Nag Hammadi Codex with Michael Burke

Posted: November 2, 2014 by Mo Crow in It's Crow Time
Tags: , ,

The Nag Hammadi Codices from Claremont Colleges Digital Library
This weekend I attended a fascinating 2 day workshop held at the NSW Guild of Craft Bookbinders with English bookbinder & scholar Michael Burke who revealed the fascinating story of the Nag Hammadi codices. Thirteen secret books of Gnostic Gospels were found in a clay pot sealed with pitch in Egypt in 1945. 1800 years old, they are steeped in mystery and even though they have been unearthed & carefully documented every description conflicts with the next to this day!
Codex_VI_opened_at_the_center_of_the_quireCodex VI opened at the centre of the quire
Michael Burke teachingMichael led us through the construction of a facsimile of this earliest known western binding
processwe learned how to cut and carefully fold the fragile papyrus into pages & line the covers
the original covers were lined with  laminated layers of papyrus, we used cardboard with a papyrus facing as it is a very labour intensive hand made paper and quite expensive
tacketsone of the most charming features was making the knotted leather tackets that hold the book together
process3the turned in head and tail
finishedthe finished book
workingLorraine Brown organized the workshop & Sandra Johnson documented it all beautifully for the Queensland Bookbinders Guild
workshoplunchbreakthe bindery is well equipped with great light binderydrawers of metal type & a press
outthewindowset in the peaceful grounds of the old Callan Park Hospital for the Insane which is now the home for Sydney College of the Arts
theclasshere we all are at the end of the day with our completed books!
NB I feel very brave posting this photo looking so totally tired & wired, late afternoon is truly not my best time of the day!

  1. jude says:

    tired and wired and a lovely book.

    • Mo Crow says:

      it is! there’s still a bit of finishing to do but it needs to rest for a few day sunder a light weight & so do I! my hands stopped co-operating at about 3pm the leather running stitch holding the wrapping band in place took over an hour to do, Oh Ha!

  2. Dana says:

    Workshops are just exhausting and it seems like the more exciting and engaging they are, the more tiring. The bindery, the setting, the books and the people all look so enticing. I’m glad you had this opportunity. Rest well.

    • Mo Crow says:

      it was certainly a challenge the first day, the temperature soared to 36˚C (96.7˚F) and we were paring leather with a paring knife something I hadn’t done for 10 years! A southerly buster blew in late that afternoon with some good lightning to electrify us all & cooled the world back down, yesterday was a much easier day. The workshop is a beautiful space and Michael is a great teacher, he kept us all moving along and there was lots of laughs but I am so used to working on my own in the early hours of the morning that it really pushed me past my comfort zone!

  3. dinahmow says:

    Ah, but you look happy, Mo!And I’m sure you were.

  4. Jane B (epocktextiles) says:

    we all have those slightly manic times when the enthusiasm and enjoyment and tiredness combine. what an intense time a good workshop can be – enjoy coming back down to earth, hope the thud of arrival isn’t too bad

  5. Bronwyn says:

    so happy to see the process and results, thanks Mo.

  6. Eliene says:

    Oh what a beautiful way to spend the day. The book looks great. I like the fold over cover with its wrapping ties……I am sure you will find a good use for it.

    • Mo Crow says:

      it was fun but I’m still knackered, those were long days because I was still waking up at 2am to work on the projects in hand here at home before going over to the workshop from 9:30 – 5:30 … silly me, I need to catch up on some sleep this week!

  7. isn’t it wonderful to make a replica of something so steeped in history and mystery? well done, and i hope you enjoyed this workshop–it looks wonderful!

  8. fiona says:

    Oh yay Mo! We met Michael in NZ and his talk was fascinating. How amazing to make your own version – my mouth is wide open in awe! Just fabulous.

  9. The adventure continues…and the adventuress rests 🙂

  10. Liz says:

    I recall watching the bookbinders when I worked at Colonial Williamsburg … no easy task. It isn’t any wonder you were tuckered out … but what a prize at the end of the day!

    • Mo Crow says:

      (((Liz))) am feeling a lot better today, the leather I use for most of my bindings is a very fine lambskin called Old Street from NSW Leather which works like a dream and needs no paring bu tit was good to revisit the technique. The facsimile is still sitting under weights resting will play with the edges and a bit more staining and marking tomorrow (our midweek day off)

  11. Carol says:

    I did enjoy seeing the Guild bindery again, Mo, far too long since I’ve been there. I really understand how exhausted you must have been at the end of each day but oh my, what a lovely facsimile you’ve made. I just wish I’d had the foresight to go with you. Thanks for a marvellous post!

  12. freyac87 says:

    Great pics of our workshop – well done!
    As an outcome of this participation (that’s me second from eft) I entered a full sized accurate recreation of the Nag Hammadi in the Sydney Royal Easter Show this year and won Highly Commended. Very enjoyable making it and working with plenty of papyrus – using the full number of sheets!

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