I’m reading a book!
This is a big deal!
I’ve always been an avid reader, but lately, all my “reading” has been in audio format while I’m working. But the book I’m going to show you today is not available as an audio book (which is a good thing!), so it’s off the bookshelf and in my hands when I’ve got reading time.
Tudor Textiles is just what the title promises: a book about textiles during the Tudor period (1485 – 1603 in England). If you’re a history lover, an enthusiast for historical textiles, if you are curious about the Tudor period and the royalty and palaces from that era, if you’re into art history – you’ll love this book!
For the 17th century reproduction embroiderer, the book will give you insight into the whole foundation of the styles, materials, and so forth from the era.
Tudor Textiles is an intensive study by Eleri Lynn, who is the curator of the dress collection for Historic Royal Palaces, the independent charity responsible for the operation and upkeep of the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace (where the Royal School of Needlework is housed), the Banqueting House, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace, and Hillsborough Castle.
If you have watched this video on the lost dress of Elizabeth I, you’ll recognize that Eleri Lynn, the author of Tudor Textiles, is also the narrator of the video. (Fascinating video! Watch it!)
The book is published by Yale University Press, incidentally. (Go figure!)
Tudor Textiles is divided into five sections and an epilogue.
I have not finished the whole book yet. So in this review, I’m not going to go into meticulous detail about the contents. Instead, I’ll give you a general overview of the book and tell you what I like about it so far.
This much is true so far: It’s enjoyable to read. But it must be read. It’s profusely illustrated, but words make up the majority of the book, and it begs to be read by anyone who has an interest in history and textiles. You won’t be satisfied with just looking at the pictures! I’m dying to get to the end on materials and techniques, but, although I’ve been tempted to skip ahead, I want to read the book in the author’s original sequence.
I’m a bit of a cranky person when it comes to choosing and reading history books, whether about textiles or not. I suspected that Eleri Lynn’s book would be delightful. She’s not an amateur on the subject and she obviously has a strong background in history.
Still, whenever I acquire a book that purports to be a history book, the first thing I do is turn to the back.
I explore the bibliography and the notes sections. If there is no notes section (or a goodly amount of footnoting within the text itself), and if the bibliography is sparsely populated (and especially if it’s lacking primary sources), I know that, most likely, I’m going to be annoyed by the book.
When I read a history book, I want the answers to questions like “Where is this information from? What evidence is there to support this conclusion?” and so forth. If an author of a purported history does not supply answers to those kinds of questions, I have a very hard time taking the history seriously.
Needless to say, I was comforted by my glance at the back of the book, where there’s an extensive bibliography, replete with primary and secondary sources, and a copious notes section.
So I delved happily in at the front. And every day, I look forward to my reading time!
Granted, I like the word part of a good history book. It’s the meat of the matter, after all.
But there’s that other side of me that revels in the illustrations – and this book is sumptuously illustrated!
From tapestries of the period, to embroideries, to engravings, to portraits and other art from the era, and art depicting the era, the illustrations are wonderful and copious!
I especially love the art behind the art. You’ll find among the illustrations some preliminary sketches of tapestries, for example.
There’s a fabulous original embroidery design marked on linen and unstitched.
Engravings are such a powerful part of art history – they tell a story in a brief, bold, and forceful way. So I’m always excited to see engravings included among illustrations.
For the sampler lover, in section 3 on Private Spaces, you’ll find some sampler history. I haven’t read this whole section yet. I’m working through it now.
It’s actually my favorite part of the book at this point.
The book focuses on the Tudor era and especially the textiles of the court and those surrounding the court. They are secular textiles, not ecclesiastical, and they were a crucial element in the whole display of wealth and power of the court and the ruling class. They were meant to be seen.
But there were private textiles, too – the ones that adorned the familial, private living spaces, that made these spaces beautiful and that contributed to the comfort of living. From decorative toweling, to intricately woven napkins, to stitchery samplers that occupied the ladies or instructed the girls – these are the textiles behind the scenes, and though perhaps not as widely seen, they factor into the whole story of the times, too.
I cannot wait to get to the last section on materials and techniques! There’s a fascinating series here of three preparatory drawings for engravings, that depict the whole silk production process. They’re fabulous illustrations! I can’t seem to get to this section fast enough…
In a Nutshell
For textile history lovers, I think the book is a must. Even if the Tudor period isn’t your historical cuppa, all eras of history intertwine and build upon each other. That’s just the way history works, and it can’t work otherwise! To have a thorough understanding of any subsequent era, you have to see and understand what came before. And this book is a great way to understand the textile history of the Tudor era.
For the embroiderer, the book will give you an inexorable appreciation for what we have today and for the development of textile art throughout history.
It is thoroughly readable.
And it is beautifully put together and illustrated, so even if you just want it for the pictures, you can’t go wrong!
Where to Find It
In the US, you can find Tudor Textiles available now through Amazon. I’ve got it listed in the first spot on my “Recommendations” list here on my Amazon page.
Worldwide, with free shipping, you’ll find Tudor Textiles available here through Book Depository.
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