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Thread: Advice on books
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Old September 15th, 2017, 04:20 AM   #4
Rich Larkin
Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: Massachusetts
Posts: 128

Hi Phil,

I respectfully decline the "expert" mantle, but I certainly did dissipate a good deal of my youth on rug books.

I agree with Joel's recommendations. I would suggest some caution in relying too much on Edwards (The Persian Carpet) regarding tribal rugs in particular. He is clearly the authority on Persian weaves, having spent a significant part of his adult life in Iran in the rug trade. Yet, he made some broad statements about tribal weaves that are clearly not accurate. The most conspicuous is that most South Persian tribal rugs (Qashqa'i excepted) and virtually all "true Baluchi" rugs are single-wefted. This is obviously not so, and it is difficult to understand how these things got into the book, as he was generally meticulous in his approach to his task as a writer, and provided much statistical detail about rug production throughout Iran during the time of his presence there. Yet, I have seen and handled a trillion Baluchi rugs, and very few were single-wefted. (I have one such Baluch khorjin face.) Similarly, I have seen very few South Persian rugs of the Arab Khamseh group that were single-wefted, though Edwards says the group is the most prolific producer in those parts, and they wove single-wefted rugs.

Edwards died before his book was published (ca. 1950), and his widow carried out the final editing and polishing of the manuscript, but given the context of the misstatements, it is hard to imagine how they could have crept in through those circumstances. I have wondered whether he observed the details of tribal and remote village weaving from a somewhat remote (urban) perch, and relied on hearsay for some of the background information. Nevertheless, I am not suggesting you disregard Edwards. Just take it with a grain of salt on the tribal material.

I ratify Joel's mention of Jenny Housego's Tribal Rugs. She was formerly in the textile department of the V & A and lived for a long time in Iran, making a point of associating with tribal peoples and studying their weavings. I heard her speak a few times at the Textile Museum in Washington D. C. in the early 1980s, and she came across as very authoritative, as well as especially good-humored about the whole business. Moreover, the book is probably available at relatively modest cost. It is small but packed with good and interesting information. There are three editions that vary only in minor secondary respects, and any edition at a good price would do.

I recently acquired Brian MacDonald's Tribal Rugs, Treasures of the Black Tent (Third edition, 2017), and have been very pleased with it. It addresses many of your preferred goals. Good (book) hunting!

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