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The Legacy Press is very pleased to announce that it will publish this important book on the history of Coptic bookbindings, unavailable for almost 70 years.
Theodore C. Petersen’s heretofore unpublished Coptic Bookbindings in the Pierpont Morgan Library was written between 1929 and 1950, and describes the binding techniques and materials of a collection of early manuscripts at the Morgan Library & Museum (MLM). The collection consists of ninth- and tenth-century bindings of over fifty manuscripts discovered in 1910 in the Fayum Oasis in Egypt. The bindings have been described, alluded to, and discussed in the century since their discovery in a variety of publications. However, Petersen’s comprehensive description of their construction, materials, and influence has remained unpublished and unavailable except to researchers at the Morgan. This long delayed publication of Petersen’s work will provide binding historians with a firsthand account of a seminal binding collection.
This collection of Coptic manuscripts was purchased by J. Pierpont Morgan in 1911. It remains the largest collection of Coptic manuscripts in a single location in the world. Shortly after their purchase, the volumes were sent to the Vatican Library for restoration. Petersen joined the team of scholars studying the manuscripts in the late 1920s, and at the urging of Belle da Costa Greene, director of the Morgan Library, he created a meticulous accounting of the binding structures. Although Petersen was initially unversed in the language and techniques of bookbinding, he nevertheless extensively described board formation, sewing structures, and decoration of the bindings. This long-awaited publication of Petersen’s work will include an introductory essay by the MLM’s Book Conservator, Frank Trujillo, that details the circuitous history of the collection from Egypt to New York to Rome and back again to New York, as well as the equally baroque story of the efforts to get the work published. Augmenting the text will be reproductions of Petersen’s original line drawings and recent photographs of the bindings.