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Case study

Book conservation: The Eikon Basilike

Study of this book can tell us much about its origins

The Eikon Basilike after conservation ©

The Royal Library holds around seventy copies of the Eikon Basilike, the book first published in the early days of February 1649 soon after the execution of Charles I on 30 January 1649, and probably, at least in part, written by the King himself.

It accounts various events and hardships encountered by him in the years preceding his defeat. It quickly became one of the biggest selling books of the seventeenth century, and it fuelled the growing idea that Charles was a martyr.

Inscription on the flyleaf ©

This particular copy, RCIN 1080417, is notable for the four lengths of wide, blue, silk ribbon attached to its binding, and for an inscription inside it which reads, underneath the signature of Jane Manser:

'This Book was the Gift of Sr Oliver Flemming Master of the Ceremonies to King Charles the First, together with ye ribband strings which were the Garter his Majesty wore his George on'.

But can we trust this inscription?

Conservation of the object offers an opportunity to further investigate the book’s history, and to learn more about whether the lengths of silk could originally have formed from one of Charles I’s Garter ribbons. Read on to learn more.

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Collection item in this case study

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RCIN 1080417

This particular copy of the Eikon Basilike is notable for the four lengths of wide, blue, silk ribbon attached to its binding, which have been thought to have been cut from the sash worn by Charles I to indicate his membership of the Order of the Garter, an order of chivalry dating back to 1348. Inside the book, an inscription reads: "This...

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