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Tapestry covered Bible

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©V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Tapestry covered books are not a common item. The weaving is, literally, very fine work, woven entirely in silk, silver and silver-gilt thread, with a very high warp count. It was an expensive piece and was almost certainly a gift for a special occasion or for a particular person. Nothing, however, is known about either the donor or the recipient.  

The edition of the Bible decorated this way was described as 'newly translated out of the originall tongues: and with the former translations diligently revised by His Majesties speciall commandement'. In other words, it was what is known now as the King James version. This copy was printed in London in 1614 by Robert Barker, 'printer to His Majestie', only three years after the new translation was first published.

The gift would have been doubly precious because it was the newly translated version.

The covers show two stories from the Old Testament. On the back, picured above, Jonah emerges from the belly of the whale. On the front, Moses stands in front of the Burning Bush, the word DEVS at the centre of the cloud representing the presence of God. http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O78862/book-cover/

The small framed pictures are set amidst small, stylized flowers, not very evenly worked. The spine was decorated with a gold star in a circular cloud.

The design is very simple, possibly copied from an illustrated Bible. It was also easy to weave in any of the small workshops known to exist in London since it did not need either a large loom or more than one man's labour. It is curious that it should have been called 'Sheldon', since it scarcely conforms to the criteria set out.


Museum number T.45-1954

6 3 / 4 x 4 1 / 2 x 1 3 / 4 inches ;17 x 11 x 5cms

Silk, silver and silver-gilt thread

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