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The word sampler comes from the Latin word examplar, literally meaning example or model. Samplers existed in Europe from the early 16th century, although the earliest known survivor was stitched by Jane Bostocke in 1598.
Samplers were originally worked to provide a portable record of stitches and patterns in an age where printed patterns were very rare. The early samplers were generally completed by adults and were frequently worked on long strips of bleached or unbleached linen.
The first printed pattern book was published in 1523 and, towards the end of the 16th century, the function of samplers changed to become increasingly decorative. In the 18th and 19th centuries, most young girls would have worked at least one sampler during the course of their education. In particular, many samplers of this kind have a religious or moral tone.
Most samplers from the 19th century have been prepared with cross-stitch, which became so common that it came to be called sampler stitch. In the 19th century, naturalistic subjects became increasingly popular, including portrayals of birds, trees, houses, animals and people, as well as the more general numeric and alphabetical themes.
Laura Nancy Dunn flourished in the middle of the 19th century, and the subject illustrated in the Rosenstie´s catalogue was completed by her at the age of 14. Her sister, Ann Lydia Dunn, also completed a similar sampler at the age of 13. Both sisters were taught by their mother and the samplers of both children feature the family dog and were worked in coloured silks in a wide variety of stitches.