Over the last few months, numerous books on a wide variety of subjects have come to the TRC Library and some of them are included in the present annotated list. The publications range from studies on medieval textiles and dress, Balkan embroideries, Beer lace, Gothic fashion, to books that deal with the patchwork quilts from the Cook Islands. These books and most of the publications in the TRC Library can be found in the online TRC Library catalogue.
BASSETT, Lynne Zacek (2016). Gothic to Goth: Romantic Era Fashion & its Legacy, Hartford (Connecticut): Wadsworth Athenaeum Museum of Art. ISBN 9780918333285, paperback, pp. 98, numerous colour images and details, endnotes. Price: US$ 24.95.
The book in question is a catalogue to an exhibition with the same name that was held at the Wadsworth Athenaeum Museum of Art, Connecticut from 5th March 2016 to the 10th July 2016. The exhibition has been used to look at the fashion in a formative period of Western history (political, social, economic as well as with respect to fashion and dress history). The exhibition concentrates on women’s fashion, which in a way is a shame, as the revolutions in men’s clothing during this period were equally relevant, albeit that they took (and are taking place) at a slightly slower pace. In particular, the exhibition looks at various aspects of the arts, literature, music and so forth from the early 19th century to the present day, and how these have influenced fashion from the Romantic era to the Goths and Steampunks.
The exhibition and book include beautiful images of garments, literary works, paintings, prints and accessories from the various periods to give an impression of the spirit(s) of these very different periods. The book covers various subjects, including romanticism, the role of colour and patterns, the influence of religion, nature and the picturesque, the age of Emotion and the various romantic revivals that have taken place in the last 200 years. Interestingly, the garments from the late 20th century are outfits by fashion designers such as Alexander McQueen, Jean Paul Gaultier and Nightwing Whitehead. So should/do these designers and outfits actually represent the Goths and Steampunks? Would they be insulted or pleased at such big names being used to represent them in an exhibition? This point is not really discussed.
Recommendation: A beautifully illustrated book with detailed images that are a joy to look at. This book is worth having in a fashion library as an introduction to the period and to show the main developments.
BLURTON, T. Richard (2016). Krishna in the Garden of Assam: The History and Context of a Much-Travelled Textile, London: The British Museum. ISBN 978-0-7D141-2487-2. Softback, pp. 96, colour and b/w illustrations, end notes with bibliography, index. Price: £9.99.
A book to accompany an exhibition with the same name (January - August 2016). Both are about a woven silk textile called the Vrindavani Vastra (literally, “the cloth of Vrindavan”) from Assam in north-eastern India. The textile depicts scenes from the life of Krishna and was probably made in the late 17th century. The textile consists of 12 strips that were sewn together at some point. The strips depict scenes from the early life of Krishna based on the Indian text, the Bhagavata Purana. In addition, the book and exhibition include the Chepstow coat, which is lined with an example of another devotional Krishna textile. A special entry on the book and exhibition is published in Textile Moments.
The book is fascinating as it combines historical and technical details, as well as an explanation of the various designs and how they relate to the life of Krishna and devotees of the Hindu god.
Recommendation: Anyone interested in Indian textiles in general, devotional textiles, the trade and movement of textiles, and just enjoying a well-informed and readable book based on a particular textile and its context. The exhibition is well worth seeing as well!
FRYE, Susan (2010). Pens and Needles: Women’s Textualities in Early Modern England, Philadelphia and Oxford: University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 978-0-8122-2252-4 (available in both cloth ( and paper , 302 pp. (paperback), 21 colour illustrations, c. 30 b/w illustrations, endnotes, bibliography, index. Price (paperback): $27.50 (£18.00).
An academic book that clearly and carefully outlines and discusses the role of the pen and the needle. The book is divided into five chapters that look at different social and economic aspects of written and needled history mainly in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centurie. The first chapter looks at the role of Elizabeth Tudor (later Elizabeth 1 of England), her cousin, Mary Stuart (later Mary, Queen of Scots), and the indomitable, Bess of Hardwick (Countess of Shrewsbury), all of whom in their various ways influenced Tudor (and later) history, and were involved in the design, production and use of needlework.
