The master of the house of a self-respecting upper middle class family in the first half of the nineteenth century might have eagerly looked forward to the arrival of monthlies like the Vaderlandsche Letteroefeningen, De Boekzaal, De Recensent, ook der Recensenten, or later perhaps even De Gids, but the ladies of the house will have pounced on Penélopé the moment it arrived. This periodical is aptly characterized in its subtitle: ‘Monthly devoted to the female sex. Containing: the description and illustration of all sorts of needlework for women, as well as some reading matter, on subjects of interest to women’. The driving force behind it was Anna Barbara van Meerten-Schilperoort (1778-1853). She was the wife of a clergyman and for financial reasons had been writing a large number of simple textbooks since 1811. She had started a successful school of her own, and was editor of Penélopé from 1821 to 1835. Until that time the ladies had had to fall back on various periodicals from abroad, but with Penélopé, published by the well-known Amsterdam publisher G.J.A. Beyerinck, the first women's magazine in Dutch appeared. Its major attraction - and it could even boast the patronage of Queen Sophia, who went so far as to take out six subscriptions - was the needlework section. Contemporaries will also have appreciated the ‘Literature’ section, but its over-emphasized, moralising stories will no longer excite the modern reader.
Needlework covered a wide field: from watchbands, bell pulls, baskets, mementos of loved ones adorned with locks of their hair, to beautifully embroidered boxes for alba amicorum. Elaborate instructions were accompanied by clear illustrations, made by Cornelis Borsteegh (1773-1834) and skilfully engraved in steel by A. Lutz, from the second volume onwards by Dirk Sluyter (1790-1852). These engravings were the more attractive because they were coloured by hand in the most careful and refined way.
Penélopé. [Ed. by A.B. van Meerten-Schilperoort]. Vol. 4 (1822), no. 2. 9195 G 22, p. 98