Another post that only a stitching history nerd will love.

The last post explored some differences between modelbooks that looked like they featured the same patterns, but in fact were not printed from the same plate.  This one looks at one of the most widely reprinted and well known modelbook authors – Johann Siebmacher, and three of his works, all available in on-line editions.  All of the excerpts below are from these three sources:

  1. Schön Neues Modelbuch von allerley lustigen Mödeln naczunehen, zuwürcken unn zusticken, gemacht im Jar Ch. 1597, Nurmberg, 1597, – the source work for Mistress Kathryn Goodwyn’s Needlework Patterns from Renaissance Germany
  2. One reprinted in 1886 as Kreuzstich- Muster: 36 Tafeln des Ausgabe, 1604, that calls out Siebmacher as its author.
  3. One indexed simply as Newes Modelbuch with him as author, possibly 1611, but unclear from the source

Many of the designs in these books seem to repeat edition to edition.  Some are unique to only one.  Before we begin, it’s worth remembering that these books are survivals.  Long use and reuse over decades have resulted in page loss.  None of the editions are complete, as in “all intact in one original binding,” and some may have been re-composed at a later date from other partial works.  But we do what we can with what we have, and Siebmacher’s editions have title pages in them, and distinctive numbering and framing conventions that can lead to a reasonable conclusion that they were from the same printing workshop.

All of the books show graphed designs suited for reproduction using several techniques, including various styles of voided work on the count, lacis (darned knotted net), and buratto (darned woven mesh).  Twp of them also include patterns that would be suitable for other forms of lace.  Over time these patterns went on to be executed in weaving, cross stitch, filet crochet, and knitting, too. The descendants of these designs ended up in multiple folk traditions and samplers on both sides of the Atlantic.

In addition to the longevity of their contents, Sibmachers books are among the earliest that seem to indicate execution of the design using more than one color or texture, a feature not common in the black-and-white printed early modelbooks.  Here are examples the first two books.  But I don’t think that these pages were originally printed two-tone.  I think they were hand-colored to add the darker squares, either at the time of manufacture or later.

1597 The possibly 1611 edition
sib-1 sib-2

Obviously, the two samples above were printed from the same block. But the pattern of the darker squares is different, and if you look closely, the some of the solid squares looked colored in, as opposed to having been originally printed that way.  I can say the retoucher who did the 1597 was a bit neater.  I don’t think these were colored by the book buyer, because every single edition of Siebmacher’s works that I’ve seen have included multi-tone pages like this.

Here are other single- and multi-tone blocks that repeat between these two editions:

1597 The possibly 1611 edition
sib-3 sib-4
sib-7 sib-8
sib-10The brown ink on the G near the talon matches the color of the hand-drawn designs at the back of the book – post-publication additions.

The 1604 edition has similar pages that sport two-tone presentation:

sib 11

But these books are not the same.

That 1604 edition…  It’s curious that there are no blocks that are in the other two Siebmacher works that are also in the 1604 edition, yet all three books are clearly signed by him.  And the majority of the block labels that show stitch counts for the repeat, or pattern height in units – they are curiously different between the 1604 and the others, too.  But still, there evidence of style affinity across the works.  Zeroing in on some specific pattern features:

A very familiar stag, that shows up on some of the earliest samplers, with descendants on American Colonial samplers, all the way up to pieces done in the 1800s.

1604 1597
 sib-11 sib-12

Similar, yet not the same.

Here is a set that’s confounding.  First the hippogriff and undine from 1604:


Compare the item above to these two designs – a winged triton and an undine, each from the 1597 work:

sib-14 sib-15

Lions rampant?

1604 1597
sib-16 sib-17

Even the geometrics are close but not duplicates

1604 1597
sib-18 sib-19

All this aside, even the seemingly close 1597 and possibly-1611 versions have significant differences between them, although they do have exact page duplicates between them. Not so with 1604 – it’s unique when closely compared to the other two, even though all three have the same author attribution, and very similar styles.  This is VERY odd considering the vast amount of physical labor that had to go into producing these blocks.

So.  What’s going on with the 1604 edition?  Why is it so different from the other two?  Has anyone read an academic work that examines this issue in more detail, or corroborates these findings with other editions that are not published on line?

So many patterns, so many questions, so little time to do in depth research.

2 responses

  1. Elaine Cochrane | Reply

    Thank you! I have the Dover reprint of the 1604 edition, and although I’d downloaded Kathryn’s meticulous recharting of 1597 I hadn’t looked at it closely enough to realise that they were completely different patterns. I’m printing it out now. More wonderful patterns to stitch! Now, if only I could download time…

  2. This is so interesting! As far as your questions about why there are differences yet similarities, I guess we’ll never know exactly the reasons. However, we know why this happens today: tastes and fashion changes. I think it’s telling how in 1604 there was a desire to add more elements to the design. The Baroque is coming!

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