An English Embroidered Binding
The Whole Book of Psalmes Collected into English Meeter. London: The Company of Stationers, 1635. (Prothro B-289)
Although for centuries leather was the most common material for covering a book, many other materials were used, including a rich variety of textiles. Beginning in the fourteenth century royal and noble collectors often used silk brocade to cover their valuable manuscripts. By the fifteenth century these cloth covers were embroidered with fanciful designs or the owner’s insignia. Often a loose velvet chemise was wrapped around the binding for protection. Bindings with personalized adornment of this sort usually were reserved for small devotional books. While cloth and embroidered bindings fell from favor on the continent in the sixteenth century, they remained popular in England until the Restoration.
The covers of this Psalter are decorated with a delicately embroidered rose tree of coiled silver thread with green leaves and two pink flowers on the lower branches. Although the silver has oxidized, the rose on the lower cover still hints at the original variety of colors used. Multicolored insects made of silk thread buzz around each rose tree, while the spine is divided into three panels of two budding roses and a butterfly.