Kimberly Servello's Embroidery Blog

Kimberly Servello - Pattern Drawer and Embroideress

Friday, July 29, 2011

Early 17th Century Block printing on Linen for Embroidery

I looked around a bit more on the Victoria & Albert museum site and found some other linen pieces that the V&A states were block printed.   I've listed the Accession no's below for your reference.

The very early pieces (14th century) were from Germany and Italy, although in the notes it states that by the last quarter of the 15th century this process was also being used in England.  I don't believe these early pieces were intended for embroidery.  They appear to be just decorative fabrics and remind me a little of today's Toil de Jouy fabric.  This is a small sampling, and in my mind, doesn't rule out the possibility that embroidery patterns were also being block printed ( V&A's term) onto linen for embroidery.  I'd need to research it further to make a conclusion.

The early 17th century pieces in my list are for embroidery, and they are from England.  The V&A is terming it "block printing" on piece T.174B-1931, although if you read the descriptive plate photographed with the coif, there it states that it was printed from engraved plates.  Curiouser and curiouser...

Here's the list of pieces at the V& A:

Acc No.         Title                    Origin           Date

1745-1888     Printed Linen     Germany     1350-1400
7027-1860     Printed Linen     Italy            1350-1400
T.21-1946      Coif                   Britain        1600-1629
T.174B-1931 Linen              England         Early 17th c.


  1. I would thought that engraving and block printing were radically different, more particularly since I suspect engraving would be a later technique as it requires higher pressure... It certainly sounds as though the V&A need to be a bit more precise in their terminology!

  2. Hi Rachel,
    They are different techniques. Block printing, I'm assuming, means wood block printing. Engraving would be a design cut onto a metal plate and then stamped on paper (using ink, obviously). Etchings, which came later I believe, also are designs cut into metal plates, but acid is used to "cut" the design into the plates instead of tools.

  3. It sounds like you're having fun!

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