52 Weeks of Fantastic Bindings: Week 22
A 16th century German book bound in 19th century British Paisley cloth
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.
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.
Any help in further identifying patterns of this textile is greatly appreciated!