The upper and lower curves of the oval are thickened by an arch of gold thread laid lengthwise, and kept in place by little radiating lines of red silk. In each corner is a purl rose, with blue centre, the petals graduating in colour from pale yellow to dark red, with leaf forms and stalks of gold cord and guimp. At the top and bottom of the oval is a many-coloured purl rose, and the spaces still left vacant are dotted with little pieces of red, blue, and yellow purl and spangles. On the front edges are the remains of two red silk ties.
The back is divided into four panels by a thick gold twist. The upper and lower panels have each a blue purl rose worked in them, with a white and red lily in the same silver thread as those on the sides, with gold leaves and stalks; the two inner panels contain each three purl roses, with gold leaves and stems. The upper of these panels has a large rose of blue, yellow, and red, and two smaller ones yellow with blue centres; the lower panel has a large rose of red, pink, and yellow, and two smaller ones of red, with yellow centres.
Dotted about the groundwork of the panels are several spangles and short lengths of coloured purl.
The edges of the leaves are plainly gilt.
Bible. London, 1648.
A Bible, printed in London in 1648, formerly the property of George III., is bound in canvas, and has embroidered upon the boards emblematic representations of Faith and Hope. It measures 6-3/4 by 4-3/4 inches.
On the upper side is a full-length figure of Faith. She has fair hair, and is dressed in an orange and red dress cut low, and showing in the front a pale blue under garment. She has a large white collar and cuffs, both in point-lace, and bears in her right hand an open book with the word 'FAITH' written upon it, while her left hand rests upon a pointed shield, pale purple with a yellow centre. She is standing upon a rounded hillock, on which are a strawberry plant with two fruits, two caterpillars, a red tulip, and another flower.
In the right-hand upper corner is a turreted and gabled house, the windows of which are marked with little glittering pieces of talc. Below the house is a caterpillar and a large blue butterfly. In the left-hand upper corner is the sun, in gold, just appearing under a blue cloud. Underneath this, in succession, come a tree with a butterfly upon it, a bird, most likely meant for a wren, and another caterpillar. The remains of two red tie-ribbons are near the front edges. The background is worked in silver thread, and the edges of the boards are bound with silver braid having a thread or two of red silk on the innermost side.
On the under cover Hope appears in a curiously worked upper garment of blue and white, short in the sleeves, in needlepoint, with a belt. Under this is a dress of red and orange, showing a blue under skirt in front. A scarf of the same colour as the dress is gracefully folded over the shoulders and hangs over the left arm; a rather deep collar and cuffs are both worked in needlepoint. The right hand rests upon an anchor with a 'fouled' rope.
Hope stands upon a rounded hillock, on which are a snail and spray of possible foxglove, and out of which grow a red carnation and another flower. In the upper right-hand corner is a gabled cottage with a tree, and under it a moth, flower, and caterpillar. Towards the upper left-hand corner is a bank of cloud with red and yellow rays issuing therefrom, and under it a pear-tree with flower and fruit, and a many-coloured butterfly. All the background is worked in silver thread.
The five panels of the back, indicated with silver cord, are each filled with a different design. Beginning at the top, these are: a rose, a parrot with a red fruit, a double rose, a lion, and a lily. The edges are plainly gilt.
BOOKS BOUND IN VELVET
It seems probable that velvet was a favourite covering for royal books in England from an early period. Such volumes as remain 'covered in vellat' that belonged to Henry VII. are, however, not embroidered, the ornamentation upon them being worked metal, or enamels upon metal. It is not until the time of Henry VIII. that we have any instances remaining of books bound in embroidered velvet.
Velvet is very troublesome to work upon, the pile preventing any delicate embroidery being done directly upon it, hence the prevalence of gold cords and applique work on canvas or linen, on which of course the embroidery may be executed as delicately as may be desired.
Tres ample description de toute la terre Saincte, etc. [By Martin de Brion.] MS. of the sixteenth century, probably bound about 1540.
The earliest extant English binding in embroidered velvet covers this manuscript, which belonged to Henry VIII., and is dedicated to him. The manuscript is on vellum, and is beautifully illuminated. It is bound in rich purple velvet, and each side, measuring 9 by 6 inches, is ornamented with the same design. In the centre is a large royal coat-of-arms, surrounded by the garter, and ensigned with a royal crown. The coat-of-arms and the garter are first worked in thick silks of the proper colours, red and blue, laid or couched, with small stitches of silk of the same colour, arranged so as to make a diamond pattern, on fine linen or canvas. On the coat are the arms of France and England quarterly; the bearings, respectively three fleur-de-lys and three lions, are solidly worked in gold cord, and the whole is applique on to the velvet with strong stitches. On the blue garter the legend 'Honi soit qui mal y pense' is outlined in gold cord, between each word being a small red rose, the buckle, end, and edge of the garter being marked also in gold cord, and the whole applique like the coat. The very decorative royal crown is solidly worked in gold cords of varying thickness directly on to the velvet. The rim or circlet has five square jewels of red and blue silk along it, between each of these being two seed pearls. From the rim rise four crosses-patee and four fleurs-de-lys, at the base of each of which is a pearl, and also one in each inner corner of the crosses-patee. Four arches also rise from the rim, the two outer ones each having three small scrolls with a pearl in the middle; at the top is a mound and cross-patee, with a pearl in each of its inner corners. There is a letter H on each side of the coat-of-arms, and these letters were originally doubtless worked with seed pearls, but the outlines of them alone are now left. In each corner is a red Lancastrian rose worked on a piece of satin, applique, the centres and petals marked in gold cord, and the whole enclosed in an outer double border of gold cord. On the front edges of each side are the remains of two red silk ties.
This is certainly a very handsome piece of work, and is wonderfully preserved. It is the earliest example of a really fine embroidered book on velvet in existence, and it has perhaps been more noticed and illustrated than any other book of its kind. The crown has an interesting peculiarity about it, which does not appear, as far as I have observed, on any other representation of it, namely, that the four arches take their rise directly from the rim. They generally rise from the summits of the crosses-patee, but I should fancy that the rise from the circlet itself is more correct.
Biblia. Tiguri, 1543.
This Bible also belonged to Henry VIII. It is bound in velvet, originally some shade of red or crimson, but now much faded. It measures 15 by 9-1/4 inches. It is ornamented with arabesques and initials all outlined with fine gold cord. In the centre are the initials H. R., bound together by an interlacing knot, within a circle. Arabesques above and below the circle make up an inner panel, itself enclosed by a broad border of arabesques, with a double, or Tudor, rose in each corner. The edges of the leaves of the book are elaborately painted with heraldic designs.
It has been re-backed with leather, but still retains the original boards.
Il Petrarcha. Venetia, 1544.
Another fine example of the decorative use of Heraldry occurs on a copy of Petrarch printed at Venice in 1544, and probably bound about 1548, after the death of Henry VIII. It belonged to Queen Katherine Parr, and bears her arms with several quarterings—worked applique on rich blue purple velvet, and measures 7 by 6 inches. The first coat is the 'coat of augmentation' granted to the Queen by Henry VIII.—'Argent, on a pile gules, between six roses of the same, three others of the field'—and the next coat is that of 'Parr.'
The various quarterings on this coat are worked differently from those on the last book described. Here the red and blue are well shown by pieces of coloured satin—except in the first, fifth, and seventh coats, where there is some couched work in diamond pattern, just like that on Martin Brion's book. The entire coat, which is of an ornamental shape, is applique in one large piece, and edged by a gold cord. The crown surmounting it is heavily worked in gold guimp—the cap being represented in crimson silk thread and all applique. There are two supporters—that on the right, an animal breathing flame, and gorged with a coronet from which hangs a long chain, all worked in coloured silks on linen and applique, belongs to the Fitzhugh family, the coat of which is shown on the third quarter; that on the left, a wyvern argent, also gorged with a coronet, from which depends a long gold chain, is that of the Parr family. The wyvern is a piece of blue silk, finished in gold and silver cords, in applique. The gold cord enclosing the armorial design is amplified at each corner into an arabesque scroll. The book has been most unfortunately rebound, and the work is badly strained in consequence—the back being entirely new; nevertheless it is in a wonderful state of preservation. It is said to have been worked by Queen Katherine Parr herself. The design is too large for the book, and the crown is too large for the coat-of-arms. It is probable that the binding of the book was done after the death of Henry VIII., otherwise the supporters would have been the lion and the greyhound; also the coat-of-arms would have been different; also, as the Seymour coat does not appear, it is likely that the binding was done before Queen Katherine Parr's marriage with Lord Seymour of Sudley, in 1547. The design is the same on both sides.
Queen Mary's Psalter. 14th-century MS. Bound about 1553.
The beautiful English manuscript of the fourteenth century known as 'Queen Mary's Psalter' was presented to her in 1553. It is bound in crimson velvet, measuring 11 by 6-3/4 inches, and applique on each side is a large conventional pomegranate-flower worked on fine linen in coloured silks and gold thread. This flower is much worn, but enough is left to show that it was originally finely worked. Queen Mary used the pomegranate as a badge in memory of her mother, Katharine of Aragon. The volume has been re-backed in plain crimson velvet, and still retains the original gilt corners with bosses, and two clasps, on the plates of which are engraved the Tudor emblems,—portcullis, dragon, lion, and fleur-de-lys.
