Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire, England, houses a world-famous collection of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century textiles. The fact that these exquisite pillow covers, wall hangings, bedcovers, carpets, and upholsteries, many decorated with superb embroidery, have survived in such good condition is little short of miraculous, and due in part to the formidable Countess of Shrewsbury, better known as Bess of Hardwick, who built the house in the 1590s. In her will, Bess instructed her heirs to 'have speciall care and regard to p'serve the same from all manner of wett, mothe and other hurte or spoyle thereof'. In this first illustrated and scholarly account of the collection, Santina Levey places the textiles in their day to day context. Using ledgers and other archival material she describes the origins of the different types of textiles, whether purchased ready-made or put together and decorated by embroiderers, whose work is illustrated by stunning close-up details.
Inventories, letters, and personal reminiscences are used to chart the later history of the house and the inevitable alterations that four hundred years of use wrought on the original furnishings. Complete with a glossary and bibliography, this is an invaluable source of information for anyone interested in Elizabethan textiles.