Printed textile pattern books emerged in central Europe in the early sixteenth century, with one of the first examples published by Johannes Schönsperger the Younger in 1524 in Zwickau, Germany. From the 1540s on, books containing designs for openwork and needle and bobbin laces proliferated across Europe, particularly on the Italian peninsula. Over one hundred of these books were published between 1524 and 1600.
Pattern books usually comprised a frontispiece, a preface, and a series of plates. Many included dedications to wealthy female patronesses, thereby aligning lacemaking with virtue and nobility. We know the names of many individuals who designed and printed lace pattern books. On the Italian peninsula, Isabella Catanea Parasole (ca. 1565/1570–ca. 1625) was one of the first female printmakers to publish lace designs under her own name, and the five pattern books published by Bartolomeo Danieli (active 1610–1643) show his knowledge of book printing and lace design, gained from working in both industries.
Lacemakers used these books directly. It is possible to match surviving pieces of lace and openwork to specific designs. Some publications explain how to transfer patterns to other surfaces for use, such as by tracing or removing the pages and pricking them with pins. A lack of instructions alongside the pattern plates suggests that authors knew their audiences were familiar with lacemaking techniques.