Christopherson, Historia Ecclesiastica. Lovanii, 1569.
Many fine bindings in embroidered velvet of the time of Queen Elizabeth still remain, several of them having been her own property.
One of the most decorative of these last is unfortunately in a very bad state, owing possibly to the fact that there were originally very many separate pearls upon it, and that these have from time to time been wilfully picked off. The book is in three volumes, and is a copy of the Historia Ecclesiastica, written by Christopherson, Bishop of Chichester, and printed at Louvain in 1569. Each of these volumes is bound in the same way, so the description of one of them will serve for all, except that no one volume is perfect, so the description must be taken as representing only what each originally was.
It is covered in deep green velvet, and measures 6 by 3-1/2 inches, the design being the same on each side. In the centre the royal coat-of-arms is applique in blue and red satin, on an ornamental cartouche of pink satin, with scrolls of gold threads and coloured silks, richly dotted with small pearls. The bearings on the coats-of-arms are solidly worked in fine gold threads.
From each corner of the sides springs a rose spray, with Tudor roses of red silk mixed with pearls, and Yorkist roses all worked in pearls clustering tight together, the leaves and stems being made in gold cord and guimp. A decoratively arranged ribbon outlined with gold cord and filled in with a line of small pearls set near each other, encloses the design, and numerous single pearls are set in the spaces between the roses and their leaves and stems.
The back is divided into five panels bearing alternately Yorkist roses of pearls and Tudor roses of red silk and pearls, all worked in the same way as the roses on the sides.
The illustration I give of this binding (Frontispiece) is necessarily a restoration. But there is nothing added which was not originally on the book. Each pearl that has disappeared has left a little impress on the velvet, and so has each piece of gold cord which has been pulled off. The back is still existing; but bad though both sides and back now are, it is much better they should be in their present condition than that they should have been mended or replaced in parts by newer material.
Christian Prayers. London, 1570.
A simpler binding, but still one of great richness, covers a copy of Christian Prayers, printed in London in 1570.
This is covered in crimson velvet, measuring 6 by 3-1/2 inches, and is worked largely with metal threads, mixed with coloured silks. In the centre is the crest of the family of Vaughan—a man's head with a snake round the neck. The crest rests on a fillet, and is enclosed in a twisted circle of gold with four coloured bosses. From the upper and lower extremities of this circle spring two flower forms in gold and silver guimp, with sprays issuing from them bearing strawberries, grape bunches, and leaves, in the upper half, and roses and leaves in the lower. The grapes are represented by rather large spangles, and the leaves, worked in gold, have a few strands of green silk in them; large spangles, kept down by a short piece of guimp, are used to fill in spaces here and there. This is the first instance of the use of spangles on a velvet book. The back is tastefully ornamented with gold cord arranged diamond-wise, and having in each diamond a flower worked in gold.
Parker, De antiquitate Ecclesiae Britannicae. London, 1572.
This is one of the embroidered books that belonged to Queen Elizabeth, and has been frequently illustrated and described. It is remarkable in other respects than for its binding, as it is one of a number of probably not more than twenty copies of a work by Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury, De antiquitate Ecclesiae Britannicae, printed for him by John Day in London, 1572. It was the first instance of a privately printed book being issued in England.
Archbishop Parker had a private press, and his books were printed with types cast at his own cost, John Day being sometimes employed as his workman. No two copies of this particular work are alike, and it is supposed that the Archbishop continually altered the sheets as they came from the press and had the changes effected at once. The book has two title-pages, each of which, as well as a leaf containing the arms of the Bishops in vellum, the ornamental borders, and coats-of-arms throughout the book, are emblazoned in gold and colours.
The biographies of sixty-nine Archbishops are contained in the book, but not Parker's own. This omission was supplied afterwards by a little satirical tract published in 1574, entitled 'Histriola, a little storye of the actes and life of Matthew, now archbishop of Canterbury.'
But the Archbishop not only had his printing done under his own roof, but also had in his house 'Paynters ... wryters, and Boke-binders,' so that it may fairly enough be considered that he bound the splendid copy of his great work which was intended for the Queen's acceptance, in a specially handsome manner, under his own direct supervision, and in accordance not only with his own taste but also with that of his royal mistress. The volume is a large one, measuring 10 by 7 inches, and is covered in dark green velvet. On both sides the design is a rebus on the name of Parker, representing in fact a Park within a high paling. The palings are represented as if lying flat, and are worked in gold cord with flat strips of silver, on yellow satin applique. There are gates and other small openings in the continuity of the line of palings. On the upper cover within the paling is a large rose-bush, bearing a large Tudor rose and two white roses in full bloom, with buds and leaves, some tendrils extending over the palings. The stalks are of silver twist edged with gold cord, the red flowers are worked with red silk and gold cord, the white ones made up with small strips of flat silver and gold cord. Detached flowers and tufts of grass grow about the rose-tree; among these are two purple and yellow pansies, Elizabeth's favourite flowers, and in each corner is a deer, one 'courant,' one 'passant,' one feeding, and one 'lodged.'
The design fills the side of the book very fully, and the workmanship is everywhere excellent. This upper cover is much faded, as it has been for many years exposed to the light in one of the Binding show-cases in the King's Library at the British Museum.
The under side is much fresher, but the design not so elaborate. There is a similar paling to that on the other side, the 'Park' being dotted about with several plants, ferns, and tufts of grass. Near each corner is a deer, one feeding, one 'couchant,' one 'tripping,' and one 'courant,' and one 'lodged' in the centre. There are also two snakes worked in silver thread with small colour patches in silk.
The back is badly worn, but the original design can be easily traced upon it. There were five panels, in each of which is a small rose-tree, bearing one large flower, with leaves and buds, and tufts of grass. The first, third, and fifth of these are white Yorkist roses; the second and third are Tudor roses of white and red.
The Epistles of St. Paul. London, 1578.
If this book of Archbishop Parker's is one of the most elaborately ornamented embroidered books existing, and perhaps one of the greatest treasures of its kind in the British Museum, the next velvet book to describe is one of the simplest, yet it also is one of the greatest treasures of its kind at the Bodleian Library.
It is a small copy of the Epistles of St. Paul, printed by Barker in London, 1578, and measuring 4-1/2 by 3-1/2 inches, and it belonged to Queen Elizabeth. Inside she has written a note in which she says: 'I walke manie times into the pleasant fieldes of the Holy Scriptures, where I plucke up the goodlie greene herbes of sentences by pruning, eate them by reading, chawe them by musing, and laie them up at length in the hie seat of memorie by gathering them together, so that having tasted thy swetenes I may the less perceive the bitterness of this miserable life.'
The Rev. W. D. Macray, in the Annals of the Bodleian Library, says, 'This belonged to Queen Elizabeth, and is bound in a covering worked by herself'; and the Countess of Wilton, in the Art of Embroidery, says, 'The covering is done in needlework by the Queen herself.'
It is also described by Dibdin in Bibliomania. He says, 'The covering is done in needlework by the Queen herself.'
The black velvet binding is much worn, and has been badly repaired. The work upon it is all done in silver cord or guimp, and the designing, as well as the work, is such as may well have been done by the Queen.
On both covers borders with legends in Latin, enclosed in lines of gold cord, run parallel to the edges. Beginning at the right-hand corners of each side, these legends read, 'Beatus qui divitias scripturae legens verba vertit in opera—Celum Patria Scopus vitae XPUS—Christus via—Christo vive.' In the centre of the upper side is a ribbon outlined in gold cord, with the words, 'Eleva sursum ibi ubi,' a heart being enclosed within the ribbon, and a long stem with a flower at the top passing through it. In the centre of the lower side a similar ribbon with the motto, 'Vicit omnia pertinax virtus,' encloses a daisy, a badge previously used by Henry VIII. and Edward VI., probably in memory of their ancestress, Margaret Beaufort. Both these inner scrolls have the initial letter E interwoven with them.
There is no doubt that the usual royal embroidered bindings of the time of Elizabeth were elaborately designed and richly worked, in decided contrast to this small book; and this difference of style makes it more probable that the Queen worked it herself.
There is no resemblance between this book and the two canvas-bound books already described which are attributed to her, except the use of cord alone in the embroidery; but the difference of material might perhaps be considered sufficient to account for this. No real evidence seems to be forthcoming as to the authorship of the embroidered work, but there is no doubt that the book was a favourite one of Queen Elizabeth's, and if the needlework had been done for her by any of the ladies of her Court, it would be likely that she would have added a note to that effect to the words she has written inside.
Christian Prayers, etc. London, 1584.
A copy of Christian Prayers, with the Psalms, printed in London in 1581 and 1584, is curiously bound in soft paper boards strengthened on the inner side with pieces of morocco and covered with pale tawny velvet. It measures 7-1/2 by 5-1/2 inches. The edges of the leaves are gilt and gauffred.
