Rug Books: Mostly Accurate Now or Frequently in Error Yet?

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Posted by R. John Howe on May 12, 1999 at 06:17:18:

Dear folks -

Jon Thompson has written somewhere that he believes perhaps 25% of what he reads in rug books. Robert Torchia (a trained art historian, i.e., he, himself writes about art for a living) has indicated to me repeatedly that he has far more faith in what he hears from an old Armenian dealer in Philadelphia than what he reads in rug books. (He cites this dealer in his own rug writings.)

It is a notorious fact that older rug books are full of things now known to be erroneous (although many of us still often draw on some of them). Nowadays, the conventional wisdom is that rug scholarship has improved and that writers are now frequently on more solid ground. And rug books are very convenient. We can in our armchairs move into worlds that we cannot practically visit. More, it might not make much difference if we could, since a lot of the world collectors are interested is 100-200 years back.

So what do we think? Are rug books nowadays mostly accurate or are they still too often the repositories of a surfeit of ungrounded opinion and convention that are likely to be found ultimately (when we can really determine, for example, where the sheep lived that produced the wool in a given rug)to be in error?


R. John Howe

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