Our good friend Paul just alerted us to a wonderful resource for knitting manuals from the late 19th and early 20th century. If you like old pattern books, you have to check out the Richard Rutt Collection at the Winchester School of Art Library. Rutt is a scholar and former bishop who wrote A History of Hand Knitting (1987) and then donated his research collection to the University of Southampton. The books are full text, cover to cover, and are publicly available as downloadable PDFs. A real treasure trove!
What is in the collection? As long as you’re still here reading, allow me to quote from the VADS site:
“A particular distinction and strength of Richard Rutt’s collection is the range and number of nineteenth century knitting books first published in the 1830s. These Victorian knitting manuals may be considered as the precursors to the contemporary knitting pattern and the ‘how-to-knit’ books that are still being published over 180 years later. This collection has now been digitised and each book has been copied from cover to cover by the University of Southampton’s Digitisation Unit and are available online via the Visual Arts Data Service (VADS)”
Oh, and while you’re at it, check out what else VADS has on the site. There are some gorgeous collections of images in textiles and the graphic arts.