My three favourites

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Posted by Stephen Louw on May 09, 1999 at 14:08:20:

I have been lucky enough to develop a small but decent rug library quite quickly, largely thanks to second hand book shops. My criteria for "greatness" is serious art-historical and ethnographic scholarship, rather than speculation and volkekunde-type mythology, as well as the quality of illustrations. On this score, my favourites (in order) are:

1) Flowers Underfoot: Indian Carpets of the Mogul Era (Daniel Walker). A simply superb summary of the available evidence on Mogul-era production. Good use of shipping records to construct a plausible account of "Lahore" output.

2) Caucasian Carpets and Covers (Wright and Wertime). Rather disappointing pictures used to illustrate a well argued account of pre- and Kustar-production in the Caucasus. I think this book has been unfairly maligned in the rug world.

3) Tribal Rugs (James Opie). I find Opie's arguments about design transfer a bit speculative at times, but his use of ethnographic literature, and sensitivity to changing material conditions and their impact on carpet production and design, is quite fascinating.

Two other very useful sources are Jourdan's Turkoman Rugs (for the pictures, not text), and, for contemporary rugs, PRJ Ford's, Oriental Carpet Design (despite the at-times confusing layout).

Finally, I must disagree with Marvin: I simply see very little to commend the Jacobsen book, other than its reflection on the state of knowledge in the trade at the time. (I am told that his treatment of certain rugs differs quite substantially in different editions of the book, reflecting changing market trends.)

Regards all,

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