The bindings on Esther Inglis’s manuscripts range from sumptuous embroidered ones which she may have done herself, to gold-tooled leather bindings in a style similar to others of the period, and finally to a few in vellum. Although a few of her manuscripts have been rebound over the years, most remain in their original bindings, a feat of preservation probably due to their perceived preciousness. By my count, 17 of the bindings are embroidered, 25 are in leather (of which 8 are modern bindings), and 5 are in vellum. A full study of the bindings remains to be done, but detailed information about a few of them will be found in the Scott-Elliot/Yeo Catalogue, in the online Bindings database of the Folger Library, and by Nicolas Barker in his facsimile edition of Les Proverbes de Salomon (2012), 28-30.
Scott-Elliot and Yeo point out that Scottish humanists, John Johnston and Robert Rollock who wrote dedicatory poems praising Inglis’ work, note her skill with the needle as well as the pen, which suggests that she might have made the embroidered bindings herself. As Scott-Eliot and Yeo also note, this would have saved her the expense of hiring a professional embroiderer. Robert Rollock’s verse, as translated in Barker, reads: “Her needle vies with her pen: Esther’s skill beats both – no prize for a winner.”
For a detailed description of the binding of Folger MS V.a.93 see here and for V.a.94 see here.
The front and back boards of Folger MS V.a.665 are embroidered with a stylized vase of flowers similar to those found in the 1608 design book of Thomas Trevillion.
A banderole across the vase has the word “Vincit” or “Virescit” embroidered in red.
The central rondal of NLS MS 8874, dedicated to James VI and I, features a phoenix, the mythical bird who dies and rises again and was associated with both Elizabeth I and James. James wrote a poem An Metaphoricall Invention of a Tragedie called Phoenix (1584), mourning the death of his close mentor, Esmee Stuart, Duke of Lennox. Through the poem he both resurrects Lennox and himself as king.
The leather bindings appear to have been made in London or Edinburgh. A detailed description of the work on Folger MS V.a.91 will be found here.