Coptic Bookbindings in the Pierpont Morgan Library
Theodore C. Petersen wrote Coptic Bookbindings in the Pierpont Morgan Library between 1929 and 1950, but it remained unpublished until now. The seminal work describes the binding techniques and materials of a collection of early manuscripts at the Morgan Library & Museum. The collection consists of ninth- and tenth-century bindings of over fifty manuscripts discovered in 1910 in the Fayum Oasis in Egypt. The collection of Coptic manuscripts was purchased by J. Pierpont Morgan, Sr. 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 Pierpont 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. In addition to the Morgan's fifty bindings, Petersen also described an additional fifty Coptic bindings on manuscripts held by a variety of institutions worldwide. These are also accompanied by Petersen’s drawings.
This long-awaited publication of Petersen's work includes an introductory essay by the Morgan's book conservator, Francisco H. Trujillo, that details the circuitous history of the collection from Egypt to New York to Rome and back to New York, as well as the equally baroque story of the efforts to get the work published. Augmenting the text are reproductions of Petersen's original line drawings and recent color photographs of the Morgan's bindings.