Today Cover to Cover looks at the Cyclopaedia of Costume or Dictionary of Dress written by James Planché from 1876-1879 and part of the University of Idaho Library Special Collections and Archives rare book collection. Planché was a playwright but became known as an expert on historical costume after researching costumes for productions of stage plays. The dictionary uses a variety of methods for illustrating the historical types of dress it describes including reproductions of well-known paintings and a variety of illustrations. The illustration included in the front cover is a portrait from the mid 1390’s of the English king Richard II, shown below, the earliest known portrait of an English monarch.
The full title of Planché’s two volume work is A cyclopdiea of costume, or a dictionary of dress, including notices of contemporaneous fashions on the continent; a general chronological history of the costumes of the principal countries of Europe, from the commencement of the Christian era to the accession of George the Third. Planché’s attention to detail can be noted throughout the book with the reader finding almost four pages on an entry about gloves or a detailed illustration about the type of breast plate worn by knights over the centuries.
The total work is over 1,000 pages in length. While rare books do not circulate they can be requested and read in the Special Collections Reading Room, room 121, on the first floor of the University of Idaho Library.