every other binder when they first started, your book will be a little wonky. But that’s okay, because you made a book. How many other people can say they made a book? If history is any guide, then that number is tens of thousands, but let’s pretend it’s more like hundreds. Don’t you want to be one of just hundreds?
We know what it’s like to be a college student, so we’re going to help you out. In the past when we’ve done this workshop, we charged $40, but we happen to love libraries and it’s National Library Week, so we’re going to cut you a deal. You’re going to get to take this workshot for the low, low price of free.
We’re going to unravel for you, and a small handful of other guests, the mystery of the Coptic binding. Because we love books and libraries so much, you get to take this workshop for nothing, but you have to be quick, because it’s first-come, first-served and spaces are limited. Pretty nifty, eh?
Your library is fantastic, that’s how. I’ve spent many a day in the library reading magazines and books waiting for Krissy to get out of class. And they’re going to be providing the supplies needed for this workshop. They don’t have to be that nice, but they love you and they’re doing it anyway. The tools and other miscellany will be provided by us. And the willingness to learn and try something new will be provided by you.
Since this workshop is going to be free, we’re going to have to limit the number of participants to ten. Participants will be selected on a first-come, first-served basis. We ask that you only sign up if you’re definitely going to be there. How sad would it be if you signed up and didn’t show up and the person who signed up eleventh totally would have come. If you do sign up and for some reason you can’t make it, we totally understand. If you could just do us a solid and inform us ahead of time, that might give us a chance to fill your spot.
To sign up, you can email Jaime Hammond at firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, you can head on over to your wonderful library and sign up at the circulation desk.
The Cliffs Notes Version: TL;DR
- What: A Bookbinding Workshop
- Date: April 18, 2013
- Time: 4:00–5:30 pm
- Location: The Max R. Traurig Library at NVCC
- Cost: Free