The second chapter looks at professional painters, Levina Teerlinc, Jan Seaga and Esther Inglis, who were miniaturist and manuscript painters, but who were also involved to some degree in the production of designs that were adapted for needlework. The third chapter looks at the domestic production of needlework (which is not to say the work was of a so-called amateur quality), and in particular why needlework was regarded as one of the virtues of a well-educated woman of the period.
In contrast, the fourth chapter takes the reader into a man’s world and looks at the relationship between women and textiles in two of Shakespeare’s plays, namely Othello and Cymbeline. A thought provoking chapter in itself, which could be expanded into a book. The final chapter looks at Lady Mary Sidney Wroth, who was a well-known writer of prose romance, notably of the book The Countess of Montgomery’s Urania. The book was first published in 1621 and contains a wealth of details about textiles and clothing and the lives of men and women at that time. Her father was Robert Sydney, the 1st Earl of Leicester and as such Lady Mary was a member of an influential, aristocratic family which included the likes of Sir Walter Raleigh. Her knowledge of the symbolic importance of textiles and garments comes across in her various books and sonnets.
Recommendation: This book will be of great interest to anyone interested in the history of women, the role of needlework in the lives of many women, as well as the history of Western needlework in general. It is thought provoking and sheds light on the important role of embroidery in the lives of many women from diverse social and economic backgrounds. It should be in any serious textile library.
Available at: http://www.upenn.edu/pennpress/book/14728.html
KÜCHLER, Susanne and Andrea EIMKE (2009). Tivaivai: The Social Fabric of the Cook Islands, London: The British Museum Press. ISBN: 978-0-7141-2557-2. Softback, pp. 118, fully illustrated in colour Bibliography, index. Price: £10 (originally £25, put recently reduced to £10 in the BM shop).
The Cook Islands are an archipelago of 15 tiny islands, which for over 100 years have been included within the boundaries of New Zealand. The people are close relatives of the Maoris of New Zealand. The islands are believed to have been first settled in about AD 1200 with the first Europeans arriving in 1596. It is not sure when patchwork started to be practised on the islands, but what is certain is that by the 21st century it was widespread and took a wide variety of forms, both technically and decoratively. Appliqué, patchwork and quilting are the main techniques, which are sometimes mixed with beading. Flowers form an important decorative element, and the designs produced tend to be large, bold and cheerful. The patchworks are used, literally, from the cradle to the grave. The book includes numerous examples of how important patchwork has become in women’s lives on the Cook Islands as a means of expressing their talent, artistic skills and feelings.
Recommendation: An intriguing book that shows how needlework can play an active and important role within a particular society. This book is for anyone interested in the history of patchwork and/or quilting, as well as for those looking for inspiration. It will also appeal to those interested in the social and economic role of textiles in the life of a community.
See also tifaifai
OWEN-CROCKER, Gale, Elizabeth COATSWORTH and Maria HAYWARD (eds., 2012). Encyclopedia of Dress and Textiles in the British Isles c. 450-1450, Leiden and Boston: Brill. ISBN 13.9789004124356. Hardback and digital versions, 692 pp, bibliography with each entry, 36 colour illustrations, numerous b/w drawings and illustrations. Price: €217.
A heavy tome (literally) that covers many subjects relating to medieval textiles and dress. There are 582 signed entries arranged in an alphabetical order. It is an interdisciplinary work that uses actual, textual and visual sources. It includes entries about equipment, materials, manufacture, techniques and styles of work. The book covers ecclesiastical, military as well as secular textiles and dress. There are also entries about written texts (prose, poetry and records) relating to the production, storage and use of textiles and dress, including the various medieval, Great Wardrobes.
The title suggests that the book is about British items. However, the range of subjects is much larger and it includes entries about comparative material from the continent as well. The range of subjects and the use of a small arrow to indicate ‘see also’, means that it is easy to navigate and manoeuvre around the various entries.
As with many Brill books, this encyclopaedia is let down by the lack of illustrations in general and the use of colour plates in one section (rather than being spread throughout the book) in particular. These irritations are reduced in the digital version, and Brill has announced that in future (this book was published in 2012) their publications will include more colour illustrations, as the use of colour is a must for any publication about textiles and dress.
