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brocade, which became more exclusively the fashionable material for binding. This seems to have been a favourite occupation of the high-born dames about Elizabeth's day; and, indeed, if we remember the new-born passion for books, which was at its height about that time, we shall not wonder at their industry being displayed on the covers as well as the insides*. But very probably this had been a favourite object for the needle long before this time, though unhappily the fragility of the work was equal to its beauty, and these needleworked covers have doubtless, in very many instances, been replaced by more substantial binding.
The earliest specimen of this description of binding remaining in the British Museum is "Fichetus (Guil.) Rhetoricum, Libri tres. (Impr. in Membranis) 4to. Paris ad Sorbonse, 1471. It has an illuminated title-page, showing the author presenting, on his knees, his book to the Pope; and it is decorated throughout with illuminated letters and other ornaments; for long after the invention of printing, blank spaces were left, for the capitals and headings to be filled up by the pencil. Hence it is that we find some books quite incomplete; these spaces having been left, and not filled up.
When the art of illuminaitng still more failed, the red ink was used as a substitute, and everybody is acquainted with books of this style. The binding of Fitchet's 'Rhetoric' is covered with crimson satin, on which is wrought with the needle a coat-of-arms: a lion rampant in gold thread, in a blue field, with a transverse badge in scarlet silk; the minor ornaments are all wrought in fine gold thread.
* We have seen cartouche-boxes embroidered precisely in the same style, and probably therefore of the same period as some of the embroidered books here referred to.
The next in date which I have seen there is a description of the Holy Land, in French, written in Henry VII.'s time, and illuminated. It is bound in rich maroon velvet, with the royal arms: the garter and motto embroidered in blue; the ground crimson; and the fleurs-de-lys, leopards, and letters of the motto in gold thread. A coronet, or crown, of gold thread, is inwrought with pearls; the roses at the corners are in red silk and gold; and there is a narrow border round the whole in burnished gold thread.
There is an edition of Petrarch's Sonnets, printed at Venice in 1544. It is in beautiful preservation. The back is of dark crimson velvet, and on each side is wrought a large royal coat-of-arms, in silk and gold, highly raised. The book belonged to Edward VI., but the arms are not his.
Queen Mary's Psalter, containing also the history of the Old Testament in a series of small paintings, and the work richly illuminated throughout, had once an exterior worthy of it. The crimson velvet, of which only small particles remain to attest its pristine richness, is literally thread-bare; and the highly-raised embroidery of a massy fleur-de-lys is also worn to the canvas on which it was wrought. On one side scarcely a gold thread remains, which enables one, however, to perceive that the embroidery was done on fine canvas, or, perhaps, rather coarse linen, twofold: that then it was laid on the velvet, seamed to it, and the edges cut away, the stitches round the edge being covered with a kind of cordon, or golden thread, sewed over;—just, indeed, as we sew muslin on net.
There are three, in the same depository, of the date of Queen Elizabeth. One a book of prayers, copied out by herself before she ascended the throne. The back is covered with canvas, wrought all over in a kind of tentstitch of rich crimson silk, and silver thread intermixed. This groundwork may or may not be the work of the needle, but there is little doubt that Elizabeth's own needle wrought the ornaments thereon, viz., H. K. intertwined in the middle; a smaller H. above and below, and roses in the corners; all raised high, and worked in blue silk and silver. This is the dedication of the book: "Illustrissimo ac potentissimo Henrico octavo, Angliae, Franciae, Hibernieeq. regi, fidei defensori, et secundum Christum ecclcsise Anglicanse et Hibernicae supremo capiti. Elizabeta Majest. S. humillima filia omne felicitatem p^e^atur, et benedictionem suam suplex petit."
There is in the Bodleian library among the MSS. the epistles of St. Paul, printed in old black letter, the binding of which was also queen Elizabeth's work; and her handwriting appears at the beginning, viz.
Ci August.—I walk many times into the pleasant fields of the Holy Scriptures, where I plucke up the goodliesome herbes of sentences by pruning: eate them by reading: chawe them by musing: and laie them up at length in the hie seate of memorie by gathering them together: that so having tasted thy sweeteness I may the less perceive the bitterness of this miserable life."
The covering is done in needlework by the queen (then princess) herself: on one side an embroidered star, on the other a heart, and round each, as borders, Latin sentences are wrought, such as " Beatus qui Divitias scripture legens verba vertit in opera."— "Vicit omnia pertinax virtus." &c, &e*
There is a book in the British Museum, very pelite, a MS containing a French Pastoral—date 1587 —of which the satin or brocade back is loaded with needlework in gold and silver, which now, however, looks heavy and tasteless.
But the most beautiful is Archbishop Parker's, "De Antiquitate Britannicee Ecclesiee : " A.D. 1572.
The material of the back is rich green velvet, but it is thickly covered with embroidery: there has not indeed, originally, been space to lay a fourpenny- piece. It is entirely covered with animals and flowers, in green, crimson, lilac, and yellow silk, and gold thread. Round the edge is a border about an inch broad, of gold thread.
Of the date of 1624 is a book of magnificent penmanship, by the hand of a female, of emblems and inscriptions. It is bound in crimson silk, having in the centre a Prince's Feather worked in goldthread, with the feathers bound together with large pearls, and round it a wreath of leaves and flowers. Round the edge there is a broader wreath, with corner sprigs all in gold thread, thickly interspersed with spangles and gold leaves.
All these books, with the exception of the one quoted from Ballard's Memoirs, were most obligingly sought out and brought to me by the gentle* Ballard's Memoirs.
men at the British Museum. Probably there are more; but as, unfortunately for my purpose, the books there are catalogued according to their authors, their contents, or their intrinsic value., instead of their outward seeming, it is not easy, amidst three or four hundred thousand volumes, to pick out each insignificant book which may happen to be—
"In velvet bound and broider'd o'er.'''