The arrangement of the design is unusual. It starts from the centre of the back in the form of a broad ornamental border, extending towards the front edges along the lines of the boards. This border is handsomely ornamented by a wavy line of silver cords, filled out with conventional flowers and arabesques worked in gold and silver cords and threads, with a little bit of coloured silk here and there. A symmetrical design of flower forms and arabesques starts, on each board, from the centre of the inner edge of the border, and is worked in a similar way. Some of the leaves, however, have veinings marked by strips of flat silver, and others made by a flattened silver spiral, having the appearance of a succession of small rings. There are the remains of two pale orange silk ties on the front edges of each board, and the edges are gilt and gauffred with a little colour.
The petals of the flowers are worked in guimp, whether gold or silver is difficult to say. Indeed in many instances of the older books it is difficult to be sure whether a metal cord or thread was originally gilded or not, as all these 'gold' threads are, or were, silver gilt, so that when worn the silver only remains. If the cord or thread has been protected in any corners, however, or if it can be lifted a little, the faint trace of gold can often be seen on what would otherwise have been surely put down as originally silver.
Orationis Dominicae Explicatio, etc. Genevae, 1583.
There is in the British Museum a copy of Orationis Dominicae Explicatio, per Lambertum Danaeum, printed at Geneva in 1583, which belonged to Queen Elizabeth. It is bound in black velvet, measures 6-3/4 by 4-1/4 inches, and is ornamented most tastefully, each side having an arabesque border in gold cord and silver guimp, enclosing a panel with a design of white and red roses, with stems and leaves worked in gold cord and silver guimp with a trifle of coloured silk on the red roses and on the small leaves showing between the petals. On the front edge are the remains of red and gold ties. The design of this charming little book is excellent, and the colour of it when new must have been very effective. The design is the same on both sides. The back is in bad condition, and is panelled with arabesques in gold and silver cord.
Bible. London, 1583.
The most decorative, and in many ways the finest, of all the remaining embroidered books of the time of Elizabeth is now at the Bodleian Library at Oxford. It is one of the 'Douce' Bibles, printed in London in 1583, and probably bound about the same time. It was the property of the Queen herself, and is bound in crimson velvet, measuring 17 by 12 inches. The design is the same on both sides, and consists of a very cleverly arranged scroll of six rose stems, bearing flowers, buds, and leaves springing from a large central rose, with four auxiliary scrolls crossing the corners and intertwining at their ends. The large rose in the centre as well as those near the corners are Tudor roses, the red shown in red silk and the white in silver guimp, both outlined with gold cord. Small green leaves are shown between each of the outer petals. These flowers are heavily and solidly worked in high relief. The smaller flowers are all of silver, the buds, some red, some white. The stems are of thick silver twist enclosed between finer gold cords, and the leaves show a little green silk among the gold cord with which they are outlined and veined. Immediately above and below the centre rose are two little T's worked in small pearls.
The narrow border round the edges is very pretty; it is a wavy line of gold cord and green silk, the hollows within the curves being filled with alternate 'Pods' with pearls, and green leaves. The back is divided into four panels by wavy lines of gold cord and pearls, and the upper and lower panels have small rose-plants with white roses, buds, and leaves; the inner panels have each a large Tudor rose of red and white, with leaves and buds. The drawing and designing of this splendid book are admirable, and the workmanship is in every way excellent. Many of the pearls are gone, and some of the higher portions of the large roses are abraded, the back, as usual, being in a rather bad state; but in spite of all this, and the inevitable fading, the work remains in a sufficiently preserved condition to show that at this period the art of book-embroidery reached its highest decorative point. It is rather curious to note that Henry VIII. used the red Lancastrian rose by preference, but that on Elizabeth's books the white rose always appears, and I know of very few instances where the red rose appears on her books. Of course both sovereigns used the combined, double, or Tudor rose as well.
The Commonplaces of Peter Martyr. London, 1583.
An embroidered book designed in a manner which is characteristic of a gold tooled book is found but rarely. An instance of this however is found on a copy of The Commonplaces of Peter Martyr, translated by Anthonie Marten, and printed in London in 1583. It is covered in blue purple velvet measuring 13-1/2 by 9 inches, and the design upon it is a broad outer border doubly outlined with a curious and effective braid, apparently consisting of a close series of small silver rings, but really being only a silver spiral flattened out. This border is dotted at regular intervals with star-shaped clusters of small pieces of silver guimp symmetrically arranged. The centre of the inner panel is a diamond-shaped ornament made with similar 'ring' braid and small pieces of silver guimp, and the corner-pieces are quarter circles worked in the same way. This design of centre-piece and corner-pieces is distinctly borrowed from leather work, and I have never seen another example of the kind executed in needlework. The colouring of this book is very good, the purple and silver harmonising in a very pleasing manner.
Biblia. Antverpiae, 1590.
A beautiful binding of green velvet covers a Bible printed at Antwerp in 1590, measuring 7 by 4 inches. The design is the same on both sides, and the book was apparently bound for 'T. G.,' whose initials are worked into the design; a conventional arrangement of curving stems and flower forms worked in gold cord, guimp, and small pearls thickly encrusted; the same on both boards. The centre is a large conventional flower, in form resembling a carnation, with serrated petals, having a garnet below it, and flanked by the letters T. G., all thickly worked with reed pearls. In each corner is a smaller flower—conventionalised forms probably of honeysuckle and rose—joined together by curving stems of gold cord, filled out with leaves and arabesques, all together forming a very decorative panel. The outer border is richly worked with leaves and arabesques in guimp and pearls, the outer line of gold cord being ornamented with small triple points marked with pearls. The back is divided into three spaces by curving lines of gold cord, and in each of these spaces is worked one of the same conventionalised flower forms as occur on the boards, i.e. a honeysuckle, cornflower, and rose, with leaves and smaller curves of gold cord.
The ground of the entire work is freely ornamented with gilt spangles held down by small pieces of guimp, and with single pearls; the larger of these are enclosed within circles of guimp, the smaller are simply sewn on one by one.
There are remains of gilt clasps on the front edges of each of the boards, and the edges of the leaves are gilt and gauffred, with a little pale colour.
Udall, Sermons. London, 1596.
A few specimens of embroidered books were exhibited at the Burlington Fine Arts Club in 1891. Among them was a charming velvet binding that belonged to Queen Elizabeth, lent by S. Sandars, Esq., and now in the University Library, Cambridge. It is a copy of Udall's Sermons, printed in London in 1596, and is covered in crimson velvet, measuring about 6 by 4 inches. The design is the same on each side, the royal coat-of-arms applique, with the initials E. R., and a double rose in each corner with stalks and leaves. The coat-of-arms is made up with pieces of blue and red satin, the bearings heavily worked with gold thread, and the ground also thickly studded with small straight pieces of guimp, doubtless put there to insure the greater flatness of the satin. The crown with which the coat-of-arms is ensigned is all worked in guimp, and is without the usual cap. The ornaments on the rim are only trefoils, and there are five arches.
The initials flanking the coat are worked in guimp, as are the corner roses and leaves. The guimp used is apparently silver, and the cord used for the outlines and stems is gold. The back has a gold line down the middle and along the joints, with a wavy line of gold cord each side of it.
Collection of Sixteenth-Century Tracts. Bound about 1610.
To Henry, Prince of Wales, we owe a great debt of gratitude, as he was the first person of much consequence in our royal family to take any real interest in the Old Royal Library.
Indeed it may be considered that the existence to-day of the splendid 'Old Royal' Library of the kings of England, which was presented to the nation in 1759 by George II., is largely due to the attention drawn to its interest and value by Prince Henry, who moreover added considerably to it himself.
This Prince used as his favourite and personal badge the beautiful design of three white ostrich feathers within a golden coronet, and with the motto 'ICH DIEN' on a blue ribbon. With regard to the origin of this badge there is unfortunately a good deal of obscurity. The usual explanation is that it was the helmet-crest of the blind king of Bohemia, who was killed at Crecy in 1346, and that in remembrance of this it was adopted by the Black Prince as his badge. But, as a matter of fact, the ostrich feather was used as a family badge by all the sons of Edward III. and their descendants. It appears to have been the cognisance of the province of Ostrevant, a district lying between Artois and Hainault, and the appanage of the eldest sons of the house of Hainault. In this way it may have been adopted by the family of Edward III. by right of his wife, Philippa of Hainault.
An early notice of the ostrich feather as a royal badge occurs in a note in one of the Harleian MSS. to the effect that 'Henrye, son to the erle of Derby, fyrst duke of Lancaster, gave the red rose crowned, whose ancestors gave the fox tayle in his proper cooler, and the ostrych fether, the pen ermine,' the Henry here mentioned being the father of Blanche, wife of John of Gaunt.
On the tomb of Prince Arthur, son of Henry VII., at Worcester, the feather is shown both singly and in plume, and it occurs in the triple plume form within a coronet and a scroll with the words 'ICH DIEN' upon it, on bindings made by Thomas Berthelet for Prince Edward, son of Henry VIII., who never was Prince of Wales.
It really seems as if the first 'Prince of Wales' actually to use the ostrich feather plumes as a personal badge of that dignity was Prince Henry, and it occurs largely on such books belonging to his library as he had rebound, and also on books that were specially bound for presentation to him.
