IN A TAPESTRY WORK BINDING AND THE ONLY COPY

BIBLE. The New Testament of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, newly translated out of the original Greek: and with the former translations diligently compared and revised by His Majesties speciall command.

Edinburgh, printed by Robert Bryson, and are to be sold at his shop …, 1641

[with]

PSALMS. The Whole Booke of Psalmes. Collected Into English meter by Tho. Sternhold, Jo. Hopkins, W. Whittingham and others, conferred with the Hebrew.

London, imprinted by I. L. for the Company of Stationers., 1643.

£8,500

24mo. Two vols. in one. 1) 264 unnumbered leaves, A-Y12. 2) pp. 282 [vi]. A-M12. Roman letter. First title with typographical border within line border, second title with typographical border, woodcut initials and other woodcut and typographical ornaments in both vols. Early woodcut bookplate of Edwards or Edwardes, baronets, of Shrewsbury on pastedown, “Mary Edwards, 1759” ms. below, autograph Margarett Haynes on front fly. Light age yellowing, X6 with tiny tear with slight loss to a few letters, a few creases in places, the rare marginal spot or mark. Very good copies, crisp and clean, in a charming contemporary tapestry-work embroidered binding on fine canvas, covers and turn ins with a sliver thread border, all over designs of two large flowers, with birds and insects interspersed, on covers, spines with embroidered bands with small flowers in compartments, all edges gilt. Extremities a little worn, upper joint with small crack, small losses to the silver thread border.

Exceptionally rare; most probably the unique surviving copy of the second work, which is not recorded in ESTC, and the only complete surviving copy of the first, in a fine contemporary embroidered binding worked in colours with tapestry-stitch. It is in itself a rare example of a near miniature tapestry work binding.“English books bound in embroidered canvas range over a period of about two hundred and fifty years, the earliest known specimen dating from the fourteenth century, and instances of the work occurring with some frequency from this time until the middle of the seventeenth century. The majority of these bindings are worked in tapestry-stitch, or tent-stitch, in designs illustrating Scriptural subjects in differently coloured threads.” Davenport. English Embroidered Bookbindings.

This copy has been finely worked with minute stitching, with flowers on both covers in blues, greens, yellows, browns and reds, the delicate stitching creating subtle grades of colour. The spine has been worked in bands with small embroidered flowers in imitation of an normal binding. It is possible that the binding was made in Scotland, though the later provenance is English.

“In the sixteenth century embroidered work was very popular with the Tudor princesses, gold and silver thread and pearls being largely used, often with very decorative effect. The simplest of these covers are also the best—but great elaboration was often employed …..Under the Stuarts the lighter feather-stitch was preferred, and there seems to have been a regular trade in embroidered Bibles and Prayer-books of small size, sometimes with floral patterns, sometimes with portraits of the King, or Scriptural scenes.” Davenport.

Davenport also notes that ladies often made embroidered gloves to match the binding “in hands thus gloved these little bindings, always pretty, often really artistic, must have looked exactly right, while their vivid colours must have been admirably in harmony with the gay Cavalier dresses.” Embroidery or needlework had been employed on ms. service books in medieval times but almost no English examples survive. The majority of surviving examples, and the only ones appearing on the market, date from the first half of the C17 when they again became fashionable on small service books or works of piety, particularly among ladies of rank. Few have endured in anything like their original condition. Fragile at best, many have become dilapidated through usage and later neglect, some were defaced or completely destroyed by disapproving Puritans during the Civil War, whilst the richest were invariably looted for their gold and silver threads. Where as here, they have  survived virtually intact, few artefacts are more redolent of the feminine culture and society of Stuart England.

The only institutional copy recorded of this edition of the New Testament is in the National Library of Scotland (imperfect). For the second work ESTC records a 32mo edition of the Psalms by the same printer in 1643 (Wing B2394) but no copy of this 24mo. edition.

  1. ESTC R172929 One copy only at National Library of Scotland (incomplete lacking three leaves). Wing B2645A.
  2. Unrecorded.

L2264

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