18th Century Pocketbooks

Last updated: Feb 25, 2024

See also purses and pockets.

Flame stitch (aka bargello, Irish stitch)

Winterthur 1958.1759 is classified as a sampler, but it looks like an incomplete & abandoned pocketbook project; the embroiderer has stitched the date band at the top, and started by embroidering the black outlines of the overall pattern before beginning to fill in the open space, before giving up and stitching an alphabet into the empty leftover space.

Crewelwork pocketbooks

  • P4A B193571 (“ZS”), America, c. 1740-1790
  • SPNEA 1991.1419, c. 1740-1790
  • Old Sturbridge Village 64.7.13 (“B.S. 1762” and “Set the seal upon my heart/Ecclesia, John XI”), crewel embroidery with floral motifs and inscribed scrolls
  • A c. 1750 pocketbook
  • Massachusetts Historical Society 0002, pocketbook belonging to Benjamin Stuart, 1753; “The pocketbook features a brightly hued pastoral view with vining flowers, bird, and goats. Several large blossoms catch the eye. The wool thread is worked on a very basic homespun plain-weave linen substrate. The wool threads have remained vivid, as has the dazzling yellow-gold Chinese silk lining.” (“FOR BEИIAMIИ 1753 STVART”)
  • DAR 2279, used by John Orr in New Hampshire, 1750-1780
  • Skinner Auction 3500T, Lot 1123, floral embroidery (“AMOS COLE”)
  • MFA 35.726, Roumanian embroidery (“L.H.” [possibly Lemuel Hayward] “1768”), Boston
  • Skinner Auction 2255, Lot 203, a crewelwork fish-scale design
  • P4A A066252, a crewelwork fish-scale design

Other canvaswork pocketbooks, including cross stitch and/or tent stitch

Queen stitch/rococo stitch on pocketbooks

Sablé beadwork pocketbooks

Painted pocketbooks

  • V&A 1937-1899, embroidered silk pocketbook with watercolor-painted oval silk panels, France, c. 1750
  • V&A T.143-1961, cream silk painted with Dutch-inspired landscapes in a grisaille technique, France, 1750s
  • Cooper Hewitt 1923-22-79, painted wilk pocketbook made in France
  • NMAH T14911.000, an uncut embroidered panel for a pocketbook with a painted vignette on a central medallion, France
  • MFA 43.1117, white silk embroidered in silk, with painted details, France or England, 1780-1800
  • Cooper Hewitt 1962-56-26-b, an unfinished painted silk panel for a pocketbook, late 18th century France

Other styles

  • Manchester 1929.306, France; “Woven in blue silk and silver thread. Pattern coventional Renaissance ornament.” (Compare to Cooper Hewitt 1962-55-6, 1962-55-7, 1962-55-8, 1962-55-10, 1962-55-11, all from the 17th century)
  • Massachusetts Historical Society 1966, a pocketbook belonging to a member of the Hale family, silk fabric embroidered with sprigs in silk thread
  • Cooper Hewitt 1931-41-6, “Pocketbook with metal thread embroidery on green damask ground … embroidered in padded couching stitches”
  • Cooper Hewitt 1971-50-112, made in France or Spain; “White silk plain weave embroidered with flower and leaf design. Bag edged with woven silk and flat metal tape.”
  • Philadelphia Museum of Art 1930-30-26, embroidery on wool damask, United States, 18th century
  • MFA 43.1110, tapestry-woven design with angels flanking arms of Pope Benedict XIII, Italy, 1724-1730
  • MFA 43.1112, silk with fruit and floral design in satin stitch and laid & couched work in silk threads , France or England, 1725-1775
  • Winterthur 1958.2052, North America, c. 1740-1780
  • V&A CIRC.238-1926, silk embroidered with floral designs in colored silks, Britain, c. 1750-1775
  • Colonial Williamsburg 1990-3, embroidered with colored silks, silver gilt threads, bullion, and plate, made in Constantinople in 1749
  • MFA 43.1118, silk embroidered with silk and metallic threads in a floral design, made in Constantinople for the European market, 1755
  • P4A D9791252 (“LG”), floral design, Philadelphia, c. 1760
  • Crazy-quilt pocketbook, c. 1760
  • Colonial Williamsburg 1952-341, pocketbook with gold clasp, fitted with implements, made in England, c. 1760-1780; “Envelope pocketbook of ivory silk satin quilted with chain stitches in a diamond pattern with meandering vines across top and bottom folds. Pocketbook is fastened with gold, stone, and enamel clasps on the outside and on the interior shaped flap. The exterior clasp has three clear stones; the interior clasp had male and female profile heads in classical manner. The interior is lined with carnation pink silk, plain-woven. Two interior compartments, one with shaped flap and clasp. A gusseted compartment has slots for holding an ivory tablet consisting of two pivoting leaves, a comb, a lead holder with gold cap and coral-colored stone seal end, and two knives.”
  • MFA 43.1114, taffeta embroidered with a love-poem in silk, France, 1775-1800
  • MFA 43.1116, white silk satin with silk and metal-thread embroidery, inscribed “SOU / VENIR,” France or England, 1775-1800
  • Meg Andrews 6557, a French pocketbook belonging to Mary Hope Wallace, 1780s; “front with silver clasp chased with a fleur de lys, the ground very finely tapestry woven with a Chinese style pagoda and buildings to one side of the clasp, a tree to the other, the background in gold basketweave effect, the back with a bridge, river and trees, the narrow base with two silver coloured studs and a woven geometric pattern, the inside opens to reveal silk satin lining, the note book of thick hand made paper sheets edged with gold, many with pencilled hand written English, the front page with Rue St Anne, No 78 Paris. The inner pages have a poem and more writing, some in French, a pocket behind the paper”
  • Cooper Hewitt 1938-5-1, “Pocketbook of cream-colored silk taffeta embroidered with verse and flowering vine in pink, green and tan silk”
  • MFA 43.1115, white silk embroidered in silk, France, 1780-1795
  • Needlework pocketbook made by Queen Charlotte, satin embroidered in silk with gold (or gilt?) sequins and an enamelled gold clasp, lined in silk and containing tools (originally given to Mrs. Delany in 1781 with “knife, sizsars, pencle, rule, compass, bodkin”)
  • MFA 43.1113, blue silk with appliquéd embroidered medallions, France, late 18th century
  • Manchester 1929.305, France; “Woven in silver and gold thread and coloured silks. Pattern; flowers, scrollwork and moths.”
  • RISD 1988.082.12, French, late 18th century