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'A Schole-House for the Needle' First published by Richard Shorleyker in 1632

My husband, John, bought this book at a 'rummage' sale in Newport Shropshire during the 1940s for a few pence because he did not know its purpose. We have no idea who sent it to the sale. The book spent the rest of John's childhood in his 'Museum'. It has managed to stay with him over three house moves. He still buys things if he does not know their use, hence our house is full of old bits and pieces! During a holiday in France, many years later, we visited a lace museum in Bayeux, saw things similar to those in our book, and realised its purpose as a lace and embroidery pattern book.

I started learning to make lace and showed the little book to my teacher Judy; she was very excited about it. She kept trying to encourage us to find out more about it and lent us books with references to Shorleyker. Judy and I went on a Wolverhampton Lacemakers' visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum. The first thing we saw in the lace department was a copy of Shorleyker's book in a glass cabinet. We went to the V & A library and asked to see the facsimile of their book and also that of the older edition held at the Bodleian Library. We checked the pages in our copy compared with the other two, we found that our Shorleyker of 1632 had more pages than the V&A copy of the same date and the 1624 version held by the Bodleian Library. Our copy has only three pages missing: the frontispiece and two pages at the end of the book. The V & A book has part of the frontispiece, but none of the copies have the last two pages.

At the invitation of Clare Brown of the Victoria and Albert Museum, John and I visited the museum. We were shown an interesting garment made about 1630 which included embroidery patterns from Shorleyker, a facsimile of the book A Schole-House for the Needle and references to it in both Mrs Bury Palliser's book (1902) and that of Arthur Lotz (1933). The Royal Museum of Art and History in Belgium, which is recorded by Lotz as having a pristine copy of the book, have told us they have a record that they once held it, but that it is lost.

It was suggested that I should do a simple embroidery based on an example from the book and that it should be used for the cover of this Reproduction. The patterns are simply outlined in chain stitch using red silk on linen; the linen is from a utility tea towel of the 1940s and the thread from Pipers Silks. The idea is based on the woman's smock from about 1630, mentioned by Santina Levey, and seen in the Victoria and Albert Museum (T.2-1956), which is linen embroidered with red silk in outline.

I wanted to use the original page numbers in this reproduction even though all the pages of our book do not have numbers on them as part of the pages. With the help of Lotz's book of 1933 we found the pages were numbered Al to 4 to 01 to 4 but leaving out J. Our copy has sixty-one pages of which fifty-six are pattern pages, printed only on one side of the page, one page of Introduction and two pages of poems (three pages printed on both sides) and a title page at Kl half way through the book. The Frontispiece and one page of Foundation Pattern and one page of Conclusion are missing.

Whilst endeavouring to obtain more information about A Schole-House for the Needle my husband and I examined A History of lace by Mrs Bury Palliser (1902). In the appendix, number 109, she includes a paragraph which purports to be the final paragraph of Shorleyker's book.

And because I would not have any one mistaken in any of these patternes contayned in this Booke, for some peradventure will look to find workes set out in order as they should be wrought with the needle or flourished upon the Tent &c. But as I have said before in the beginning of the Booke, that. that is here published are only but diversity of patternes, out of which the workwoman is to take her choice of one or more at her pleasure and so have them drawne out into forme and order of worke. Of which skill if it may be I would have serving-men (such as have time enough) to practice and be skilful in which will be quickly learned if they would, with a little patience applie their mindes to practise it. A quarter of the time that they spend in playing cards, tables, quaffing and drinking would make them excellent in this knowledge especially such as are ingenious and indued with good wits, as for the most part all of them have; Againe it is a thing that no doubt would yield them both praise and profit, beside the pleasure and delight it would be unto them, and a good inducement to drawe on others of their own ranke and qualitie to the like practice and imitation.'

Could this be the missing conclusion?

Elizabeth Mason 1998

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