BOOK LAUNCH 'The Holker Album.Textile Samples and Industrial Espionage in the 18th Century'

album holker

Please join us for this book launch in the presence of Ariane Fennetaux (Université Paris Cité) & John Styles (University of Hertfordshire/Victoria and Albert Museum).
Convenor: François-Joseph Ruggiu (MFO)

To attend, please register here.



In 1751, John Holker (1719-1786), an English textile 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 this 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 facsimile 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 globalisation 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.


About the authors:

Ariane Fennetaux is Associate Professor in British history at Université Paris Cité. Her research and publications focus on material culture with a particular emphasis on textiles and dress. Her book, The Pocket: A Hidden History of Women’s Lives 1660-1900, co-authored with Barbara Burman, was published in 2019 by Yale University Press.

John Styles is Professor Emeritus in History at the University of Hertfordshire and Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the Victoria and Albert Museum. He specialises in the history of material life, manufacturing and design. His books include The Dress of the People: Everyday Fashion in Eighteenth-Century England, published by Yale University Press in 2007, and Threads of Feeling: The London Foundling Hospital’s Textile Tokens, 1740-1770, published by the London Foundling Museum in 2010.