This is the case in one of the most decorative bindings he possessed, enclosing a collection of tracts originally the property of Henry VIII., but which somehow or other became the property of Magdalen College, Cambridge, the governing body of which had it bound in embroidered velvet and presented to Prince Henry.
The cover is of crimson velvet, the edges of which extend freely beyond the edges of the book, bound all round with a fringe of gold cord. It measures about 8 by 6 inches. The design is the same on each side. In the centre is a large triple plume of ostrich feathers, thickly and beautifully worked in small pearls, within a golden coronet, and having below them the motto 'ICH DIEN' in gold upon a blue silk ribbon.
The badge is enclosed in a rectangular panel of gold cords, in each corner of which is an ornamental spray of gold cords, guimp, and a flower in pearls. A broad border with a richly designed arabesque of gold guimp or cord, with pearl flowers, encloses the central panel. The design is filled in freely with small pearls enclosed in guimp circles and small pearls alone.
The back has an ornamental design in gold cord and guimp. This cover is a beautiful specimen of later decorative work on velvet, and the general effect is extremely rich, the design and workmanship being equally well chosen as regards the materials to which they are applied, and with which they are worked.
Bacon, Opera. Londini, 1623.
A copy of the works of Francis Bacon, Viscount St. Albans, printed in London in 1623, is bound in rich purple velvet, and measures 13-1/4 by 8-3/4 inches. The design is a central panel with arabesque centre and corners, surrounded by a deep border of close curves and arabesques, all worked in gold cord and guimp. There are several gold spangles used, kept down by a small piece of gold guimp. The front edges of each board have only the marks left where two ties originally were, and the edges of the book are simply gilt.
Bacon, Essays. 1625.
A copy of another work by the same author, the Essays printed in 1625, was given by him to the Duke of Buckingham, and is now at the Bodleian Library at Oxford. It is bound in dark green velvet, measuring about 7 by 5 inches, the same design being embroidered on each side. In the centre is a small panel portrait of the Duke of Buckingham, with short beard, and wearing the ribbon of the Garter. The portrait is mostly worked with straight perpendicular stitches, except the hair and collar, in which the stitches are differently arranged. The background merges from nearly white just round the head to pink at the outer edge; the coat is brownish. The framework of the portrait is solidly worked in gold braids and silver guimp in relief, the design being of an architectural character. Two columns, with floral capitals and pediments, spring from a scroll-work base and support what may perhaps be intended for a gothic arch with crockets. Immediately above the crown of the arch is a ducal coronet, and a handsome border of elaborate arabesques reaching far inwards is worked all round the edges. The outlines of these arabesques, the stalks and curves, are all worked in gold cords, the petals and leaves in silver guimp in relief. The back is divided into eight panels by gold and silver cords, and in each of these panels is a four-petalled flower with small circles. There are several gilt spangles kept down by a small piece of guimp.
Common Prayer. London, 1638.
Among the few older royal books in the library at Windsor Castle is an embroidered one that belonged to Prince Charles, afterwards Charles II. It is a copy of the Book of Common Prayer, printed in London in 1638, and is bound in blue velvet with embroidered work in gold cord and silver guimp, similar in character to that on the copy of Bacon's Essays just described. It measures 8 by 6 inches. The design is heraldic. In the centre is the triple plume of the Prince of Wales, with coronet and label, no motto being apparent on the latter. The plume is encircled by the Garter applique, on pale blue silk, the motto, worked in silver cord, being nearly worn off. Resting on the top of the Garter is a large princely coronet, flanking which are the letters 'C. P.' In the lower corners are a thistle and a rose. A broad border with arabesques encloses the central panel. This book was exhibited by Her Majesty at the Burlington Fine Arts Club in 1891. It is in very bad condition, which is curious, as it is not so very old, and as it is still among the royal possessions it might well have been imagined that it would have been better preserved than other and older books of a like kind which we know have been considerably moved about. The colour is however very charming still, and books have rarely been bound in blue velvet, black, green, or crimson being most usual.
After 1649, or thereabouts, there was a full stop for a time to any art production in the matter of bookbinding. Indeed, for the embroidered books as a class that is the end, but nevertheless a few examples are found at a later date, but no regular production and no original designs.
Bible. Cambridge, 1674.
A large Bible printed at Cambridge in 1674, in two volumes, was bound in crimson velvet for James II., presumably about 1685. The work upon it, each volume being the same, is of a showy character, good and strong, but utterly wanting in any of the artistic qualities either of design or execution which characterised so many of the earlier examples. In the centre are the initials 'J. R.' surmounted by a royal crown, heavily worked in gold braid, guimp, and some coloured silks. Enclosing the initials and crown are scrolls in thick gold twist; these again are surrounded by a curving ribbon of gold, intertwined with roses and leafy sprays. In each corner is a silver-faced cherub with beads for eyes and gold wings, and at the top a small blue cloud with sun rays, tears dropping from it. There are two broad silk ties to the front of each board, heavily fringed with gold.
The back is divided into nine panels, each containing an arabesque ornament worked in gold cord and thread, the first and last panels being larger than the others and containing a more elaborate design. The edges of the leaves are simply gilt, and the boards measure 18 by 12 inches each, the largest size of any embroidered book known to me.
BOOKS BOUND IN SATIN
Collection of Sixteenth-Century Tracts. Bound probably about 1536.
Perhaps the earliest existing English book bound in satin is a collection of sixteenth-century tracts that belonged to Henry VIII., and is now part of the Old Royal Library in the British Museum. It is covered in red satin, measures 12 by 8 inches, and is embroidered in an arabesque design, outlined with gold cord. On the edges the words 'Rex in aeternum vive Neez' are written in gold. The word 'Neez' or 'Nez,' as it is sometimes spelt, may mean Nebuchadnezzar, as the other words were addressed to him. On books bound in leather by Thomas Berthelet, royal binder to Henry VIII. and his immediate successors, the motto often occurs, and as he is known to have bound books in 'crymosyn satin,' this is most likely his work. The pattern is worked irregularly all round the boards, and a sort of arabesque bridge crosses the centres. The back is new, and of leather, but the boards themselves are the original ones, and the embroidery is in a very fair condition.
New Testament in Greek. Leyden, 1576.
If early bindings in satin are rare, still rarer is the use of silk. One example worked on white ribbed silk still remains that belonged to Queen Elizabeth. It measures 4-3/4 by 2-3/4 inches, and in its time was no doubt a very decorative and interesting piece of work, but it is now in a very dilapidated state, largely due to improper repairing. The book has actually been rebound in leather, and the old embroidered sides stuck on. So it must be remembered that my illustration of it is considerably restored. The design, alike on both sides, is all outlined with gold cords and twists of different kinds and thicknesses, and the colour is added in water-colours on the silk. In the centre is the royal coat-of-arms within an oval garter ensigned with a royal crown, in the adornment of which a few seed pearls are used, as they are also on the ends of the garter.
Enclosing the coat-of-arms is an ornamental border of straight lines and curves, worked with a thick gold twist, intertwined with graceful sprays of double and single roses, outlined in gold and coloured red, with buds and leaves. A few symmetrical arabesques, similarly outlined and coloured, fill in some of the remaining spaces. The work on this book, a New Testament in Greek, printed at Leyden in 1576, is like no other; but the general idea of the design, rose-sprays cleverly intertwined, is one that may be considered characteristic of the Elizabethan embroidered books, as it frequently occurs on them. The use of water-colour with embroidery is very rare, and it is never found on any but silk or satin bindings, generally as an adjunct in support of coloured-silk work over it, but in this single instance it is used alone.
Seventeenth-Century Embroidered Books.
The books described hitherto have been specimens of rare early instances, but in the seventeenth century there is a very large field to choose from. Small books, mostly religious works, were bound in satin from the beginning of the century until the time of the Commonwealth in considerable numbers; so much so, in fact, that their value depends not so much upon their designs or workmanship as upon their condition.
It is generally considered that embroidered books are extremely delicate, but this is not so; they will stand far more wear than would be imagined from their frail appearance. The embroidered work actually protects the satin, and such signs of wear as are visible are often found rather in the satin itself, where unprotected, than in the work upon it. In many cases a peculiar appearance, which is often mistaken for wear, is seen in the case of representations of insects, caterpillars, or butterflies particularly. These creatures, or parts of them, appear to consist only of slight stitches of plain thread, suggesting either that the work has never been finished, or else that the finished portions have worn away. The real fact is, however, that these places have been originally worked with small bright pieces of peacock's feather, which have either tumbled out or been eaten away by minute insects, a fate to which it is well known peacocks' feathers are particularly liable.
The late Lady Charlotte Schreiber, who was a great collector of pieces of old embroidery, among a host of other curious things possessed the only perfect instance of work of this kind of the seventeenth century I have ever been fortunate enough to find. It was a very realistic caterpillar, closely and completely worked with very small pieces of peacocks' feathers, sewn on with small stitches, quite confirming the opinion I had already formed as to the original filling in of the usual 'bald' spaces representing such objects.
Bible. London, 1619.