Recommendation: This is a serious, academic work that is fun to dip into. I have learnt so much by going from one entry to another and ending up in subjects I had not expected or even knew existed. This book should be in any academic library that has an interest in medieval European life (in all its aspects), medieval British history, as well as in the libraries of those working in the field of archaeological textiles. It will also appeal to those involved in medieval re-enactments (Living History groups), and film and theatre groups who wish to increase their knowledge and accuracy.
Available at: http://www.brill.com/encyclopedia-medieval-dress-and-textiles-british-isles-c-450-1450 It is also available at Brill's Medieval Reference Library Online (BRMLO)
RALUI, Gioja (interpreted, 2014). Sardinian Knot Stitch, ISBN 978-1500158057, 71 pp., numerous drawings, charts and illustrations in colour, bibliography. Price: US$ 29.99.
This booklet is about a form of geometric whitework that is associated with the Teulada region in southern Sardinia. It is carried out with a form of knot locally called Punté nù (‘knot stitch’) or sometimes the Teulada stitch. The origins of this type of whitework are unknown, but it was certainly popular in the late 19th century and although it nearly died out in the 20th century there are efforts to revive it by various local and international groups. The booklet contains a general history of the technique as well as detailed and clear details of the basic knot and how to make a variety of traditional and modern designs. The names of the various stitch variations and designs are given in both Sardinian and English.
Recommendation: A useful booklet that will appeal to anyone who is interested in whitework and those looking for a slightly different method of working embroidery. The technical details are well presented and easy to follow. A little more history about the origins of this type of work would have been appreciated, as well as perhaps a list of Sardinian and other public collections with examples, but that is a personal wish.
WALLER, Diane (2010). Textiles from the Balkans, London: British Museum Press. ISBN 978-0-7141-2583-1. Softback, pp. 87, fully illustrated in colour, glossary, select reading list, index. Price: £2.
This book is one of the Fabric folios produced by the British Museum. These small volumes present different groups of textiles from around the world (such as Afghan textiles, Andes textiles and so forth). The text is intended to be an introduction to the subject rather than an academic study. The main aim is to showcase the British Museum’s collection of ethnic textiles and to be a source of inspiration. Lovely illustrations with lots of close-up details.
Recommendation: these books are intended for a general public who are looking for inspiration and basic information. Nice to have on the bookshelf and used for dipping into. The select reading list, English language publications only, is a handy guide for those who wish to go deeper.
Available at: http://www.britishmuseumshoponline.org/invt/cmc25831
WHITE, Soux (2015): Jane and Ida: Beer Lace Manufacturers to Royalty, Broadoak: Honeybee Books (self publishing company; www.honeybeebooks.co.uk). ISBN 978-1-910616-19-2, softback, 69pp, footnotes. Price: £5.65.
A booklet with considerable information about a group of lacemakers in Beer, in east Devon (England), some of whom produced part of Queen Victoria’s wedding dress (the wedding took place on the 10th February 1840). The booklet concentrates on Jane Washbourne (née Bidney; 1802-1882) and Aida Allen (née Pike; known as Ida, 1876-1959). Jane was a lace dealer and probably a lace maker as well, and she was responsible for the production of the lace bertha and sleeve frills, the veil and the flounce for Queen Victoria’s wedding dress (as well as the other c. 100 lacemakers who worked for many months to produced the flounce). In contrast, Ida was a lace maker and owner of The Lace Shop, who continued to produce Beer lace well into the early 20th century. Both Jane and Ida produced and sold what is often described as Honiton lace, with individual sprigs made of bobbin lace that were later sewn onto a net ground. Some authors (including White) argue, however, that as the flounces and other items of lace were made in Beer they should be called Beer lace, which used a lace technique associated with the Devonshire village of Honiton. The booklet is not about the history of Beer lace or lace making (an intriguing subject in itself), but about the roles of Jane Washbourne and Aida Allen and their families, with a strong emphasis on the genealogy of the two women.
Recommendation: this booklet is about some of the stories behind Beer lace and as such is well worth reading, since it helps to put the role of lace making in the history of women in a broader context. In particular, the importance of Beer lace for many women when their husbands, who were often quarry men, had no work and how lace enabled families to survive. The production of the flounce for Queen Victoria’s dress has an important role in the history of Beer and the region, and one that is recalled and talked about in Beer to the present day.