The second embroidered binding comes from the first half of the 16th century. It is Katherine Parr’s copy of Petrarch printed in Italy in 1544 (below left). The book measures approximately 21 cm high and 14 cm wide. The embroidery is on a ground of dark purple velvet which has been affixed to a leather binding and features Katherine’s coat of arms. The shield is very similar to that on the Garter stall-plate of her brother Sir William Parr (below right). This brass plaque was made in 1552 on his installation as a Knight of the Garter and was fixed to the back of the choir stalls in St. George’s Chapel in Windsor. (The badge of the Garter was on Elizabeth’s New Testament of the previous blog). Sir William was indicted for treason a little later and the plaque was purposely broken in two.
One difference is the supporter on the left of the shield on Katherine’s arms is a fire-breathing goat-like creature but on Sir Williams it is a hart/deer/stag. The only other difference is the addition of a quartering on the upper left. On Katherine’s shield (below left), the two original quarterings have been condensed to make way for six pink (red originally?) roses on a gold ground pierced with a pennant featuring three white roses on a pink ground. I haven’t been able to identify the imagery but my imagination sees Henry’s three children being represented as the white roses and each of his wives as the pink ones, Katherine was his sixth and last. The panel measures only about 3 cm high by 1.5cm wide. Remnants of black silk outlining all the elements remain.
The front and back covers are identical and there is an incredible array of techniques, materials and colours worked on this binding – too many to describe them all here. The detail of the crown (above right) shows the cloth of gold as the ground. The top of the crown is made separately from the lower, inside part and the rim is trimmed with file twist in z twist and s twist couched side by side resembling a braid. The raw edge of the upper part of the crown is visible where the black silk trim has deteriorated. The gemstones alternate red and green satin stitch, and they are shaded and outlined with purls.
The bodies of the supporters are appliqued white cloth of gold and blue satin. They are both sporting chained coronets around their necks (in heraldry “gorged”). The chain is composed of three plies of twist, the lower two couched together with black silk and the third also couched with black separating the pair below creating a very credible looking chain terminating in a large ring of check purl. The body of the goat is very colourfully stitched in blue, yellow and pink (although it was probably red originally). The wyvern (easily identified, even by me) is appliqued blue satin. The scales are represented by filé and purl, and the feathers by rows of filé twist.
Although Katherine is traditionally said to have stitched this binding, the variety of materials and creative techniques suggest that it may have been created by a professional embroiderer.
Next week: Another Parr’s arms…