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Book Review: English Medieval Embroidery Opus Anglicanum

English Medieval Embroidery, Opus Anglicanum was published in association with the Victoria and Albert Museum, to accompany a major exhibition held in 2017.

Edited by Clare Browne, Curator of European Textiles, pre-1800, V&A London, Glynn Davies, Curator of medieval sculpture, V&A London and M.A. Michael, Academic Director of Christie’s Education, London and research fellow at the School of Culture and Creative Arts, University of Glasgow, this book will fast become a standard reference for research into medieval English embroidery.

The book’s expensive, but worth it, with 310 pages brimming with exquisite, close-up photography capturing amazing stitch detail – an embroiderers dream – especially those interested in the history of textiles, design and embroidery.

This catalogue/monograph/book is the result of a research project undertaken during preparations for the exhibition, with essays by leading experts in both historical textiles and English medieval art, collaborating for this project.

Chapters/essays encompass The Making of Medieval Embroidery by Lisa Monas, Embroidered Textiles in the Service of the Church by Nigel Morgan, Embroiderers and the Embroidery Trade by Glyn Davies, Opus Anglicanum and its Medieval Patrons by Julian Gardner, The Artistic Context of Opus Anglicanum by M.A. Michael, Ecclesiastical Embroidery in England from 1350 to the Reformation by Kate Heard and England and Central Europe, Parallel Developments and Exchange after 1350 by Evelin Wetter.

This is followed by a comprehensive Catalogue featuring 83 items, including stained glass, needlework tools, a Herbal and Bestiary model book, fragments of a horse trapper, a Bible Picture Book, and of course many, many pieces of stunning embroidery.  A comprehensive glossary and bibliography rounds off the book’s offerings.

So the reasons for purchasing this book would be twofold: one would be to glorify in the stunning photography, and that alone is worth the hefty investment, but the essays more than hold their own weight and would be the second reason to capitalise on this authoritative volume on such a fascinating subject.

This is a 10/10 from me.  It’s a book that could grace any contemporary coffee table or add volume and depth to the medieval section of your embroidery library.

It’s a joy from cover to cover.  A book to revel in.

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English Medieval Embroidery Opus Anglicanum
Edited by Clare Browne, Glyn Davies and M.A. Michael with the assistance of Michaela Zöschg
An outstanding book brimming with sumptuous, detailed photography, essays by leading experts and a catalogue highlighting the exquisite beauty and craftsmanship of medieval embroidery, Opus Anglicanum.

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