Costume Books

Costume Books from Adam & Charles Black

Typical Shelf Appeal, this. Have the paper ‘list’ catalogue but not the books listed. Although I have, over the years, had a few books from the handsome hardback Adam & Charles Black costume series, the illustration style of them usually doesn’t really grab me. But the historical interest of the series does and so a leaflet advertising the series certainly does. I haven’t seen one before for these sorts of books. It has a big stamp on it declaring it was sent out from the bookshop J & E Bumpus Ltd. Grand name.

The illustration on this cover is from Black’s series English Costume from the 10th to the 20th Centuries by Iris Brooke. Presumably the 17th century one. Most in the series were also written by Brooke, but some brought in the inimitable costume prince himself: James Laver.

A review quoted in the leaflet tells us all the books: ‘are inexpensive and they are very complete. The text is adequate without being needlessly elaborate. The reproductions are excellent, and the drawings, without being needlessly stiff or tight, give an excellent idea of dressmaking construction.’

Not much is out there to be found on Brooke herself. Just some 13 books and a (self?) reference to her being an authority on the history of costume. She obviously knew Laver and presumably the other frocks fetishists of the 1920s and 1930s. The prettier Black costume books are the ones illustrated by Kathleen Mann, more camp, more attractive.

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