Detached from: The Gospels, in Coptic
Illuminated manuscript on vellum
Egypt: Monastery of Holy Mary Mother of God, Perkethoout near Hamuli, the Fayum
Purchased by J. Pierpont Morgan, 1911
This is the finest surviving Coptic bookbinding. Its decorative scheme is both elaborate and complicated. To a background panel of gilded leather was applied a tracery pattern cut from a single piece of red-dyed sheepskin or goatskin; the border bands contain strips of white vellum laced through parallel slits. This openwork pattern was then sewn to the gilded background, shining through the cutouts; to it were added colored circles, along with concentric circles of dark and light brown with a red leather central dot. It is possible that the decorative panels are considerably older than the binding itself, having been transferred from an earlier binding.