Posted by R. John Howe on 02-25-2003 11:46 AM:

A Nice Little Book

Dear folks -

Mr. Rocklin has focused on seemingly more important rug books in his history here. In that sense this post is a departure. The book I want to mention is one of the survey-type books. It made no claim to break any new ground or to contribute to rug studies in any particular way. But it is a book I admire, buy frequently and give away to novices.

It is Preben Liebetrau's "Oriental Rugs in Color," 1962. The copy I am looking at says that it is from the 15th printing done in 1980.

Liebetrau was the head of the rug department in a Copenhagen department store.

This book has a nice handy size and despite being only 131 pages long is packed with a lot of information.

First, although the color would not be estimated to be good nowadays, it is surprisingly good for its time. It provided 65 color photograph of some major types of oriental rugs. Here are a few.

First, there is a Tabriz piece.

Then there is one he designates as "Derbend."

Unusual for a commercial rug book at that time, even shows a few bag faces and flatweaves. Here is a Persian kilim he includes.

There are also a number of useful line drawings often of variations in classic design elements and he provides a couple of useful maps. Here is one.

I do not think that Liebetrau pretended at all to be a rug scholar, but I noticed during an early perusal of his volume that as he is ticking off several ways that oriental rugs can be classified, he mentions in passing that one such system would be to organize by "producer." That is, whether the rug was made by "nomads," "semi-nomads," or "in workshops by craftsman." Jon Thompson has been given lots of credit for his very similar typology in his "Oriental Carpets" volume in 1983, although it is my understanding that it may have been proposed orginally by Kurt Erdmann (by the way, Erdmann is not mentioned in Mr. Rocklin's introductory essay, despite the fact that he has 17 entries in O'Bannon's bibiliography, at least one of which George describes as a "standard" resource at one time). But here is Liebetrau providing something very similar in a near throw-away sentence in a commercial book in 1962.

At the end Liebetrau gives a brief bibliography.

(Looking at it I wondered why Kendricks and Tatterall's two volumes in 1922 was not mentioned in Mr. Rocklin's essay but a quick look at O'Bannon's bibliography provided the answer: the Kendricks and Tattersall volume is in fact based on the work of Neugebauer and Orendi, whom Mr. Rocklin does list.)

Anyway, I admire this little book and think it is still a useful first book for some just approaching oriental rugs. Surprisingly, it is often found with its dust jacket still in good condition.

They don't make them like that anymore.

Pardon this aside.


R. John Howe

Posted by Steve Price on 02-25-2003 03:17 PM:

Hi John,

I think the reason Jon Thompson is given credit for this method of classifying rugs is that he used it as the basis for organizing his very popular book, while the others just mention it within books that are organized along other lines. So, Thompson is the one who actually "sold" the method.

I teach a little course about scientific revolutions which, I believe, are really no different than intellectual or political revolutions. The revolutions that occur when someone rearranges existing knowledge in a new way (as opposed to those resulting from the development of new technology) almost always resemble what has happened here: the "revolutionary" is not the originator of the idea or way of thinking that is the basis for the revolution, he is the one who sells it to others effectively.

In my view, the classification of rugs as tribal, village or workshop was a minor (maybe not so minor) revolution in thinking in Rugdom. Since Thompson was the one who persuaded others that it is a sensible way to think about things, he is deservedly recognized as the "revolutionary".

Evolution is an idea that dates back at least to Aristotle, and it had a number of well known European proponents in the 19th century before Darwin. None persuaded the rank and file of its correctness. Darwin did, and is the revolutionary figure for that reason. One of the things that define a major contributor to intellectual progress is his/her ability to persuade others of the correctness of the new way of thinking. The genius who fails to do that actually makes little contribution despite generating important ideas. I think this simple truth is often overlooked.


Steve Price

Posted by R. John Howe on 02-25-2003 05:45 PM:

Hi Steve -

I've read my Thomas Kuhn, so I'm familiar with the "discovery" phenomenon you describe. And I'm not debating it.

I just think the English are a little sloppy sometimes with their footnoting. :-) Thompson's first page is headed "A new way of thinking about rugs." Not quite so "new" as that sentence might suggest.


R. John Howe

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 03-10-2003 10:25 PM:

Tatters All


You mention Kendrick and Tattersall. I scanned through that book (the 1973 version of the 1922 "original?" version) at a library today. I wonder how many of us rug collectors are using this helpful method to rid our rugs of moths:

" 'A very useful way of keeping moths away from carpets is to place the wings of birds, such as hens, pigeons and crows, on the top of cupboards. Moths have a peculiar passion for feathers and will lay their eggs in them in preference to any other place."

They also suggest soaking in petrol, putting rugs in cold storage-but say that is expensive, and many other toxic processes.
They also say that, if you live near a river, to wash your rug, then tie it securely in the river for the water to rinse it clean. One method of cleaning is to drag the rug over the snow, but they say this is rather hard for heavy rugs.
As for cleaning, they say to sweep "with" the pile, and go on to say that "domestic servants" can be stubborn and insist that sweeping "against" the pile cleans more thoroughly, though the authors rightfully claim this merely buries the dirt in the foundation of the rug.
They also suggest checking for rot by yanking the rug "as though to pull it asunder". And that a "good" rug will not be harmed by this.
Yeah, right. Just try THAT in an upscale rug store.

Do you know of any other helpful rug advise from some of those old rug books?

Patrick Weiler

Posted by R. John Howe on 03-11-2003 06:30 AM:

Hi Pat -

Yeah, they often seem to go a little overboard in their descriptions.

I especially like the notion of keeping moths in the house but in the feathers rather than in the rugs.

I know some folks who have vacuumed the backs of their rugs then put them face down in a fresh snow during a day's daylight hours with good results. Apparently the snow leeches lots of dirt out and the rugs do not get as wet as in an immersion wash.

And I have often seen folks, check for dry rot by bending a rug sharply and listening to see if they hear any warps pop. Not quite "tearing it asunder" but it has a similar objective and result.

The old timers are fun to read.


R. John Howe