Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

Swatch book

Swatch book

  • Place of origin:

    Lyon (made)

  • Date:

    1764 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Silk, taffeta, linen, brocaded, leather bound, paper and ink, sealing wax

  • Credit Line:

    Acquired with the help of Marks and Spencer Ltd and the Worshipful Company of Weavers

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

These samples of dress silks from about 1763 are attached to different pages in a travelling salesman's book. They show the range of colour combinations available from the workshops of different manufacturers. Above each group of samples is a heading which reveals the name of the fabrics and their width, their price per ell (about 45 inches) and the initials of the manufacturing company that made them.

The book of samples was used to offer potential customers previews of the forthcoming season's fashionable designs and colours so that they could make orders. The initials for the company titles would have been familiar to the salesman but not to his clients as he wanted to ensure that they made purchases through him rather than directly from the manufacturer. He made his living from the commission he received on his sales.

Physical description

Book containing 99 textile swatch samples. A large leather bound ledger with swatches of plain and patterned woven silks stuck on to the pages with red sealing wax. Each page has an inscription in ink at the top which indicates the name of the textiles, their width and price, and gives the manufacturers' initials. Some are French silks, named, priced and numbered with their widths. Some may be English samples, usually large loom-widths.

Some of the swatches have fallen out at some date and been stuck back on the wrong page (as comparison of textile and inscription reveals). Some swatches have had bits cut out of them. Some swatches date to later than the original date of the book, and are probably of English manufacture.

Textile 77v: a crimson and yellow woven silk with formal stylised foliage, disposed in three motifs. A major scrolling, oval one, a vertical stripe of stems, and a smaller medallion type repeating motif in the ground.

Textile f. 57: The heading for this sample is found on a different page (f.67v.) of the book because the sample has been moved at some point. It reads: 'Taff [etas] 11/24 fond ruby clair brochez soye et cordonnet nue de 18 # 10 s de G.G. no.873'. The initials refer to the silk manufacturing partnership L. Galy, Gallien et cie.

Textile f. 55v: f. 67. Shot silk in lavendar blue and pink, brocaded with lace meanders in white intertwined with flowers in white, red and greens, and bouquets of mixed flowers in yellows, pinks and reds. A scrap of paper is stuck to the corner with the number 999. The inscription at the top of the page does not correspond to the textile which must have fallen out at some point and been stuck back in the wrong place.

Textile f. 37v: Bronze plain weave ground (taffeta), brocaded (patterned) in a design of meanders of foliage and lace, alongside bouquets of multi-coloured flowers. The bouquets are in gold and a tightly twisted yarn (cordonnet), their hearts are green, red and white; the meanders of foliage and lace are in cordonnet and silver, and intertwine with multi-coloured floss floral swags in reds, greens, blues and yellow.

Textile f. 9 v: Samples 172-175. Three rectangles of plain weave silks in different colour combinations, all with a self-coloured ground and a simple brocaded floral motif in a contrasting colour. Above the samples is an inscription in ink: 'Florence broché 5/8 de large de 6# 15s a 7# 6s de J.C.B'. These initials have not yet been identified.

Textile f. 7 v: Plain weave silk. There is a selvedge on the left hand side of the swatches but the right hand side is a raw cut edge. The pattern consists of a check woven into the fabric and a stripe flowers created through the chiné process (the warp and/or weft was dyed before the fabric was woven up, hence the clouded effect). Above the top sample is an inscription in ink. The upper sample is in pink, green and white; the lower one in purple, yellow, green and red. Each bears a small rectangular piece of paper with a number 165 and 166. The heading above the upper sample reads 'Florences chiné 5/8 de large de 5# 15 a 6# 5 de SCB'. This manufacturer has not yet been identified.

Textile f.4v: 32 samples/swatches of self-coloured taffetas. In the lower half are 11 samples of checked taffetas. Each section has spaces where samples have fallen out, the red sealing wax used to secure them in place remaining. Above each group of samples is an inscription in ink. The heading above the upper samples reads: 'Angleterre changt. rayé et cadrillé pr. robe et pr. habit d'homme 5/8 de large de 6# 10 de V.M'. The heading above the lower group of samples reads 'gros de florence du 7/12 de large de 7# 8 lon peut faire les memes couleurs en angres 5/8 de large de D.G.M.'. Neither of the two companies has yet been identified.

Place of Origin

Lyon (made)


1764 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Silk, taffeta, linen, brocaded, leather bound, paper and ink, sealing wax

Marks and inscriptions

'W. Beckwith / Chapel Yard / Spital Square' on the inside cover. The fabric names written in ink on various pages are:
Angleterre changeant, rayé et cadrillé ; batavia broché nué ; batavia rayé et cadrillé; boutida a mouches ; boutida broché ; boutida broché a bouquet ; boutida broché nué ; brillantés façonnés ; cannellé glacé leger ; cannellé glacé fort ; cannetillé ; cannetillé velouté ; cannetillé velouté fort ; carrellé ; florences brochés ; florence chiné ; florence rayé et cadrillé ; florentine ; gros de florence ; gros de naples ; gros de naples façonné ; gros de tours rayé et cadrillé ; hollandoise ; italienne ; jusurgent ; jusurgent satiné ; peau de poulle ; persanne a grand bouquet ; persienne rayé a bouquet ; royale ; satin des indes ; satin plein ; satin façonné fort ; satin réduit ; taffeta a mouches et façonné ; taffetas broché ; taffetas peint ; taffetas rayé. Their width and price is given and initials of supplier.

Beckwith is scored out

'From Warner and Sons, Silk and Velvet Manufacturers and Uphosterers' Warehousemen, 9 Newgate St., London EC. Factories: Spitalfields and Braintree, Essex'
On a label. The label on the book gives the information about Warner (in whose hands the book was until it came to the V&A).


Height: 21.25 in, Width: 15.5 in, Depth: 4 in, Width: 15.5 in, Depth: 4 in, Weight: 18.65 lb

Descriptive line

Book containing 99 pages of swatches or samples of silk, Lyon, 1764

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Rothstein, Natalie, 'The English Market for French Silks', CIETA Bulletin, Vol. 17, no. 35 (1972), pp. 32-34.
Rothstein, Natalie. Silk Designs of the Eighteenth Century in the Collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (London: V&A, 1990), p.253
Rothstein, Natalie, '????', Le Monde Rhone-alpin, Les filières de la soie, 1991, pp.
Sargentson, Carolyn, Merchants and Luxury Markets (London, 1996), Chapter 5 and Colour plate 20 et al.
Miller, Lesley E. 'Innovation and Industrial Espionage in Eighteenth-Century France: An Investigation of the Selling of Silks through Samples'. In Journal of Design History 12 (1), 1999, pp. 271-292
Miller, Lesley E., 'Mysterious Manufacturers: Identifying L. Galy, Gallien et Cie. and their Contribution to the 18th Century Lyon Silk Industry'. Studies in the Decorative Arts Vol. IX. No. 2, 2002, pp. 87-13.
'Fashion and silk design', Snapshot 11, in The Fashion History Reader. Global Perspectives, eds Giorgio Riello and Peter McNeil, Routledge, London, 2010, p. 215

Production Note

Based on the notations on the book and research on comparable dated French silk designs on paper. See bibliographical references.
Attribution note: Made for a particular textile agent to suit his prospective clients


Paper; Leather; Silk; Metallic thread; Ink


Woven; Brocading; Chine


Textiles; Books

Production Type



Textiles and Fashion Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.