A tapestry bible

Welcome to our new bookbinding thread in the Collections Highlight post series. Here at the Special Collections Centre, we are lucky to have a wide variety of works in their original bindings which reveal much about the history of each book. We plan to share some of these exceptional bindings one by one, so keep a look out for forthcoming posts in this series.

A bible in a tapestry binding


Special Collections holds a bible with an exceptionally beautiful embroidered binding. Rich textile bindings were not uncommon in the 17th century decorating devotional books such as bibles and psalters but this binding is unusually fine. The use of so much silver thread is rare and the binding also has what we would call today sequins but which were known as spangs or spangles in the 1600s which add an extravagant texture. The design of fruit and flowers is finished in coloured silks of blue, rose and green. Embroidered bindings were usually commissioned individually but we do not know who the original owner of this bible was.

The bible is interesting too. It is an edition of the Geneva bible with a false title-page claiming to be published in London in 1599 but in fact printed in Amsterdam in 1633 and then imported, illegally. Bound with the bible is an edition of the psalms, published in Edinburgh in 1632 by Janet Kene, the widow of Andro Hart, who had been one of Scotland’s most successful publishers and also importer of books.
1633 was the year in which the first edition of the King James Authorised Bible was printed in Scotland by Robert Young of London who had been appointed ‘King’s Printer in Scotland’. Janet had opposed this appointment, petitioning Parliament in protest but with no success. Perhaps this edition of the bible and psalms could be viewed as a direct challenge not only to the authorised bible but to a monopoly on bible printing in Scotland. Certainly, it was a book that was precious and special enough to someone to warrant the finest of coverings.

The Bible, that is, the holy Scriptures conteined in the Olde and Newe Testament… Amsterdam : Crafoorth, 1633.
pi 22:42 633 1

If you like this post, let us know in the comments. Also if you know of any special bindings in our collections that you would like to see featured, please let us know!

Posted by: Jane


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