Our shops are open and we are processing online, telephone and email orders as normal


Théorie du Tissage [Theory of Weaving]

?Lyon: S. Simmonds, c.1900 Stock Code: 139189
Reserve Ask us a question

Exceptional manuscript silk weaving course book.

Exceptional French course workbook in superb, fresh condition, concentrating entirely on silk production and weaving and containing a spectacular array of fabric samples from simple taffetas and serges to pekins, fantasies, and royales, in a range of superb colours and patterns. Most likely generated at the École de Tissage in Lyons, the French silk capital.

The school was founded around 1884 offering a basic day-time course for teenagers and a night-school for factory workers and foremen. The enterprise flourished, offering further courses in industrial design, Saint-Gallen machine-embroidery, and machine maintenance, and by 1914 it had close to 500 students; in 1926-7, the year in which it was amalgamated with the l'École des Beaux-Arts de Lyon, that number had more than doubled. Students were required to produce a record of the courses that they attended, and carry out analysis of textiles in terms of the weaving techniques employed to produce various styles and patterns. The present example is distinguished by its sole focus on silks, by the quality and range of the samples covered in the analyses, and the precision of their execution. The manuscript is named, as is common, on the binding, and the name is unusual in being English rather than French, that and the fact the hand is not the usual copybook ronde may suggest that the compiler was not local. However, we have been unable to make a more exact identification.

The document opens with a brief summary of silk production, some 16 pages, from the cocoon and its processing, through spinning, cleaning, classification, and dying, with diagrams and numerous worked examples of the formulae required in the processes. This leads into a lengthier section, around 68 pages, setting out the process of weaving from the most basic forms to the most complex all accompanied by beautifully accomplished weaving pattern diagrams. Thereafter the greater part of the manuscript consists of a series of analyses of silk fabrics of increasing complexity. The first swatch is simple piece-dyed taffeta, the sample accompanied a detailed analysis of thread count, threading, warp, and so forth together with schematics of the loom set-up and weave pattern. The weave pattern, here and throughout, has been worked on a separate piece of thicker stock and mounted, no doubt because the challenging elaboration of the designs and use of colour increased the likelihood of error and of marring the finished text. Examples follow that work with patterned taffetas of developing intricacy, stripes, plaids, and raised textures. The next group of fabrics are serges, again of advancing complexity of weave, the course then moves on to satins, showing a spectacular range of colour and some beautifully subtle texturing, including a superb Old Gold swatch with foliate brocading. The sequence of progressively more complex textiles continues with close-woven royales, ribbed reps, fluted cannelés, splendid striped pekins, and finally a number of subtle, cleverly textured fantasie - fancy - silks.

Aside from its obvious technical and historical interest, the clear exposition of current weaving techniques, this volume is visually captivating with its collection of fine fabric specimens and the intricate and intriguing schematics. A highly desirable exemplar.

Confused? Read our glossary


Folio (380 x 258 mm). Contemporary dark red half sheep, moderate red-brown sand-grained cloth, title and compiler's name gilt to tail of the spine, edges lightly sprinkled brown, deep yellow Gold Vein marbled endpapers.


250-page French manuscript, unpaginated, black ink with red underlines and paragraph headings, entirely in one clearly legible cursive hand, rather than the ronde typical of these documents, many of the early explanatory pages with minor corrections in bl


Slightly rubbed, some scuffing on the front joint and at the corners which are through and softened, front hinge cracked through to the tapes, two of three which are holding, remains sound, text-block solid if a lightly browned, and with some offsetting from the darker samples, the swatches themselves almost entirely in fine excellent condition, overall very good.


With the exception of framed items*, Peter Harrington offers free delivery on all UK orders of rare books, maps and prints placed through this website. Delivery to USA and the rest of the world is similarly free for orders over £200.

View Full Delivery Details



Established in 1969, Peter Harrington is one of the leading rare book firms in the world. It is a proud member of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association – along with ILAB, the PBFA and Lapada – and from shops in Mayfair and Chelsea, London, sells rare books, prints and ephemera to customers across the world.

Email: mail@peterharrington.co.uk

Tel: +44 (0)20 7591 0220

ABA Antiquarian Bookseller Association ILAB International League of Antiquarian Booksellers LAPADA The Association of Art and Anatique Dealers PBFA Provincial Booksellers Fairs Association

Our Guarantee Page

Ask us a question


Contact us with details of the book you are interested in or selling and we will contact you

Sell Old Books Help me find a book