A copy of a Bible, printed in London in 1619, is bound in white satin, and measures 6 by 3-1/2 inches. On each side is an emblematic figure enclosed in an oval; the figures are different, but their surroundings are alike. On the upper side a lady holding a palm branch in her right hand is worked in shading-stitch. She is full length, and wears an orange skirt with purple robe over it confined by a blue belt, and over her shoulders a pink jacket—all these garments are outlined by a gold cord. Her fair hair is covered by an ornamental cap of red and gold, and her feet are bare.
The ground is worked with coloured silks and threads of fine wire closely twisted round with coloured silks, and the sky, painted in gradations of pink in water-colours, is worked sparsely with long stitches of blue silk.
The lower side shows a female figure worked in a similar way; in this case she bears in her right hand some kind of wand or spray, which has nearly worn off, and in her left a bunch of corn or grapes, or something of that kind which has also badly worn away. If the first figure may be considered to represent Peace, this one may perhaps be Plenty. She wears a deep purplish skirt, with full over-garment and body of the same colour, with an under-jacket of white and gold. On her dark hair she has a blue flower with red leaves. Her feet are bare. The ground and sky are both worked in the same way as the other side. Both figures are enclosed in a flat oval border of gold thread, broad at the top and narrowing towards the foot. In the corners are symmetrical arabesques thickly worked in gold, and within the larger spaces in each corner-piece are the 'remains' of feathered caterpillars, now skeleton forms of threads only. The back of the book is particularly good, and most beautifully worked. It is divided into five panels, within each of which is a conventional flower, a cornflower alternating with a carnation, and the colours of all of these are marvellously fresh and effective. Among embroidered panelled backs it is probably the finest specimen existing.
Emblemes Chrestiens, par Georgette de Montenay. MS. a Lislebourg. [Edinburgh] 1624.
Charles I., when he was Prince of Wales, often used the book-stamps that had been cut for his brother Henry, and he also particularly liked the triple plume of ostrich feathers. It occurs, as has been shown, on one of Prince Henry's velvet-bound books, and it forms the central design on the satin binding of an exquisite manuscript written by Esther Inglis, a celebrated calligraphist, who lived in the seventeenth century. It is a copy of the Emblemes Chrestiens, by Georgette de Montenay, dedicated to Prince Charles, covered in red satin embroidered with gold and silver threads, cords, and guimp, with a few pearls, measuring 11-1/4 by 7-3/4 inches. In the centre is the triple ostrich plume within a coronet, enclosed in an oval wreath of laurel tied with a tasselled knot. A rectangular border closely filled with arabesques runs parallel to the edges of the boards, and there is a fleuron at each of the inner corners. In all cases the design is outlined in gold cord, and the thick parts of the design are worked in silver guimp. There are several spangles, and on the rim of the coronet are three pearls.
New Testament. London, 1625.
One of the most curious embroidered satin bindings still left is now in the Bodleian Library, and a slightly absurd tradition about it says that the figure of David, which certainly is something like Charles I., is clothed in a piece of a waistcoat that belonged to that king.
It is a New Testament, printed in London in 1625, and covered in white satin, with a different design embroidered on each side. It measures 4-1/2 by 3-1/2 inches. On the upper board is David with a harp. He wears a long red cloak lined with ermine, with a white collar, an under-garment of pale brown, and high boots with spur-straps and red tops. On his head is a royal crown of gold with red cap, and he is playing upon a golden harp. The face of this figure resembles that of Charles I. The red cloak is worked in needlepoint lace, and is in deep folds in high relief. These folds are actually modelled in waxed paper, the needlework being stretched over them, and probably fixed on by a gentle heat. The other parts of the dress are worked in the same way, but without the waxed paper, and the edges of the garments are in some places marked with what might be called a metal fringe, made in a small recurring pattern.
David is standing upon a grass plot, represented by small arches of green purl, and before him is sitting a small dog with a blue collar. Above the dog is a small yellow and black pansy, then a large blue 'lace' butterfly, on a chenille patch, and a brown flying bird. Behind David there is a tall conventional lily and a flying bird. The sky is overcast with heavy clouds of red and blue, but a golden sun with tinsel rays is showing under the larger of them. On the lower board is a representation of Abraham about to sacrifice Isaac. Abraham is dressed in a red under-garment on waxed paper, in heavy folds with a belt and edge of stamped-out metal, a blue flowing cape and high boots, all worked in needlepoint lace in coloured silks.
In his right hand he holds a sword, and his tall black hat is on the ground beside him. On the ground towards the left is Isaac in an attitude of prayer, his hands crossed, with two sheaves of firewood. He wears a red coat with a small blue cape. The ground is green and brown chenille. Above Isaac is a gourd, and above this a silver ram caught in a bush, on a patch of grass indicated by green purl. The sky is occupied by a large cloud, out of which leans an angel with wings, the hands outstretched and restraining Abraham's sword.
On the back are four panels, containing respectively from the top a butterfly, a rose, a bird, and a yellow tulip, all worked in needlepoint and applique. The pieces that are in high relief all over the book are edged with gold twist, and have moreover their counterparts under them closely fastened down to the satin. There are several gold spangles in the various spaces between the designs; the whole is edged with a strong silver braid, and there are two clasps with silver attachments.
Considering the high relief in which much of this work is done, the binding is in wonderful preservation, but many of the colours are badly faded, as it has been exposed to the action of light in one of the show-cases for many years. Although no doubt it is advisable to expose many treasures in this way, it must be admitted that in the case of embroidered books it is frequently, if not always, a cause of rapid deterioration, so much so that I should almost think in these days of good chromo-printing it would be worth the while of the ruling powers of our great museums to consider whether it would not be wiser to exhibit good colour prints to the light and keep the precious originals in safe obscurity, to be brought out, of course, if required by students.
New Testament and Psalms. London, 1630.
Several small English books of the seventeenth century were bound 'double,' i.e. two volumes side by side, so as to open different ways (compare p. 38). Each of the books, which are always of the same size, has a back and one board to itself, the other board, between them, being common to both. As already stated, this form of book occurs rarely in canvas bindings, and it is of commoner occurrence in satin.
A design which is frequently met with is well shown in the case of a double specimen containing the New Testament and the Psalms, printed in London in 1630, and covered in white satin, measuring 4-1/4 by 2 inches, the ornamentation being the same on both sides. In the centre, in an oval, is a delicately worked iris of many colours in feather-stitch, the petals edged with fine silver cord. The oval is marked by a silver cord, beyond which are ornamental arabesques outlined in cord and filled in solidly, in high relief, with silver thread.
The backs are divided into five panels, containing alternately flowers in red, blue, and green silks, and star shapes in silver thread in high relief. Silver spangles have been freely used, but most of them have now gone; the edges of the leaves are gilt and gauffred in a simple dotted pattern. To the middle of the front edge of one of the boards is attached a long green ribbon of silk which wraps round both volumes.
Henshaw, Horae Successivae. London, 1632.
Henshaw's Horae Successivae, printed in London in 1632, is bound in white satin, and measures 4-1/2 by 2 inches. It is very delicately and prettily worked in a floral design, the same on both sides, and is remarkable for its simplicity—a flower with stalk and leaves in the centre, one in each corner, and an insect in the spaces between them. The centre flower is a carnation, round it are pansy, rose, cornflower, and strawberry, while between them are a caterpillar, snail, butterfly, and moth. All of these are delicately worked in feather-stitch in the proper colours, and edged all round with fine gold cord; the stalks are of the same cord used double. On the strawberries there is some fine knotted work.
The back is divided into four panels, containing a cornflower, rose, pansy, and strawberry, worked exactly in the same way as their prototypes on the sides. There were several gold spangles on sides and back, but many of them have been broken off, and on the front edges of each board are the remains of pale green ties of silk.
Psalms. London, 1633.
A copy of the Psalms, printed in London in 1633, is bound in white satin, embroidered in coloured silks worked in satin-stitch, and measures 3 by 2 inches. On the upper board is a gentleman dressed in the style of the period, with trunk hose of red and yellow, a short jacket of the same colouring, and a long, reddish cape. He has a broad-brimmed hat with coloured feathers, a large white collar, and a sword in his right hand. Near him is a beetle, and in the sky a blue cloud, and he is standing upon a grass mound. On the lower board is the figure of a lady in a deep pink dress, with white collar and cap. She holds a tall red lily in her right hand, and in the upper left-hand corner is a small cloud under which the sun is just appearing, and in the lower corner is a small flower. The lady is standing upon a small green mound. The outlines of both figures, as well as the inner divisions between the various garments, are marked with a gold or silver thread.
The back is divided into four panels, in which are a fly, a rose, a larger fly, and a blue flower. The outlines and legs of both the insects were marked originally with small pieces of peacocks' feathers, but the upper fly has lost most of these; the lower one, however, more ornamental, shows them clearly, and has the thorax still in excellent preservation, glittering with little points of green and gold. There is one broad ribbon of striped silk attached to the lower board.
This little book, which is in a wonderful state of preservation, has been always kept in the beautiful embroidered bag which I have described already on p. 16.
Psalms. London, 1635.
One of the most finely embroidered bindings existing on satin occurs on a small copy of the Psalms, printed in London in 1635, and measuring 3-1/2 by 3 inches. The design is one which has been repeated in other sizes with small differences. There is a larger specimen at the Bodleian, but the British Museum example is the finer altogether.
