Book Review: The Inventory of Henry VIII: Clothing and Textiles

The high point of this Christmas was the appearance of  The Inventory of Henry VIII: Textiles and Clothing under the tree. My husband had ordered it years and years ago for a gift, and it had been delayed and delayed again until both of us had completely forgotten about it.

The book itself costs an arm, leg and kidney. If I’d had to buy it for myself before Christmas, I’d have refrained. But now, having read through it, I have to say that it’s worth every penny I didn’t have to pay for it; and if I hadn’t got it for Christmas, I’d be saving up for a copy even now.

So, in the spirit of enablement, I’m passing on the details of just what’s in this book to all y’all, so you have an idea of whether or not you need to buy it.  I initially intended to make it a facebook post to my historic costume list. two typed pages later, I had to reconsider; each one of the articles in the book deserves its own review.

The book is a series of essays, each one based upon the information on a particular topic to be found in the various inventories of Henry VIII, each written by a person at the top of their game in that particular field. The first is on King Henry’s Tapestry collection, written by Thomas Campbell. Then comes the section on the clothing of King Henry, and his hunting equipment, by Maria Hayward.  She also writes the following section, on the textiles, tents, flags and costumes that were in the care of the Office of Tents and Revels.

This is followed by an article on table carpets and coverings for tables, seats and floors by the esteemed late Donald King, “The Art of the Broiderers” by Santina Levey, and a section on table and bed linens by David Mitchell. Then comes an article focusing on the textiles in Henry’s Store, by Lisa Monnas, another essay by her on the ecclesiastical textiles and costume in the inventory, and finally, an article on Furs in Henry’s wardrobe by Elspeth Veale.

A solid block of knowledge, indeed! 365 pages of brand new research on Tudor textiles and costume and I was determined to go through every page, even the sections I didn’t really expect to enjoy, like the articles on tapestries, carpets, table linens and ecclesiastical textiles. Even if they were dry, or ancillary to my interests, they were bound to be extremely informative and I was duty-bound to read them.

I had forgotten something, however. When a person is truly and whole-heartedly obsessed with a particular subject, and when they can write well, their love of it becomes infectious. They pass on the contagion of their passion via the written word, captivating the unsuspecting reader and carrying them along into unexpected areas of research.