Chemise de Livre / Book Slip-Cover Tiny snowflakes have been slowly floating past the kitchen windows these few hours, and the workmen on the castle have temporarily downed their tools as complete silence falls over the village. The howling Mistral of the last few days has mercifully now stopped, and the enveloping stillness feels like we are here in suspended time. And sometimes that is just what it feels like living here, in a small village tucked away in a forest on a high ridge between the Mediterranean and the foothills of the Ardeche, where there are daily reminders of the past, as well as of past lives. As part of the research I’m doing for a future piece, I’ve been poring over old maps and photographs. It’s fascinating to see how much of the old bastide yet stands; although some of the houses are long-gone, the old alleyways, or calades, which thread through the walled settlement still remain, white-cobbled, with cart-tracks worn into them.

order fluoxetine online uk The castle itself, now resplendent with its sharp, newly-restored battlements, being slowly coaxed to its former glory  behind scaffolding, has done good service here. Built to withstand invaders in the Twelfth Century, the stout walls protected its inhabitants throughout the subsequent Hundred Years’ War and Wars of Religion, which so blighted life in the Middle Ages.

I am often reminded of the illustrations from French medieval Books of Hours: the brightly painted miniatures which illustrate them are full of exquisite scenes showing turreted castles on hills and incidental detail of life as it was lived then. Books of Hours, the precursors to the Breviary and Missal, being devotional texts for daily prayer and meditation, were richly decorated with illuminated initials and miniatures embellished with gold and silver, originating in the art of the monastic scriptoria. They then began to become popular throughout Europe at around the time the castle here was built; usually small, portable books, individual yet inspirational, they were each personally commissioned, their decoration, and to some extent their contents, reflecting the taste, wealth and status of their owners. Since they were intended for regular use, they sometimes needed to be rebound, and in order to further preserve them, they were fitted with a slip-cover referred to as a chemise, often made of leather or velvet and embellished.

A local brocante we visited earlier this month had a used book stall where I found a hundred-year-old French Missel. I had been looking for one for some time. Prettily-bound in gold-tooled blue leather, it seemed to be calling out for me to make it a chemise.

The purple organic velvet I used was from some I had left over from dress-making, I found some coordinating threads, then beads from broken dress jewellery: this was, after all, intended as a recycling project! A lining made from a leftover scrap of purple silk conceals the back of the stitching and also prevents the leather cover  of the Missal from being scratched by the fine metal threads I used. I made the tassels in coordinating embroidery silks: these were a feature of the chemise, hanging from the four corners when the book was open in the reader’s lap. Silk ribbons tie the covers together, although metallic clasps were often used, again with tie-threads.

The slip-cover is usually a little larger than the book itself (as here), which no doubt was to make the precious book inside seem larger and more expensive, but the overlap also serves to give added protection to the edges of the book.

As a book-cover, a chemise could be used to embellish any precious book; whether protecting a personal journal or a devotional work, the small size and tactile velvet serving to comfort the reader as much as the words contained therein, as they would have long ago.

Book chemise: velvet; silk; embroidery threads (cotton, silk and metal thread); dress jewels. Measuring 12in x 9in; 30cm x 22.5cm plus tassels.

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