Posted by Jerry Silverman on 03-19-2005 08:24 PM:

Pete Stone's Design/Pattern/Motif book

Dear Friends,

It just occurred to me that we've just completed a rather lengthy discussion of age and attribution without mention of Pete Stone's book.

Peter F. Stone

Here's how it's described on the inside dustjacket flap:

"Drawing on the rich weaving traditions of the Near East and Central Asia, the clearly presented text is divided into six major regional and tribal groupings, covering Anatolian, Baluchi, Caucasian, Kurdish, Persian and Turkmen motifs. These are subdivided into more precise attributions and motif types, examining the derivations and uses of medallions, field repeats and borders, and the relationships between them. Pattern recognition has long been used to detemine the origin and age of rugs, and this analysis of designs and their component elements provides a vital key to accurate attribution. Detailed diagrams illustrate the way in which individual motifs are adapted and reinterpreted over time, their evolution crossing historical, cultural and geographic boundaries."

But now that I think about it, I'm sort of glad that it didn't come up - as it deserves its own thread.

Pete is one of those very rare guys who actually contributes to rug scholarship without any particular axe to grind. Every decade or so he writes a book so essential that people are stunned that no one had done so before. His book on rug repair (1981) is still the best on the subject. His Lexicon (1997) is well on its way to being the most quoted rug book ever. And now he's taken on the most obvious attribute of every rug - what it looks like.

Pete takes a very methodical approach that traces the development of many (most?) of the designs that find their way into rugs. I find his logic compelling. To be sure, he's couched his analysis with sufficient caveats and disclaimers to indicate that he's aware that there may be other explanations. Nevertheless, he offers his and supports it with an avalanche of examples.

Have any of you gotten this book yet? And have you formed any opinions about it?



Posted by R. John Howe on 03-19-2005 11:42 PM:

Hi Jerry -

As I think you know, I quickly bought Peter's book and even roused myself from my recent lethargy of participation in our local rug club to encourage them to have Peter come talk to us about it.

As you say, it is a very systematic "let the chips's fall where they may" effort. I think it a useful book to have, especially since people talk about "design" and "pattern" more frequently than any other aspect of rugs and textiles.

One aspect that likely puts off some prospective buyers is that Peter's book does not contain any images of actual rugs. All the designs and patterns in this book (while often based on real pieces) are computer-generated. This lets Peter accentuate and manipulate precisely certain distinguishing design differences. I think the notion of moving to computer-base images that permit this is an advance, but some will sorrow for not having yet one more book of pictures of real rugs.

Another more minor distraction is that Peter's publisher insisted over his objections that the word "definitive" be included in the title. It is important to know that this is not Peter's claim and that he attempted to have it omitted.

There are a few errors in the book. Peter alerted me to a couple of Turkman designs whose captions were inadvertently switched by the publisher. I found one likely error of attribution in one Turkman chuval design.

But, as I said here, when I first saw this book, it is a nice careful, systematic effort to produce something useful on the aspect of rugs perhaps most frequently referenced, their designs.


R. John Howe

Posted by R. John Howe on 03-20-2005 11:06 AM:

Jerry -

You mentioned above that Peter is the sort of rug author with no axe to grind. He is also entirely honest about what he doesn't know. Example:

You said in part:

"His book on rug repair (1981) is still the best on the subject."


That's true but when I first began use it to learn to repile, I was struck by the fact that he doesn't treat repiling using a hook at all. His treatment is entirely devoted to using a needle.

Now many of the professional restorers insist that using a hook is "better" because it's faster. But it's also harder not to disturb the existing warps and wefts when one uses a hook than it is when using a needle.

I had assumed that Peter knew this and had deliberately left out the method less likely to permit the best sort of restoration work.

But during his visit here I chanced to ask him about that over some nice Spanish brandy. He said openly that he didn't include the hook method primarily because he wasn't acquainted with it when he wrote the repair book.

Now that's a refreshing honesty.

