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Map specialist Daniel Crouch Rare Books donates rare embroidery fragment to Bodleian Library
Embroidery Map of London, c.1926. An embroidery fragment depicting London, based upon the Sheldon Tapestry.

LONDON.- Daniel Crouch Rare Books, the UK’s leading map dealership, donated an embroidered map created by the Disabled Soldiers Embroidery Industry and dated 1926 to the Bodleian Library.

The embroidery fragment is based on a section of the Sheldon Tapestry map of Oxfordshire, one of four maps completed around 1590, depicting Oxfordshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire, all of which are in the Bodleian Library, and Warwickshire, which resides in the Market Hall Museum, Warwick.

‘I bought the fragment blind at an auction, hoping it could be 16th or 17th century original, but it turned out to be a 20th century copy. Its historical significance therefore took another turn. It’s proof of how a mistake can turn out to be a discovery.’ says Daniel Crouch.

The fragment will be restored and then exhibited in the Weston Library, alongside other Sheldon tapestries and fragments.

The piece is copied from the Oxfordshire map, which includes London. It extends west to east from Paddington to Hackney, and north to south from Finchley to Stoke Newington. The embroidery was commissioned by Lady Granet and shown at several Disables Soldiers Embroidery exhbitions in the late 1920s.

Daniel Crouch says: ‘We are delighted to donate this rare piece of 20th century history to the Bodleian Library. We have collaborated with Nick Millea, Head of the Bodleian Map Library and tapestry expert Hilary Turner to put together the complicated story of this fragment, which has a significance that links five centuries.’

The Victoria and Albert Museum had an exhibition of the four Sheldon tapestry maps in 1914. It was the first time that all four maps could be viewed together and the impact the display had was immense. For Britain in the throes of a recovery from WW1, the Sheldon Tapestries with their depiction of England’s green and pleasant land proved immensely popular. Countrywide searches where mounted to discover more fragments from the ‘Sheldon’ workshop, as well as requests for artisans to create copies of sections of the maps.

One such commission was requested of The Disabled Soldiers Embroidery Industry, an organisation started post WW1 by Princess Marie Louise, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. After her marriage ended in divorce, she filled her time with philanthropic projects, such as The Friends of the Poor, of which the Disabled Soldiers Embroidery Industry was an offshoot.

For men severely injured on the battlefield, the needlework created a way of making money, but also a much- needed therapeutic artistic outlet. Very little is known about the Disabled Soldiers Embroidery Industry, but it is likely they created works on a commission basis, which were exhibited and sold to create revenue to continue the society’s work.

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