BOOKS ON THE HISTORY OF SPINNING:
Spinning Wheels, Spinners and Spinning. Patricia Baines. Batsford (Out of print) ISBN 13: 9780713462050 ISBN 10: 0713462051
Catalogue of the Horner collection of spinning wheels and accessories (1909) (Online)
The linen trade of Europe during the spinning-wheel period, John Horner. Belfast, M’Caw, Stevenson & Orr Ltd. (1920) (Online. NB. this is only available in full in the US. To view it from anywhere else use a US proxy server)
History of the Spinning Wheel in pictures (and a few words):
Spinning wheels were developed in the Far East then travelled west to Europe c. 1237. Baghdad. Probably spinning cotton.
Hand cranked 'walking' wheel, with woman carding wool. The Luttrell Psalter c.1320-40. England.
Hand cranked 'walking' wheel, man carding wool c. 1340. England.
Earliest known illustration of a spinning wheel with flyer from Mittelalterliche Hausbuch von Schloss Wolfegg c. 1475 - 1480. Germany. Hand cranked. For spinning flax/hemp.
Great wheel turned by a hand crank. c. Early 16th century France. Spinning wool. (I'm beginning to wonder if this in fact a bobbin winder rather than a spinning wheel).
Young woman spinning. Lucas_van_Leyden c 1513. Dutch. Hand cranked Picardy spinning wheel. Spinning worsted wool?
Hand cranked wheel with Picardy flyer c. 1529. Holland. (Spinning worsted wool?).
From Spinning Wheels, Spinners and Spinning (p. 92):
The earliest actual surviving spinning wheel with treadle may be one which is illustrated in a little booklet ‘Wolle spinnen am Handspinnrad’ by J. Glemnitz; the wheel, dated 1604, is of the vertical types and is in a private collection of antiques in Germany.
Hand cranked flyer wheel with distaff c.1620. England. Spinning flax/hemp (or possibly worsted wool?).
Woman Spinning, Geertruydt Roghman c1650. Dutch. Appears to be a treadle wheel. Spinning flax.
Treadle driven flyer wheel, as we would recognise it today c.1657. Holland. Spinning flax/hemp.
Front piece from 'Some Proposals for the Imployment of the Poor, Especially in and about the City of London and for the Prevention of Begging' by Thomas Firmin, showing a two handed, treadle driven, vertical spinning wheel, spinning flax. Text written 1678 published 1681.
Text from Spinning Wheels, Spinners and Spinning (p. 181):
“In 1686 John Aubrey in his ‘Natural History of Wiltshire’ made a memorandum: ‘The art of spinning is much improved within these last forty years that one pound of wool makes twice as much cloathe as it did before the Civill warres’ (1642). This would surely be because people had mastered the art of using the spinning wheels, as he adds ‘In the old time… they used to spinne with rocks (spindles); in Stafffordshire they use them still’.
The small wheel continued to be used mainly for spinning flax and hemp, in the predominantly wool producing areas of Scotland and Wales the Great Wheel was used well into the 19th century as this photograph of 1885 shows.
'English Spinning Wheel ' from the Horner Collection (1909). Very similar to the 1681 example but with a single flyer. Unfortunately undated.
(NB. THIS PAGE IS STILL UNDER CONSTRUCTION; I AM FINDING IT DIFFICULT TO FIND EVIDENCE OF THE PRESENCE OF THE TREADLE DRIVEN SMALL SPINNING WHEEL BEING IN ENGLAND BEFORE OR DURING THE ENGLISH CIVIL WARS. RESEARCH CONTINUES. This Comment thread is worth reading.)