On each side there is an oval containing an elaborate design most delicately worked in feather-stitch, the edges and outlines marked with very fine gold twist. On the upper board there is a seated allegorical figure with cornucopia, probably representing Plenty. Behind her is an ornamental landscape with a piece of water, the bright lines of which are feelingly rendered with small stitches of silver thread, hills with trees, and a castle in the distance. The other side has a similarly worked figure of Peace, a seated figure holding a palm branch; the landscape is of a similar character to that on the upper board, but the river or lake has a bridge over it. The work itself is of the same very delicate kind, the edges and folds of the dress being marked with fine gold twist.
Each of these ovals is marked by a solid framework with scrolls, strongly made with silver threads, and in high relief; in each corner is a very finely worked flower or fruit, pansy, strawberry, tulip, and lily. The back is divided into four panels, a very decorative conventional flower being worked in each, representing probably a red lily, a tulip, a blue and yellow iris, and a daffodil. The edges of the boards are bound with a broad silver braid, the edges of the leaves are gilded and prettily gauffred, and there are remains of four silver ties.
Psalms. London, 1633.
There is often much speculation as to who can have worked the English embroidered books, and it is very rarely that any reliable information on this interesting point is available.
There is, however, a manuscript note in a copy of the Psalms, printed in 1633 and bound in embroidered white satin, that the work upon it was done by 'Elizabeth, wife of Matthew Wren, Bishop of Ely,' who was an uncle of the architect. The volume still belongs to a member of the family, Dr. W. T. Law of Portland Place, who has most kindly allowed me to give an illustration of this beautiful book. It measures 4 by 3 inches. The design is different in details on each board, the central design, however, being in each case contained within a strongly worked gold border in high relief, widening out at each extremity into a crownlike form, and richly augmented at intervals with clusters of seed pearls. On the upper board within the oval is a double rose with curving stem, leaves, and a bud; the petals are worked in needlepoint, with fine gold twist at the edges, and a cluster of pearls in the centre. In the upper corners are a butterfly, with needlepoint wings, and a bird, with needlepoint wing and tail. In the lower corners are a unicorn and an antlered stag, both recumbent, and in high relief.
On the lower board within the oval is a vine, with curving stem and two large grape clusters, tendrils, and leaves, growing from a small green mound. The edges of the petals are bound with a fine gold twist, as are also the edges and outlines of the leaves, and most of these parts are worked in coloured silks, mixed with fine metal threads, in needlepoint lace-stitch.
A few hazel-nuts are scattered about outside the gold oval, and in each corner is a further ornamentation: a reddish butterfly with wings of needlepoint lace in relief and edged with a gold cord, a green parrot with red wings and tail, are in the two top corners, and in the two lower are a rabbit and a dog, each on a small green ground. Innumerable gold spangles are all over the sides and back, each kept in place by a small pearl stitched through.
The back is divided into five panels, by rows of pearls, and a conventional flower is in each, except the centre one which has an insect. These are all worked in needlepoint and edged with gold twist, the stems of some of them strongly made by a kind of braid of gold cords.
This little book is certainly one of the most ornamental specimens of any of the smaller satin-bound books of the seventeenth century, and although here and there some of the pearls are gone, altogether it is in very good condition, and it is rarely that such a fine example can now be met with in private hands.
Bible. London, 1638.
Several of the embroidered books on satin are worked chiefly in metal threads, and the designs on such books are not as a rule good. Whether the knowledge that the work was to be executed in strong threads has hampered the designer or not cannot be said, but certainly there is often a tinselly effect about these bindings that is not altogether pleasing.
In the case of a Bible printed in London in 1638, bound in white satin, and measuring 6 by 3 inches, one of the chief ornaments is a cherub's head, the face in silver and the hair and wings in gold. The working of this head and wings seems to me wrong. The face is, possibly enough, as well done as the material would allow, but the hair is made in small curls of gold thread, and the feathers of the wings are rendered in a naturalistic way with pieces of flat gold braid. This kind of realism is out of place in embroidery, and it is unfortunately characteristic of the English embroidered work of about this period, occurring generally on boxes, mirror frames, or the like, but only rarely on book-covers. The design is the same on both sides; a narrow arch of thick gold cord reaches about three-quarters up the side, and interwoven with it is a kind of cusped oval, with leaves, reaching up to the top of the book. The lower half of the arch is enclosed in a rectangular band of silver threads, broad and kept in place by transverse bars at regular intervals, and beyond it another row, made of patches of red and blue silk alternately. In the lower part of the oval is a ground of green silk, on which grow two double roses made of red purl. In the space enclosed between the top of the arch and the lower point of the oval is a bird worked in high relief in gold with a touch of red silk on his wings. Over the bird is a blue cloud, heavily worked in blue silk, and beneath is a small grass plot. The cherub's head already described is in the space between the top of the arch and the upper extremity of the oval; it is flanked by two small red purl roses. The two upper corners have undulating clouds in blue silk, and a red and yellow purl rose between them. There are several gold spangles all about, and innumerable small pieces of coloured purl.
The back is divided into four panels, in which are, alternately, a rose-tree on which are two red roses with yellow centres and green leaves, growing from a grass plot, and a blue rose with yellow centre and green leaves under a red cloud with silver rays. There are several spangles and some small pieces of coloured purl scattered about in the spaces.
The book is in excellent condition, owing, no doubt, to the fact that most of it is in metal, but it is representative of the lowest level to which the art of the embroidered book in England has ever fallen.
Psalms. London, 1639.
A charming little piece of delicate workmanship occurs in a copy of the Psalms, printed in London in 1639, and bound in white satin. It measures 3 by 2 inches. The design on each side is the same, but the work is slightly different. A tall rose-tree, with gold stem, grows from a small chenille base, the rose petals beautifully worked in the finest of stitches, as well as the leaves, all of which are outlined with fine gold thread. From the lower branches of the rose-tree hang on one side a violet, and on the other a pansy, each worked in the same way as the rose, and edged with fine gold thread. The back is divided into four panels, containing respectively a cornflower, a pomegranate, a fruit, perhaps meant for an apple, and a honeysuckle, all conventionally treated and very delicately worked. The edge is bound all round with a strong braid, and there is one tie of broad, cherry-silk ribbon. With this book is its canvas bag, embroidered in silver ground with coloured-silk flowers and tassels of silver, the general design and workmanship of which nearly resembles that of the finer bag already described at page 16. The silver has turned nearly black, as is usually the case with these bags.
The Way to True Happiness. London, 1639.
A copy of The Way to True Happiness. printed in London in 1639, is bound in white satin, and embroidered with figures of David and a Queen. It is a little larger than the majority of the satin-embroidered books, measuring 7 by 4-1/2 inches, and is, for its time, a very fine specimen. Both figures stand under an archway with columns, all worked heavily in silver cord, guimp, and thread. The columns have ornamental capitals and a spiral running round their shafts, and the upper edge of the arch is ornamented with crockets of a peculiar shape. Within this archway, on the upper cover, is a full-length figure of a Queen, finely worked in split-stitch with coloured silks. She wears a red dress with long, falling sleeves, a purple body and gold collar. On her head is a golden crown, with six points. She carries, in her left hand, a golden sceptre, and has also a golden belt. The outlines are everywhere marked either with a gold or silver twist. On the ground, which is in small hillocks, grow a strawberry and two other small plants; a snail is also shown. Scattered about the field are a 'skeleton' caterpillar—at one time probably filled in with peacocks' feathers,—a conventional lily, a butterfly, and the sun, with rays, just appearing from under a cloud. In the two upper corners are flowers, a pansy and another, and smaller ones down each side.
On the lower board, within the arch, is a figure of David. He wears a short tunic of orange and silver, with vandyked edge, and a short skirt of blue and silver, with a long cloak of cream, pink, and silver, clasped with a silver brooch; on his head he wears a silver crown, with a red cap and green and red feathers; on his feet are brown, high boots. In his left hand is a silver harp of ornamental pattern, and in his right a silver sceptre with a little gold about it. The ground, in hillocks, has a few small flowers growing upon it, and a large tulip is just in front of the King; on the field are also a moth and a snail. At the top is a blue cloud. The upper corners have a red and yellow tulip and a pansy with bud in them, and smaller flowers are worked down each side. The back is very tastefully ornamented with an undulating scroll of gold cord, widening out here and there into conventional leaves of gold guimp in relief. On this scroll are sitting three birds, and there are also a bunch of grapes, a tulip, daffodil, and other flowers with leaves, conventionally treated, all worked in coloured silks.
There are the remains of two red and yellow silk ties on the front edges of each board, and the edges of the leaves are gilded and gauffred. With this book is a canvas bag, simply ornamented with a design worked in red silk.
New Testament. London, 1640.
The curious little New Testament of 1625, now at Oxford, which I have already described, is perhaps the earliest example left on which needlepoint lace in coloured silks is much employed.
