Sonnets From the Portuguese

  • Sonnets From the Portuguese
  • By Elizabeth Barrett Browning
  • The Officina Bodoni, Montagnola, 1925
  • Book: 257mm x 193mm x 18mm
  • Box: 286mm x 223mm x 72mm
  • Outer box: 292mm x 223mm x 72mm
  • Bound in 2014
  • Private Collection, Scotland

Full leather stub binding, sewn on four tapes, covered in scarf-jointed brown and green goatskin, with onlaid walnut burl veneer
Miscellaneous leather onlays and inlays, plus one large onlay of Japanese paper

The leather is embroidered over the onlays with silk threads using a variety of different embroidery stitches
The pen nib is gold-plated brass soldered to posts, secured into a recess, the handle is inlaid leather at the top, and oak veneer further down
The binding is tooled with specks of gold and a border of tooling around the edge of the green leather

The endpapers are patterned with written sonnets from within the book, then embroidered and tooled with specks of gold foil


Oak box with routed channels holding decorated panels in place

Front panel is constructed from frosted acrylic, with an ink well lid inset into the top that can be opened to view the binding and front endpaper through
The title is drilled and sewn through the acrylic around the inkpot lid

Description of design

The book is a collection of 44 love sonnets written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning for her husband Robert Browning. She was hesitant to publish the poems as she thought they were too personal, however decided to do so under the guise of being translations of foreign sonnets, in order to retain some privacy.

The design reflects the importance of the letters written between Elizabeth and Robert Browning over the course of their life together. There are many references to letters throughout the book, so with this is mind, I decided to create a design incorporating a writing desk, ink well, fountain pen and paper. On the paper is part of one of the most familiar sonnets, number 44, written in script. The posy of flowers on the desk is to tie in the flower imagery that Elizabeth Browning also includes throughout the sonnets. On the endpapers and doublures, I decide to have more of the sonnets hand-written, as if there are many letters placed on top of one another.