Detail View: LUNA: Folger Bindings Image Collection: Front covers, V.a.94.

Image Caption: 
Front covers, V.a.94.
General Description: 
A velvet and embroidered binding by Esther Inglis (?), ca. 1608. Red velvet over pasteboard, decorated with silver thread embroidery and seed pearls. Silver clasp. Repaired (19th century).
Inglis, Esther, 1571-1624.
Country / Style: 
ca. 1608
Call Number: 
Possibly, Henry, Prince of Wales (1594-1612); Edward Quail, Sotheby, Wilkinson and Hodge, May 10,1901, lot 95; Sir J. A. Brooke, Red Cross sale, April 26, 1916; Mortimer L. Schiff, Sotheby's, March 24,1938, lot 245; Lucius Wilmerding (1880-1949), Parke-Bernet, part ii, March 6,1951, lot 483; Lessing J. Rosenwald (1891-1979); the gift of Lessing J. Rosenwald to the Folger Library, 1951.
Esther Inglis, calligrapher, 1571-1624
Bible. O.T. Psalms. Latin. Argumenta psalmorum Davidis per tetrasticha manu Estherae Inglis exarata strenae nomine illus : [manuscript] : principi Henrico oblata, 1608.
Hamnet URL:
Technical Description: 
Sewn on two recessed alum-tawed thongs. Two plain and one red and gold decorative endpapers and pastedowns. Red cloth joint (19th century). Edges gilt. Head- and tailbands sewn with green and white thread over a cord core. Single silver clasp. Pierced hasp, hinged from lower cover, catches a silver pin projecting from fore-edge of upper cover.
50 x 76 x 25 mm.
Decorative Description: 
Covers of crimson velvet bordered in a laid silver gilt thread. Stylized flowers, leaves, and stems in a vase arrangement outlined in silver gilt thread. Leaves and petals couched and stitched in silver purl and seed pearls. Petals of central flower couched and embellished with silver gilt purl, seed pearls, and French knots. Stylized flowers growing from earth mounds at base of vase worked in silver purl. Stylized clouds and rays of sun in silver gilt purl decorate the corners. All on a silver purl background. Spine, a single panel framed in laid silver gilt thread filled with arabesques of silver gilt thread and silver purl.
Other Details: 
Born in France, probably at Dieppe, Esther Inglis (1571-1624) was taken to England after the Saint Bartholomew massacre in 1572. She was instructed in the art of calligraphy by her mother, Marie Prisott, a writing mistress. Over 40 manuscript books in Esther Inglis's hand survive, most of them signed and dated and all but a few given as "gifts" to members of the nobility. It is possible that she was paid for her books, but it seems more likely, from the tone of the dedications, that they were attempts to obtain favor or employment. The intricate and delicate needlework on this binding suggests that it was the work of a professional embroiderer. However, A. H. Scott-Elliot has determined that Esther Inglis was known for being skillful with a needle as well as a pen. Since Esther and her husband, Bartholomew Kello, were often in financial difficulty, it seems unlikely that she would have wanted to pay a professional embroiderer and, therefore, likely that she created this binding herself. It covers a manuscript in her hand dedicated to Henry, Prince of Wales (1594-1612). Although there is no evidence to suggest that Prince Henry actually received this beautiful little book, a decorated border surrounds the page of dedication, with the Prince's arms appearing on the verso.
Dorothy Judd Jackson, Esther Inglis Calligrapher, New York, 1937, no. xxiv; A. H. Scott-Elliot and Elspeth Yeo, "Calligraphic Manuscripts of Esther Inglis (1571-1624): a Catalogue," Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, 84:1 (March 1990), pp. 11-86; Robert Williams, "A Moon to Their Sun: Writing Mistresses of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries," Fine Print, 11:2 (1985), pp. 88-98.
Folger 8:2 (Folger Shakespeare Library, Fine and historic bookbindings from the Folger Shakespeare Library, New York, 1992).
Binding Terms (RBMS): 
Clasps -- England -- 17th century.
Binding Terms (RBMS): 
Cloth bindings -- England -- 17th century.
Binding Terms (RBMS): 
Embroidered bindings -- England -- 17th century.
Binding Terms (RBMS): 
Velvet bindings -- England -- 17th century.