The Holker Album: Textile Samples And Industrial Espionage in the 18th Century


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Edited by Ariane Fennetaux and John Styles

In 1751, John Holker (1719-1786), an English Textiles manufacturer exiled in France, undertook an industrial espionage mission to England to collect samples of English textiles on behalf of the French king, Louis XV. On his return, the samples were assembled in a manuscript volume, which is now preserved at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris. Each sample in the album is accompanied by a handwritten technical description specifying the quality of the fabric, its price, its dimensions, and the manufacturing processes. This album is famous for preserving the oldest identifiable samples of jean fabric.

Completely bilingual, the book includes a reproduction of the album, accompanied by a transcription of its handwritten text, and a dozen essays. The essays, written by academics, curators, and specialists from France, Britain, and North America, explore the album from various angles:  the globalization of commerce, the slave trade, industrial espionage, economic rivalry between France and England, the taste for cotton and its role in the history of fashion, etc. The book demonstrates the importance of centuries-old links between France and the United Kingdom, and is an indispensable work of reference for the history of textiles.

Text is in English and French.

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