...and is an inch and a half thick.
It has been translated from the original French into several languages and there must be many thousands of copies still around.
It even has its own angel bearing the DMC company motto.
It has more than 800 pages, so it has a silk ribbon (and now rather fragile) bookmark.
There are thirteen (or should I say XIII) beautiful colour plates scattered throughout the twenty chapters, which deal with absolutely everything a Victorian or Edwardian stitcher could possibly need to know: plain sewing, mending, lace making, trimmings, embroidery... Whether you were a housekeeper mending worn out areas of knitted garments, or a skilled embroiderer working on silk or velvet or with gold thread, this book was written for you.
There are over 1100 engraved illustrations, which, although tiny, show a remarkable degree of detail. I particularly like the disembodied hands with the neat frilled cuffs that float through the pages to show you how to work the thread. The hand positions shown are sufficiently clear to enable you to learn a skill from scratch or broaden your expertise in a particular craft, for instance...
... or knitting.
Having been an avid knitter in my younger days, I had never encountered or felt the need to do double crossed casting on with a threefold thread. Somehow it sounds as if there is cheating involved. However, once you have cast on, the book gives an impressive array of stitches to choose from, including the gloriously named Double English on page 285, which sounds like an entry on a hotel menu ("Ooh yes, I'll have the Double English"... visions of a full English breakfast with two fried eggs). Those who prefer a lighter, more continental start to their day need only refer back to page 284 for the Brioche pattern.
The ubiquitous hands also show some interesting little gadgets, including a winder or lace turn (I'm still trying to work out the theory behind that one) and this rather marvellous cord wheel. I own up. I want one. Next time I decide to make my own cord for braid I won't need to stretch yards of stranded embroidery cotton across the room to loop it round a dining chair and twist it with a pencil.
This little book is an absolute gem to be treasured by anyone with more than a passing interest in needlework. Its only drawback is that none of us will live to the age of 487 and have the time to perfect every wonderful craft it describes.
If you want a closer look at this book
It can be viewed online here or at Project Gutenberg.
Alternatively, the relatively recent reprint of the book entitled The Complete Encyclopedia of Needlework is easy to find if you make an internet search.
Finally, I have found a very brief, sad and intriguing biography of Therese de Dillmont.
Linking up with Connie's Blog Freemotion by the River for Linky Tuesday