Answers and thoughts

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Posted by Wendel Swan on May 11, 1999 at 07:39:57:

1 MOST INFORMATIVE? Although I don't yet own the latest edition, I have always thought that Eiland's general book is the most informative single volume available. The LEAST INFORMATIVE? Most of the early books are nearly useless except from an historical perspective, but the award among my books might go to Robert DeCalatchi's Oriental Carpets (1970), which routinely exaggerates the ages of some admittedly attractive rugs by 100 - 200 years.

2) FAVORITE RUG BOOK? Joseph V. McMullan's Oriental Carpets (1965) is an extraordinary book documenting an extraordinary collection. Beginning collectors may balk at paying $900 - 1,200 for just one book instead of a small library, but few of McMullan's rugs have failed to stand the test of time; many remain the best or nearly the best of their types. The images are of high quality. I enjoy this book every time I open it.

3) MOST PROVOCATIVE NEW RUG BOOK?..Although it is now nearly three years old, Brian Morehouse's Yastiks filled a void and is provocative in the sense that it enables readers to see many examples of yastiks when it is almost impossible to find them elsewhere and should provoke interest in this genre.

4) WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST RUG BOOK AND WHY DID YOU BUY IT? My parents gave me Fabio Formenten's Oriental Rugs and Carpets when it was published in English in 1972 after I expressed frustration with the black and white photos in the library books of the time.

5) WHICH RUG BOOK HAS THE BEST PICTURES? Orient Stars, maybe Ikat. On a side note, I am familiar with most of the pieces in Wertime's Sumak and I know that the transparencies were of the best quality, yet the color separation was pushed and the pictures fail to capture the spirit of the bags in many instances. However, others have commented on the high quality of the images in the book. This, I suppose, is a perennial problem. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT BLACK BACKGROUNDS? Indifferent.

6) IN THE FUTURE, WHAT TOPICS WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE ADDRESSED IN RUG BOOKS? Specialty books are always appealing, but their days may be drawing to an end. Kalman and King, for example, have dropped plans to publish Parviz Tanavoli's already completed volume on Afshar rugs. Publishers simply cannot recover their costs on runs of books under 2,000.

7) IN THE FUTURE, HOW WOULD YOU MAKE RUG BOOKS BETTER? With some exceptions, I think the research and images in rug books have been getting better and better all the time.

8) HOW DO YOU USE YOUR RUG BOOKS? I never write in them. Some I consult continuously; I almost never open others. I don't wear anything out, but some of the dust jackets are getting torn.

9) MIND IF A BOOK IS AN EX-LIB? Certainly not. I wouldn't have some important works if I did.

10) ARE RUG BOOKS TOO EXPENSIVE? Even though printing prices in the Far East are now very low, rug books are very expensive to publish, given the limited market for them. HOW MUCH IS "TOO EXPENSIVE"? $35 can be too much and $250 can be a bargain, depending upon the book. It cost Kirchheim $500 to publish each copy of Orient Stars when they were selling for half that.

11) WILL THE INTERNET (AND SITES LIKE THIS) EVER ELIMINATE THE NEED FOR RUG BOOKS? The internet is currently far too slow to browse efficiently and the quality of the images varies too widely. At this stage, books and the internet are different creatures with different purposes; they are not interchangeable media. No one will ever regret having purchased a good rug book, but I already regret wasting so many hours on the inefficient internet.


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