It occurs again largely on another small New Testament, printed in 1640, bound in white satin, measuring 4-1/2 by 2-1/4 inches; now in the British Museum. In this case the artist has not attempted the difficult task of producing a satisfactory figure in needlework, but has very properly limited her skill to the reproduction of flower and animal forms. On the upper cover is a spray of columbine, the petals of which, pink and blue, are each worked separately in needlepoint lace stitch, and afterwards tacked on to a central rib. The stalks and leaves of this spray are also worked in needlepoint, and on the top sits a bullfinch, worked in many colours in the same way, but fastened down close to the satin all round. In the corners are a beetle, a nondescript flower, a bud, and a butterfly with coloured wings in needlepoint, with replicas of them closely appliques just underneath, on the satin. On the lower board is a spray of a five-petalled blue flower, the petals of which were originally worked in needlepoint and fastened on a central rib, but they have now all gone except two, leaving the rib of thick pink braid. The supporting replicas underneath are, however, perfect, showing what the original upper petals were like. This spray has two leaves, exquisitely worked in needlepoint, and fastened by a stitch at one end, with the usual flat replicas underneath them, and there is also a bud. The stem is a piece of green braid. Above the spray is a parrot in needlepoint, most of him fastened down round the edges, but his wings and tail left free. In the upper corner are two strawberries, and in the lower a butterfly, with coloured wings, left free in needlepoint. There are also two caterpillars on this side.
On the back are three large flowers heavily worked in silk and metal threads, in needlepoint, and appliques—a pansy, lily, and rose, with stalks of green braid. The boards are edged all round with a gold braid, and there are two green silk ties on each for the front edges. There are several gold spangles all about, but many more have gone. The work on both boards is very delicate, but that on the back is curiously coarse. Such imitative work as the needlepoint, which is perhaps seen at its best in the columbine, and the leaves on this book, is at all times a dangerous thing to use, except when it is only used as applique, as in the beautiful cover belonging to this book, which I have described on page 18, and the work on which is very likely by the same skilled hand as that on the book. I believe this use of the needlepoint, or button-hole stitch, is only found in English work; it is exactly the same as is used on the old Venetian and other so-called 'point' laces, but executed in fine-coloured silk instead of linen thread, and without open spaces.
Psalms. London, 1641.
Nicholas Ferrar's establishment at Little Gidding in Huntingdonshire is often credited with having produced embroidered books, but there is really no authority for the belief. All the authentic bindings which came from Little Gidding have technical shortcomings from a bookbinding point of view, none of which are found on any embroidered books.
In the History of the Worthies of England, by Thomas Fuller, there is a short note about Little Gidding, and he says about the ladies there that 'their own needles were emploied in learned and pious work to binde Bibles.' This note and the mention of needles may have perhaps given the start to the belief that embroidered work was intended, but in all probability it only refers to the sewing of the leaves of the books upon the bands of the back, which is done with needle and thread. Moreover, the ladies of Little Gidding did actually sew the backs of their books in a needlessly elaborate way, putting in ten or twelve bands where three or four would have been ample. I also think that if embroidery had been intended by the sentence above quoted, it would have been more clearly mentioned. To 'emploie needles to bind Bibles' is hardly the description one would expect if the meaning was that when bound the Bibles were covered in embroidered work; but it may be safely interpreted as it is written, the sewing being a most important part of a bookbinding, and one likely to be much thought of by amateur binders, as the nieces of Nicholas Ferrar were.
The attribution of embroidered bindings to Little Gidding may also have been strengthened by the fact that many of the bindings made there are in velvet, the ornamentation on which, though it is actually stamped in gold and silver, does to some extent suggest embroidery. Indeed, I have myself heard the remark, on showing one of these books, 'Oh, yes! Embroidery.'
Again, a peculiarity of the Little Gidding books is, generally, their large size, whereas the embroidered books, especially the satin ones, are usually very small.
One of the embroidered books thus wrongly credited to Little Gidding is a Psalter, printed in London in 1641. It is bound in white satin, very tastefully embroidered, the same design being on each side, and measures 4 by 2 inches. In the centre is a large orange tulip, shading from yellow to red, finely worked in silks in shading-stitch. The stem is outlined in gold cord, and has also symmetrical curves and leaves, some of which are filled in with silver guimp. The flower is enclosed in an ornamental scroll and leaf border, all made with gold threads and twists, and having leaf forms in relief at intervals in silver guimp. The back has five panels, ornamented alternately with guimp scrolls and small spheres of coloured silk. There have been spangles and small pieces of guimp scattered about on the sides and back, but most of them have gone. There are no ties, and the edges of the leaves are gilt, and have a small gauffred pattern upon them.
The design of this book is extremely simple and effective; the fine stitching on the tulip contrasts well with the strong metal border enclosing it. It may be considered a favourable specimen of the commonest type of satin embroidered books of the seventeenth century. It is not in very good condition.
Psalms. London, 1643.
A very quaint design embroidered on white satin covers a copy of the Psalms, printed in London in 1643, and measuring 4-1/4 by 3-1/4 inches. On the upper side is a representation of Jacob wrestling with the angel, flanked by two trees with large leaves; the angel has wings and long petticoats. The lower board has a representation of Jacob's dream. The patriarch is asleep on the grass, his head upon a white stone, his staff and gourd by his side. He has pale hair and beard. Behind him is a large tree, and in front a conventional flower with leaves and bud, and from the clouds reaches a ladder on which are three small winged angels, two coming down, and one between them going up. Through a break in the clouds is seen a bright space, with rays of golden light proceeding from it.
The back is divided into five panels, in each of which is a flower. These resemble, to some extent, a red tulip, a lily, a red dahlia, a yellow tulip, and a red rose. The work here is not protected by any strong or metal threads, and it is consequently much worn. There are no signs of any tie ribbon, and the edges are plainly gilt.
Psalms. London, 1643.
Another copy of the Psalms, printed in London in 1643, bound in satin, and measuring 3-1/4 by 2-1/4 inches, bears on each side, within a circle, a miniature portrait of Charles I. worked in feather-stitch. The king wears long hair, moustache, and small pointed beard. He is crowned, and has a red cloak with miniver tippet, from under which appears the blue ribbon of the Garter worn round the neck, as it originally was, and having a small gold medallion attached to it. The initials C. R. in gold guimp are at each side. The circle is enclosed in a strong framework of silver cord and guimp in the form of four thin long pointed ovals of leaf form arranged as a diamond. The four triangular spaces between the diamond and the oval are filled with small flowers or small pieces of guimp and spangles. Towards each corner grows a flower, two pansies, and two others with regular petals. The remaining spaces are filled variously with green leaves, small patches of purl and gold spangles, and a strong gold cord encloses the whole. The back is divided into three panels, in each of which is an ornamental conventional flower, the upper and lower ones alike, and worked in shades of red with guimp leaves in relief, and the centre one with six petals worked in yellow and edged with a fine gold cord. There are no signs of ties ever having existed, and the edges of the leaves are gilt and slightly gauffred. It has been suggested that this little book may have belonged to King Charles I.; but the fact of his portrait being upon it is no proof of this, as portraits of this king are more numerous upon the bindings of English books than those of any other person.
Psalms. London, 1646.
The value of 'purl' was recognised some few years back, when I had some made, and explained its value and use to the Royal School of Art Needlework at South Kensington, and I believe they used it considerably.
On books the use of purl is generally auxiliary, but one small book bound in white satin, and measuring 4 by 2-1/2 inches, a copy of the Psalms, printed in London in 1646, is entirely embroidered in this material, helped with gold braid and cord. The design is approximately the same on each side, a large flower with leaves in the centre, and a smaller flower in each corner. On the upper cover the centre flower is yellow and red, with two large green leaves, and the corner flowers are, possibly, intended for a cornflower, a jonquil, a lily, and a rose, but the material is so unwieldy that the forms are difficult to trace, and flowers worked in it are likely to assume forms that are unrecognisable, when finished, however well designed to start with. All the flowers and leaves are made with the purl cut into short lengths, drawn together at the ends by a thread run through, thus forming a succession of small arches. The stalks are made in gold cord. The flowers on the other side are, perhaps, a carnation in the centre, and round it a convolvulus, lily, daffodil, and rose. The back is divided into five panels, in each of which is a 'purl' flower, all worked in the same way, representing successively a tulip, cornflower, carnation, lily, rose, or something analogous to them; round the designs are straight pieces of brown purl, and the edges are bound with a broad gold braid. There are no ties or signs of any, and the edges are simply gilt. The purl is undoubtedly very strong; I possess a small patch-box worked on white satin in a similar way to this little book, and although it has been roughly used for some two hundred and fifty years, the colour of the purl is still good; the upper surfaces of the small spirals, however, show the copper wire bare almost everywhere. The book, not having had anything like the hard wear, is in very good condition, but it is too small for the proper use of so much thick thread. The larger leaves and petals are made in relief by being sewn on over a few pieces of purl laid underneath them at right angles.
Bible. London, 1646.
A Bible printed in London in 1646 is bound in white satin, and embroidered in coloured silks and gold braid and cord, measuring 6 by 3-1/2 inches. The same design is on both sides. In the centre within an oval of gold braid and cord is a spray of vine, with two bunches of grapes, three leaves and a tendril, the fruit and leaves worked in silk, and the stem in gold cord. Enclosing the oval is an arabesque design worked in gold cord and guimp, and at each corner is an oval of thin gold strips and gold cord; the gold strips are done in the manner known as 'lizzarding,' and are kept down by small stitches at intervals.
