Brief on Turkish Bookbinding

The art of bookbinding, which spread from Central Asia to Iran, the Arabian Peninsula and Anatolia, was characterized by the motifs of the regions in which the artists grew up. Various styles were born employing Hatayi, arabesque, Herat, Rumi, Seljuk, Mamluk, Ottoman and Moroccan motifs.

Ever since the invention of reading and writing, protective covers either of thin boards or, more often, of leather have been made to protect books and to keep their pages in order without bending. With the increasing use of leather for this purpose, the practice developed into an art known as cild (Arabic for leather or hide), otherwise known as the art of bookbinding. Spreading first in Central Asia and China and then throughout the world, this art rose to a profession and a livelihood among the Uighur Turks. The binding of sacred texts and documents and later of books of all kinds, and the subsequent decoration of such bindings commensurate with the value of the works they contained became a widespread practice.

As the art of calligraphy developed in parallel with the Islamic religion, texts of important religious works, particularly of the Koran, proliferated. These were protected by bindings that maintained a degree of refinement, beauty and elegance, evolving concomitantly with other Islamic art forms, and achieving a level worthy of the high value of the books they contained.

In the periods of the Seljuks and of the Principalities, the most frequently used designs were arabesques and motifs like those seen on the doors and window shutters of mosques and medreses. Among the Ottoman Turks, starting in the 14th and 15th centuries, a variety of bindings were produced using forms especially prepared for the purpose. The bindings produced in the Palace bindery workshop of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror, for example, represent a pinnacle of the classical Turkish art of bookbinding. The bindings on the special collection of around eleven thousand books prepared for the Sultan’s study, which are housed today in the Süleymaniye Library, the Topkapı Palace Library and the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art, testify to high standards of bookbinding, which is maintained in bindings produced today.

While there are certain similarities between classical Turkish bindings and the bindings of western books, they are quite different in detail. Turkish bindings, for example, are the same size as the book itself and do not extend over the edge. They are stitched with headbands, called “Şiraze”, which uses colored silk threads.

There are also two more elements in Turkish bindings rather than western examples: Sertâb and Mikleb. Sertab is designed as spine of bookcover, and mikleb is being fold in the book to stand Sertab up. Due to not having a seperate spine element in binding, Turkish binders used these elements such.

All the specimens in images were done by Binder Osman Doruk, in PurSanat Art Studio. For more information, please do not hesitate for get contact via bilgi[at]