It was written using an alphabet slightly modified from Greek.

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The earliest method of sewing the codex book, sometimes called coptic binding, in reference to its origin in North Africa, was an "unsupported" technique of chain stitching.

The sewing thread simply links to the previously sewn section of the textblock, forming a chainlike pattern of stitches across the spine, rather than being sewn onto cords connecting the covers across the spine, as with European books.

After his death and subsequent reports of his rising from the dead, followers of Christ - meaning 'the anointed one' - developed his teachings into a new faith, independent of Judaism but keeping much of its scriptures.

Several gospels had been written by disciples of Jesus during the centuries following his death, but only four were authorised by the Council of Nicaea in 325 for inclusion in the Christian Bible.

These four were attributed to St Matthew, St Mark, St Luke and St John, known as the four Evangelists.

No longer used as an everyday language, Coptic was a descendant of ancient Egyptian, spoken from about 200-1100.

He lived in Israel during the Roman occupation of the country.

His mission to reform what he saw as corruption in the Jewish faith caused conflict with the religious hierarchy and led to his execution by the Roman authorities.

According to tradition it was established by the Evangelist St Mark. The Coptic Church has its own Pope, who is also Patriarch of All Africa.

Since 1971 this has been His Holiness Pope Shenouda III (born 1923). In this bilingual Coptic-Arabic copy of the Four Gospels, the Arabic is presented in a parallel column to the right of the Coptic text.

Because this heavy thread caused the spine to swell, once the boards were attached the spine often had a rounded shape.