The back has four panels, in each of which is an arabesque design in coloured silks and gold cord or braid. Although this book is comparatively late, it is in a bad condition, and shows much wear; the design also is weak, and the workmanship inferior.
Applique work, remarks on, 24.
Arthur, Prince of Wales, ostrich feather badge used by, 73.
Bacon's 'Essays' (1625), 76; 'Works' (1623), 75.
Bags for embroidered books, 16.
Berthelet, Thomas, bookbinder and printer, 74, 80.
Bible, 1543 ed., 54; 1583 ed., 67; 1590 ed., 70; 1612 ed., 39; 1619 ed., 84; 1626 ed., 45; 1638 ed., 96; 1642 ed., 48; 1646 ed., 109; 1648 ed., 49; 1674 ed., 78.
Bibliotheque Nationale, embroidered books in the, 20.
Bodleian Library, embroidered books in the, 25.
Brassington, Mr. W. Salt, 1.
Brion, Martin de, 'Tres ample description de la Terre Sainte,' 52.
British Museum, embroidered books in the, 25, 27.
Broiderers, hints for, 21.
Buckingham, Duke of, portrait on 'Bacon's Essays, 1625,' 76.
Canvas bindings, 6, 7, 28-51.
Charles I., portrait on 'Psalms, 1643,' 106.
Charles II., badge on 'Common Prayer, 1638,' 77; 'Emblemes Chrestiens, 1624,' 86.
'Christian Prayers,' 1570 ed., 59; 1581 ed., 37; 1584 ed., 65.
Christopherson, Bishop of Chichester, 'Historia Ecclesiastica' (1569), 57.
Collection of Sixteenth Century Tracts (1536), 80; (1610), 72.
'Common Prayer, 1638' (other editions are with 'Psalms'), 77.
Covers for embroidered books, 18.
'Daily Exercise of a Christian, 1623,' 44.
Day, John, printer, 61.
Derome le Jeune, French bookbinder, 12.
Dibdin's 'Bibliomania,' mention of Queen Elizabeth's embroidery in, 64.
'Double Books,' 38, 89.
Dutch embroidered books, 20.
Edges, ornamentally treated, 16.
Elizabeth, Queen, arms embroidered, 57, 72, 81; books embroidered by, 26, 32, 33, 35, 36.
Embroidered books, definition of, 3.
'Epistles of St. Paul, 1578,' 63.
'Felbrigge Psalter,' 26, 29.
Ferrar, Nicholas, 103.
Fitzhugh, heraldic supporter, 56.
Fletcher, Mr. W. Y., 1.
Floral designs, 5, 6; and on the following books: 'Miroir of the Soul' (1544), 32; 'Prayers of Q. Kath. Parr' (1545), 33; Parker, 'De Antiq. Ecc. Britannicae' (1572), 60; 'Prayers' (1581), 37; 'Prayers' (1584), 66; 'Orationis Dominicae Explicatio' (1583), 67; 'Psalms,' etc. (1606), 38; 'Bible' (1619), 85; 'Daily Exercise of a Christian' (1623), 44; 'Henshaw, 'Horae Successivae' (1632), 90; 'Psalms' (1633), 94; 'Bible' (1638), 96; 'Psalms' (1639), 98; 'Psalms' (1641), 104; 'Psalms' (1646), 108.
Forwarding of embroidered books, 11.
French embroidered books, 20.
Fuller, Thomas, 103.
Gauffred edges, 16.
George II., gift of the Royal Library to the British Museum in 1757, 25.
George III., his books largely rebound, 5.
Grenville, Right Hon. Thomas, his books largely rebound, 5.
Guimp, description of, 9.
Henry VIII., arms on embroidered book, 52.
Henry Benedict, Cardinal York, 19.
Henry, Prince of Wales, his use of the ostrich feather badge, 85; badge upon 'Tracts, 1610,' 73, 77, 86.
Henshaw's 'Horae Successivae,' 90.
Heraldic designs, 5, 6; Arms of Henry VIII., 52; Katherine Parr, 55; Elizabeth, 57, 72, 81; Badges of Queen Mary, 57; Prince of Wales, 73, 77, 86; Crest of Vaughan, 59.
Inglis, Esther, calligraphist, 85.
Italian embroidered bindings, 19.
James II., initials on 'Bible, 1674,' 78.
Law, Dr. W. T., 94.
Little Gidding, 'Needlework' done at, 103.
Lizzarding, description of, 8.
Macray, Rev. W. D., 33, 64.
Magnus, of Amsterdam, bookbinder, 10.
Martyr, Peter, 'Commonplaces,' 69.
Mary, Queen, badge on 'Psalter,' 57.
Metal threads, 8, 29.
'Miroir of the Synneful Soul,' 32.
Montenay, Georgette, 'Emblemes Chrestiens,' 85.
New Testament, 1576 ed., 81; 1625 ed., 42; 1630 ed., 89; 1640 ed., 101.
'Orationis Dominicae Explicatio,' 1583, 67.
Ostrevant, badge of the province of, 73.
Ostrich feather badge of the Princes of Wales, origin of the, 73; on embroidered bindings, 73, 77, 86.
Parr, Queen Katherine, arms on 'Petrarcha, 1544,' 55; Prayers written by, 33.
Parker, Archbishop, 'De Antiquitate Ecclesiae Britannicae,' 60.
Peacocks' feathers used in embroideries, 82.
Pearls used in embroidered bindings: Brion (1540), 52; Christopherson (1569), 57; Parker (1572), 60; 'New Testament' (1576), 81; 'Bible' (1583), 67; 'Bible' (1590), 70; 'Tracts' (1610), 72; Montenay (1624), 85; 'Psalms' (1633), 94; 'Common Prayer' (1638), 77.
'Petrarcha, 1544,' 55.
Pomegranate badge on Queen Mary's 'Psalter,' 57.
Poncyn, of Amsterdam, bookbinder, 10.
Portraits on embroidered books, 5; Charles I., 106; Duke of Buckingham, 76.
'Psalms,' 1606 ed., 38; 1633 ed., 91, 94; 1635 ed., 92; 1639 ed., 98; 1641 ed., 103; 1643 ed., 105, 106; 1646 ed., 108.
Purl, description of, 9, 10, 46; book embroidered alone with, 108.
Satin bindings, 7, 8, 80-110.
Schreiber, the Lady Charlotte, 83.
Scriptural designs and figures of saints used on embroidered books, 5, 6; Abraham and Isaac, 86; the Annunciation, 29; the Crucifixion, 29; David, 86, 99; Jacob's Dream, Jacob wrestling with the angel, 39, 106; St. Peter, 45; St. Paul, 45; Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, 39.
Silk bindings, 81.
South Kensington Museum, embroidered books in the, 20.
Spangles, 9, 28.
Stitches used on embroidered books: Buttonhole or Needlepoint lace stitch, 'New Testament' (1625), 87; 'Psalms' (1633), 95; 'New Testament' (1640), 101; 'Bible' (1642), 48; 'Bible' (1648), 50. Chain stitch, 'Daily Exercise of a Christian' (1623), 44. Feather stitch, sometimes called Shading stitch, 'Bible' (1626), 45; 'New Testament' (1630), 90; Henshaw (1632), 90; 'Psalms' (1635), 92; 'Psalms' (1641), 105; 'Psalms' (1643), 106. Satin stitch, 'Psalms' (1633), 91. Split stitch, 'Felbrigge Psalter' (fourteenth century), 30; 'Way to True Happiness' (1639), 99. Tapestry or Tent stitch, 28; 'Miroir of the Synneful Soul' (1544), 33; 'Prayers' (1545), 34; 'Prayers' (1581), 37; 'Bible' (1612), 39; Ward (1626), 41.
Symbolical figures, 5, 6; Faith and Hope (1625, 1648), 42, 50; Peace and Plenty (1619, 1635), 84, 93.
Thompson, Mr. H. Yates, 41.
Udall's 'Sermons,' 71.
Vaughan crest, on 'Christian Prayers, 1570,' 59.
Velvet bindings, 6, 7, 52-79.
Victoria, Queen, embroidered book belonging to, 77.
Wales, ostrich plumes of the Prince of, 73, 77, 86.
Ward, Samuel, 'Sermons, 1626-7,' 41.
Water-colours used on embroidered bindings, 81-84.
'Way to True Happiness' (1639), 99.
Wheatley, Mr. H. B., 1.
Wilton, Countess of, 33, 35, 64.
Wren, Elizabeth, book embroidered by, 94.
York, Cardinal, 19.
PRINTED BY T. AND A. CONSTABLE, PRINTERS TO HER MAJESTY, AT THE UNIVERSITY PRESS, EDINBURGH: MARCH MDCCCXCIX
The English Bookman's Library
EDITED BY ALFRED POLLARD
ENGLISH EMBROIDERED BOOKBINDINGS
BY CYRIL DAVENPORT, F. S. A.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF ENGLISH PRINTING
BY H. R. PLOMER
ENGLISH BOOK COLLECTORS
BY W. Y. FLETCHER
LONDON KEGAN PAUL, TRENCH, TRUeBNER & CO., LIMITED