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.

Folger Library MS V.a.93. Les C.L. Pseaumes de David, 1599. Dedicated to Prince Maurice of Nassau. Photograph Folger Library, LUNA.

Folger Library MS V.a.94 Argumenta Psalmorum Davidis, 1608. Dedicated to Prince Henry. Photograph Folger Library, LUNA.

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.

Thomas Trevillion, MS Miscellany, 1608. Folger MS V.b.232, fol. 215 v.

A banderole across the vase has the word “Vincit” or “Virescit” embroidered in red.

Folger Library MS V.a.665. The Psalmes of David, 1612. Dedicated to Prince Henry. Back of binding where colors are brighter. Photograph by Folger Conservation Lab.

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.

National Library of Scotland, MS 8874. Les Pseaumes de David, 1615. Dedicated to James VI and I. Photograph by G. Ziegler

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.

Folger Library, MS V.a.91. Octonaries upon the vanitie and inconstancie of the world, by A. de la Roche Chandieu, 1600/01. English calf binding, 17th-century. No dedication. Photograph Folger Library, LUNA.