52 Weeks of Fantastic Bindings: Week 22

Friday 11 November 2011

A 16th century German book bound in 19th century British Paisley cloth

The front cover of TypGL.B34BC, Johannes Cochlaeus's letter to King James V of Scotland regarding Alexander Alesius.

This one is a bit of a mystery. As I was re-shelving some books last week, the pattern of the fabric used to cover this book caught my eye. Image my surprise as I pulled off the shelf a 16th century German book that had been bound in extremely well preserved  19th century Paisley patterned fabric.

This German book has some very Scottish reasons for being in our collection: it is a letter written by Johannes Cochlaeus (1479-1552) to King James V of Scotland in defence of Alexander Alesius (1500-1565). Alesius was a Scottish theologian, born in Edinburgh and educated at St Anrews (one of the first students of St Leonard’s College). During his time in St Andrews, Alesius was exposed to the ideas of the Wittenberg reformers, and played a large part in Patrick Hamilton’s trial. After the Hamilton trial, Alesius came out against the moral and pastoral failings of the clergy, for which he was violently persecuted. Fearing for his life, Alesius fled the country and ended up in Wittenberg, the city of reformers. Alesius, after being convicted of heresy and excommunicated from the church, returned to England for four years in 1535, only to escape again.

The title page of "Pro Scotiae regno apologia Iohannis Cochlei, aduersus personatum Alexandrum Alesium Scotum" printed in 1534 in Leipzig.

Our copy of this German work on an important figure in early Scottish reformation was probably owned by someone in Scotland. It is unknown when this book came into our collection, however it is assumed sometime after the mid-19th century. It has been bound in what is probably 19th century Paisley patterned fabric, which became popular in the 19th century. This arabesque pattern put the small Scottish town of Paisley on the map, which by the mid-19th century had over 7,000 weavers working in town. It is highly possible that this fabric came from Paisley, making it that much more Scottish.

The back cover of TypGL.B34BC, showing the full Paisley pattern of the fabric used to cover the book.

Any help in further identifying patterns of this textile is greatly appreciated!


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3 thoughts on "52 Weeks of Fantastic Bindings: Week 22"

  • Rachel Hart
    Rachel Hart
    Friday 11 November 2011, 11.35am

    Hi Daryl, You might like to contact colleagues with textile archives in their collections - such as Helen Taylor at Heriot-Watt. They might be able to help!

  • St Andrews Rare Books
    St Andrews Rare Books
    Friday 11 November 2011, 11.38am

    Anyone interested in following this up with a bit of research would make a good start of it at Heriot-Watt indeed: http://www.tex.hw.ac.uk/about/archive.htm

  • Christine Gascoigne
    Christine Gascoigne
    Friday 11 November 2011, 12.48pm

    it may be worth contacting Chris Smout - he has an interesting collection of Paisley textiles, as far as I remember. Christine G.


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