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The Magnificent British Library

October 17, 2014

It was thrilling for our group to study embroidered bookbindings from the 17th and 18th C at the British Library. Nothing prepares you for the beauty of these books. Some books were tiny and fragile and could fit into the palm of your hand while others such as the velvet covered Bible from King Henry V111 were very large and looked heavy. All the velvet, silk satin or canvas fabrics were embroidered with a collection of stitches. Secrets are revealed when the book is opened to show brightly colored painted images or bold text. We feel like voyeurs as we are shown the contents. Curator Philippa Marks leads the study. She is passionate about the books and has organized them to show examples of a variety of styles. Curator Karen Limper speaks to us about the context in which the books were used. We are all struck by the dedication of the curators and assistants. Our group now has a better understanding of the dimensionality, texture and scale of these treasures. Not to mention the incredible craftmanship of the makers and the foresight of The British Library to collect these gems.
I have taken study groups to see the British Library’s collection over 30 years but we also study the bookbindings online. The images are large and can be downloaded via the British Library’s website. This is an amazing study resource. Thank you British Library for sharing.

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