What kinds of errors are common?

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Posted by Steve Price on May 14, 1999 at 12:27:30:

Dear Friends,

It occurs to me that certain kinds of information in rug books are more likely than other kinds to be accurate.

The kinds of information a book on rugs (using the word in our usual broad sense) typically includes:
1. Attributions of the geographic or tribal origin of rugs. I suspect that a very high percentage (nearly 100%) of these are accurate in most books.
2. Attributions of the times at which rugs were made. Date attributions are understood by most experienced collectors to be a shorthand with a very high implicit (but not explicit) uncertainty built in. When a book attributes something to some window of time, most of us understand that what is really meant is that the piece has characteristics most typical of that period, but that the actual date at which it was made could be a good bit earlier or later. Even if we note the implicit uncertainty and don't consider it to be "error", age estimation involves a whole lot more guesswork than geographic or tribal attribution does, and includes errors more often.
3. Structural terminology is not an area of strength for most writers or collectors, and is likely to have a high error rate in books. Marla Mallett has the knowledge to be able to confirm or refute this.
4. Cultural significance and use of utilitarian items is probably the area most prone to myths of the bazaar and tall tales told to gullible buyers. People really want to believe that an object was of great importance to some romantic image of another culture. I suspect that the inaccuracy rate here is very high, indeed.


Steve Price

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