Islamic Bindings

There is some evidence that the grain of the covers runs transverse to the spine. Traditionally, everything must be oriented so that the grain runs parallel to the spine – this included the folios, the wooden board or pasteboard, the cover cloth, and any other decorative papers that might be used. This allows for a neater composition as paper folds easier in the direction of the grain. Paper and parchment also expand across the grain, so having one side bound does not allow the paper to expand evenly and causes the pages to buckle or wave, meaning overall warping over time.

The sewing of Islamic manuscripts often starts by anchoring thread to the board, but there are some that use only adhesive to attach the covers. The sewing is assumed to be completed with a link stitch through two sewing stations, as there are not many surviving examples. Later books used extremely thin thread instead of the thicker stronger thread for sewing, which was not as strong but allowed for a flatter spine.

Arabic bookbinders introduced pasteboard – a type of cardboard made by pasting layers of parchment or paper together – as an alternative to wooden board after 1200. They also created the case binding. If the cover was attached using adhesive only, it would be completed by pasting down the outer leaf, usually under the turn-ins. Covers for the paste board were attached via adhesive, a process well documented and described by al-Sufyani. There was also a spine lining made of layers of leather or cloth that extends to allow the attachment of the case. The leather used for the case is described as a red-brown sheepskin Endbands were often used on books with wooden covers.

Techniques such as blind and gold tooling were perfected by Arabic bookbinders. This process involved using heated tools to stamp decoration into the cover, however, there is also evidence that cold tools were also used to stamp designs into the cover. The oldest covers were decorated with simple geometrical motifs.

Islamic Bindings