Embroidered Book Covers

Bibliophile Anthony Tedeschi is on a mission to raise awareness about rare book collections in Australasia. In so doing, the deputy curator for special collections for the University of Melbourne in Australia has also shed light on works of embroidery from 17th century Europe.

In his blog Antipodean Footnotes (, Tedeschi recently wrote about two rare books in Melbourne University’s collection that feature textile bindings with embroidered decorations. One is The Book of Common Prayer (London, 1629), which measures just 11 centimeters tall. “The cover is made of white satin over blue silk, with birds and flowers embroidered with different colored silk set within frames of gold thread, with gold thread borders on the spine and both sides,” Tedeschi writes.

The other is a copy of L’Office de la Vierge Marie pour tous les temps de l’anee (Paris, 1636), bound with Pierre Coton’s Dévotes oraisons pour tous chrestiens et catholiques (Paris, 1637). Featuring a green velvet binding, the book is elaborately embroidered with floral motifs in silver thread and sequins. “Textile bindings,” Tedeschi writes, “were produced primarily by professional embroiderers, but were also made by individual female owners. They were very much in vogue in England during the first half of the 17th century, particularly as covers for devotional books.”