Antique samplers – verses

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The Sampler Guild (UK)

Antique samplers – a selection of  interesting verse samplers

Before we get started here’s a question.  May one overlook fading when evaluating antique samplers?

If a sampler is appealing enough in other respects we think you may, but as always it is a matter for individual taste.

1787 Antique sampler – Some men get riches…

Here is an example of an antique sampler with a fairly early date, a great verse, a strong strawberry border and a circa 1860 Hogarth frame that makes it a darling despite the fading.

By the hand of providence the heavy stitching or stronger color in the thread allows the verse to stand out. Take a look at the sampler to see what I mean: 1787 verse sampler


“Some men get riches, yet are always poor, some get no riches yet have all things store.”

“How very true” we murmur. A verse like this means something to everyone. The words will be as true two centuries from now as they were 228 years ago when the sampler was stitched by Mary Ann Shepherd.

Biblical antique sampler – inscription from Proverbs

Proverbs 1:8
Proverbs 1:8

“My son hear the instruction of thy Father, and forsake not the law of thy Mother”

Quotations from the Book of Proverbs are as popular today as ever they were in the past. This pithy epithet is typical. While families remain the bedrock of society it will never lose it’s power.

Antique samplers currently available for sale from Madelena with the word ‘Mother’ in the description

Antique samplers currently available for sale from Madelena with the word ‘Father’ in the description

The Drowning Fly –  a rare antique sampler verse

Unusual 1820 verse sampler
Unusual 1820 Drowning fly sampler. Detail.

1820 Drowning Fly sampler is available for sale.

An unusual verse immediately arouses curiosity:

Where does the material come from?

Might the governess of this seven year old girl have had the imagination to write something original? And if she did would such behaviour from an employee have been acceptable?

Or would she ask her employer, the girl’s mother, to choose a text? Could it have come from the bible, a treatise, a play, a sermon, a magazine, a newspaper?

I could not help but google a phrase trying to find the source. And here it is. Probably an ‘approved’ publication widely read by ladies of the day.

sampler verse source ALL SOURCE

My guess is that seven year old Ann was curious about insects, flies in particular. Mom chose this poem for her sampler in the hopes that it might hold her daughter’s interest long enough for her to absorb the subject matter of the verse.

sampler verse source ALL

It is fun trying to guess what was in the minds of families living generations ago. Isn’t this part of the attraction of antique samplers?

They add color to our understanding of society in a particular era, which is in this example is late Georgian. In the US, while this sampler was being stitched during the year of 1820, James Monroe was elected president effectively unopposed.

World’s lovliest verse sampler at the V & A

Picture and caption from V & A website article on antique samplers
Picture and caption from V & A website article on antique samplers

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London has the finest antique sampler collection on the planet. The samplers are to die for. No article on verse samplers can fail to mention the world’s foremost (in our opinion). The verse begins

“As I cannot write I put this down simply and freely as I might speak to a person to whose intimacy and tenderness I can fully entrust myself and who I know will bear with all my weaknesses.”

If you are not able visit the museum in person click here to visit the V & A website to read more about this unique antique sampler.

MADELENA Shop, Sell, Discover
World’s largest online gallery of antique SAMPLERS
The Sampler Guild (UK)


2 Replies to “Antique samplers – verses”

  1. looking for a complete form of an american sampler verse that begins…Like a friend in the season of youth
    May this register a monitor prove By its lessons of virtue and truth…

    1. Reb,
      You have probably tried, as I have just done, googling key phrases.
      This sometimes gets a result but not this time.
      Anyone out there know this verse or it’s source?

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