The manuscripts exhibit two basic styles of binding. The traditional local style is in the manner of pothi (‘book’) or khata (‘account book’), both prevalent in what is now western India and Pakistan in the 18th and 19th centuries CE. In the late 19th century CE, binding practices also became strongly influenced by European stab-sewing styles.

In the traditional pothi and khata styles of binding, the untrimmed leaves of paper, or folliers, are collectively folded within leather covers and sewn together at the fold without supports. The leather is usually reddish brown in colour, and often blind tooled on the outside with a variety of designs such as leaves, rosettes or grids. In the majority of cases, the leather cover was cut slightly larger than the paper so that the text is completely covered. Occasionally, the cover is the same size as each page, which results in an emphasis of the chevron (an inverted V shape) of untrimmed paper. Usually some heavy string was employed for the binding.

The European style of binding employed the 19th century stab-sewing techniques, commonly used for binding thin pamphlets or small pocket-size books. The sheets were often arranged in multiple sections and then stabbed and sewn together. Binding cords of flax or linen were then laced into laminated boards, which usually served as covers. These covers would either be half-cloth (a cloth spine plus cloth tips) or quarter-cloth (simply a cloth spine). However, such binding techniques were often unsuccessful on thick manuscript volumes of over 200 pages.

Over time, the manuscripts deteriorated in appearance and were repaired by their former custodians. As a result, a single manuscript has sometimes been unsuccessfully split into two or three volumes, and then re-bound in half leather. This process has occasionally resulted in misbinding and re-pagination using Euro-Arabic numerals.

Several manuscripts in the collection of the IIS combine elements from both the traditional and Western styles.

See more Manuscript Covers.

Back to Gallery page