Embroidered Book Covers

While researching book bindings for a project, I’ve been coming across these gorgeous embroidered book covers and bindings from the 16th and 17th century. Thought I’d make a blog post out of these exquisite works of art.. The original scans for the books are scattered throughout The British Library Database of Bookbindings. I’ve just selected, cropped, and optimized them. The larger size originals are in a flickr set so that all the amazing details can be seen and are worth clicking through and taking a good look at.

17th century embroidered satin book with floral motif.

Embroidered satin book with floral motif. The Whole Booke of Psalmes (London, 1639)

16th century embroidered velvet book with scroll and floral pattern.

Embroidered velvet book with scroll and floral pattern. Orationis Dominic: explicatio (Geneva, 1583)

17th century embroidered satin book with pictorial angel and trees.

17th century embroidered satin book with pictorial angel and trees. The Whole Booke of Davids Psalmes (London, 1634)

17th century embroidered Canvas book, pictorial angel and floral motif  with two red ribbons.

Embroidered Canvas book, pictorial angel and floral motif with two red ribbons. The Booke of Common Prayer (London, 1611)

17th century embroidered velvet book cover.

17th century embroidered velvet book cover. A Comfortable Treatise, for the reliefe of such as are afflicted in Conscience: revised the third time, … interlaced, and enlarged in many places. (London, 1620)

Front cover of 17th century embroidered satin book with two sets of metal clasps.

Back cover of 17th century embroidered satin book with two sets of metal clasps.

Front and back covers of an embroidered satin book with two sets of metal clasps. The Whole Booke of Davids Psalmes (Edinburgh, 1644)

17th century embroidered satin book cover with silver threads.

Embroidered satin book cover with silver threads. Good Newes from Heaven. (London, 1631)

17th century embroidered book cover with sequins.

Embroidered book cover with sequins. The Holy Bible (London, 1642)

17th century satin embroidered book cover with threads of coloured silk 'woven' across upper and lower covers.

Satin embroidered book cover with threads of coloured silk ‘woven’ across upper and lower covers. The Whole Booke of Psalmes (London, 1627)

5 thoughts on “Embroidered Book Covers

  1. Amazing and gorgeous too. How luxurious, to sit with one of these in your hand to read. I admit that I love the flash and sparkle of iPad, but it can’t match the appeal of a handmade binding like these. I suspect as ereaders capture more of the casual reading market, we’ll see a greater number of specialty bindings like this though, coinciding with the emergence of the handmade movement.

  2. Stace, I do think there is a renewed interest in traditional book binding and print making. I’ve been deconstructing and reconstructing antique books hoping to incorporate more of these techniques and ideas into my own work.

  3. Thanks for sharing! I was in Vegas over the weekend and went into a rare books store where they had a couple lovely books with embroidered covers– so naturally when I got home I had to find out more about them!

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