Pomp and Poverty A History of Silk in Ireland Mairead Dunlevy

Publication date:
15 Apr 2011
Yale University Press
280 pages: x 190mm
25 b-w + 135 color illus.
Sales territories:

Pomp and PovertyLustrous, warm, lightweight, strong silk has always been a symbol of wealth and status, beginning in prehistoric China.

In Pomp and Poverty: A History of Silk in Ireland, Mairead Dunlevy unfolds a colourful tale. She introduces us to the merchants or 'silk men' who traded in silk, oversaw its production and invested in machinery and design; the weavers and dyers who created luxury under exploitative conditions for miserable wages; and, the gentlefolk and aristocracy who indulged in this expensive fabric as a signifier of wealth and taste. Irish legend credits seventeenth-century French Huguenots with introducing the industry, but this book reveals that it was woven in Ireland long before that, possibly from the tenth century.

Dunlevy also details the development of poplin, a uniquely Irish silk product found in every royal court of nineteenth-century Europe.

The late Mairead Dunlevy was Keeper of Art and Industry at the National Museum of Ireland, Dublin, and Director of the Hunt Museum, Limerick. She was the author of Dress in Ireland, and an authority on social customs in Ireland and on Irish glass and silver.

“Pomp And Poverty will, I believe be regarded as the definitive work on this subject, and can be strongly recommended, both to the specialist student and the general reading public. It records in a most accessible way the history of silk in Ireland.”—John J O’Connell, Irish Arts Review

"An impressive and exhaustive study’" – Kirsty Blake Knox, Irish Sunday Times

"This beautifully produced book, the author's last, is a fitting memorial to someone who brought research into aspects of Ireland’s rich historic past to a wider public... It is a book that all textile and clothing enthusiasts should aim to possess."—Naomi Tarrant, Costume

"This volume is a much needed account of the manufacture, consumption, importation and exportation of silk in a wide variety of forms, from raw silk to finished cloth... brimming with excellent documentation and complemented by invaluable appendices on costs, imports and exports, and weavers’ rates…" Mary Schoeser, Text, For the Study of Textile Art, Design and History, vol. 39

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