I found this second edition of the Rev. Henry N. Ellacombe’s The Plant-Lore and Garden-Craft of Shakespeare, published in 1884, fallen to pieces at Mercer Street Books & Records. I took it home with me, immediately determined to design a new binding for it. Something to save it from further damage and do justice to this wonderful tome.
Admirers of Shakespeare may already be familiar with the Reverend Ellacombe’s work, as well as the many other books on Shakespeare’s use of gardens and wildflowers in his writing. The text can be read in its entirety here, and the beautifully illustrated third edition can be viewed here – as well as Ellacombe’s argument for Shakespeare as an Angler.
The book was in lousy but not terrible shape when I acquired it. I purchased a french edition of Madame Bovary along with it, which is also destined for rebinding but turned out to be in somewhat poorer condition and is still awaiting my attention. I simply disassembled and re-sewed Ellacombe’s work, and replaced the tattered pasted-on headbands with hand sewn silk ones. The very vast majority of my work went into the embroidered cover.
I laid out the cover in formal symmetry as a nod to the embroidered books gaining popularity during Shakespeare’s time, as well as Elizabethan era garden design with its symmetric ‘thick-pleached alleys.’ Each quadrant depicts a plant prominent in Shakespeare’s writing (and thus Ellacombe’s) of particular symbolic meaning: honeysuckle, calendula, burdock, and rose, as well as a pansy on the spine.
The linen book cloth as well as embroidery threads and headbanding silk were each naturally dyed with plants foraged in upstate New York. These include oak and birch leaves, apple and cherry barks, and willow fronds.
A labor of love - especially the needle weaving.