It also suggests something of how good Peter is. He was a long-time technical writer, who also wrote some instructional materials (in that sense his professional work and my are allied). He said that he happened to write the rug repair book because he had bought some Caucasian rugs that needed repair, talked about what it might cost to repair them, and decided that he might be able to learn to do that himself. As he learned and repaired he saw that this was a ducumentable and rather accessibly learnable skill.

His skills as a technical writer and instructional designer made it relatively easy for him to write a useful book on a skill he had admittedly only recently and partly mastered.

You may know, Jerry, Peter's next book will not be about rugs at all. It will be about 19th century technology.

I'll be in line when it comes out.


R. John Howe

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 03-20-2005 11:38 AM:

It was a pleasing surprise to find Stone’s book here in Amman, shortly after the announcement of its publication. More surprising was the fact that it was on the shelves of the newspaper/magazines/bookseller section in my favorite supermarket.
Needless to say, when I saw it I bought it at once.

I find the book logically organized, with plenty of necessary cross-references, easy to consult and useful: a good compendium of tribal motifs.


Posted by Jerry Silverman on 03-20-2005 05:06 PM:

Errors occur in even the most carefully proof-read texts.

Pete sent me a note with corrections to Page 278.

The key to the black-bordered pages should read as follows:

Rugs on the six pages following Table V:

Page 280 Tekke joval face. See motif t-68.
Page 281 Ersari ensi. See motif T-32.
Page 282 Beshir prayer rug. See motif T-45.
Page 283 Sariq main carpet. See motif T-66.
Page 284 Tekke small rug. See motif T-75.
Page 285 Ersari main carpet. See motif T-18.



Posted by R. John Howe on 03-21-2005 12:29 AM:

Jerry -

Peter was clearly alert early to these corrections. He actually had a book-mark type card printed with them when he spoke to us here in Washington.

The likely attribution error I mentioned is for motif T-68 on page 280. The main border and the latch hook minor borders (and I think the treatment of the minor gul) suggest that this piece is Yomut rather than Tekke. I have a chuval with this border and an asymmetric right knot. George O"Bannon once told me with my piece in his hands that the Tekkes did not weave that main border.

Peter did not contest that suggestion here.

I'm sure that there are multiple sources of nearly unavoidable error in any book. I do not mean to seem critical of Peter's work here by pointing out that this Tekke attribution may be such. It should be clear from what I have written above that I rather admire both Peter and his work.


R. John Howe

Posted by Louis Dubreuil on 03-29-2005 01:22 PM:

light turkmens

Bonjour à tous

As any rugmaniac I have bought the Peter Stone's book. Its true, the "definitve" tiltle is boring a lot. The choice of drawings in place of photographies is the same in botanic guides : rug motifs, with their multiple variations are like plants, and it is better for describing a plant to make a "synthetic" drawing in place of showing a photography that depicts only one sample of the species. Colours are a little bit "flashy" and we are far from the beautyful paintings of the Bogolyubov's book.
For the subjects I know very well this book does'nt give any new or orginal information. I have been a little disappointed by the Turkmen part of the book, particularly for the ensi chapter which is very very light.

Amicales salutations

Louis Dubreuil

Posted by R. John Howe on 04-02-2005 06:15 PM:

Louis -

You must remember what Peter is about with this book.

I doubt that he claims any "new ground" or "originality." He is mostly systematically examining the various devices used in village and tribal rugs and noticing their similarities and differences.

I think the words he would likely aspire to might include "systematic," "thorough," and accessibly "comparative."

Color criticisms do not bear on a book whose objectives are primarily analytical and whose mode is computer-based images that are, based on, but not real rugs.

He attempts no thorough treatment of any of these areas. The Turkmen section might well be short because, in fact, Turkmen designs are pretty straightforward (some saying boringly so) and have relatively restricted range, comparatively.

There are other objectives in terms of which rug books can be written, but to be fair we need to evaluate this one in terms of the sort of book that was in fact attempted.


R. John Howe