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Recommended books, March 2017

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More and more people are discovering the TRC Library! We are now constantly having visitors come to use this important facility, including academics, fashion students, and those who are looking for specific inspiration or background information about textiles and garments they may have at home. There are now over 2600 recorded books in the library and thanks to publishers, donations and purchases the library is rapidly going towards to the 3000 mark (we would eventually like to have a library of c. 10000 items, so there is a little way to go).

The March 2017 list of selected books is, as normal, diverse and includes items about historic trade routes, Opus Anglicanum, Indian embroidery as well as jet jewellery from Yorkshire in England.

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BAILEY, Sarah (2013). Clerical Vestments. Ceremonial Dress of the Church. Oxford: Shire Publications. ISBN: 9780747812210, soft back, pp. 64, fully illustrated in colour, short bibliography, places to visit and index. Price: £7.99. Available here.

Shire Publications is renowned for its wide range of small booklets with excellent information on various subjects, ranging from buses to stained glass windows, from the distant past to the present day, and from all corners of the earth. The booklet on clerical vestments is no exception to the general high quality of the booklets. It offers a brief but very informative introduction to the history and wide range of garments worn by the Christian clergy from the early medieval period onwards. The focus lies on Britain and western Europe. There are excellent illustrations, all in colour.

Recommendation: This book should receive a warm welcome by anyone interested in embroidery and Church history. The texts and illustrations make the book a pleasure to read. 

Willem Vogelsang

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BROWNE, Clare, Glyn DAVIES and M. A. MICHAEL (eds., 2016). English Medieval EmbroideryOpus Anglicanum, New Haven and London: Yale University Press in association with the Victoria and Albert Museum. ISBN: 9780300222005, hardback, pp. 336, fully illustrated in colour, with glossary and bibliography. Price: £35. Available here.

This lavishly illustrated book accompanied the exhibition ‘Opus Anglicanum: Masterpieces of English Medieval Embroidery’, which was mounted at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, between 1 October 2016 and 1 February 2017. The exhibition and the book were supported by Hand & Lock, an embroidery atelier based in London. The book contains an introduction to opus anglicanum and medieval English embroidery, divided into seven chapters that approach this form of embroidery from various angles (pp. 1-111), followed by an extensive and detailed catalogue of all objects included in the exhibition. Opus anglicanum was perhaps the most famous and expensive form of embroidery produced in northwestern Europe between the mid-thirteenth and mid-fourteenth centuries. It is characterised by its use of gold thread underside couching. Extant examples are mainly of an ecclesiastical origin, since most secular garments worked in opus anglicanum have not survived. Hence the exhibition, and the present book, include and discuss many vestments that were originally made for liturgical purposes.

Recommendation: this catalogue is an absolute must for anyone interested in needlework, in particular medieval European embroidery. The text is well written, easily accessible, and the many colour illustrations provide a wealth of information that directly supports the accompanying text.

Willem Vogelsang

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HILDEBRANDT, Berit and Carole GILLIS (2017). Silk: Trade and Exchange along the Silk Roads between Rome and China in Antiquity, Oxford and Philadelphia: Oxbow Books. ISBN 978-1-78570-279-2, hardback and digital editions available. Hardback: pp. 130, fully illustrated in colour with some b/w illustrations, bibliographies at the end of each chapter, no index. Price: £30. Available here. 

The book is based on a symposium that took place at the Mahindra Humanities Center, Harvard University (USA) in April 2012. The aim was to look at the important role of silk in the ancient world and in particular its role in the various trade routes that stretched from China to the West in antiquity. Unlike many publications on this subject, both Chinese and Western authors have contributed to the study. The book is divided into eight chapters by different authors on a wide range of subjects including how the Chinese viewed the Romans (Liu Xinru), the early trade in textiles in Asia (J. Mark Kenoyer) and the West (Angela Sheng), the production and trade in textiles in the Roman Empire (Berit Hildebrandt), the etymology of the English word silk (Adam Hyllested), archaeological finds in Central Asia, Syria and Egypt (authors including Thelma Thomas and Lillian Lan-ying Tseng), as well as a technical study of the identification of wild and domestic silk forms used for types of textiles found in Xinjiang (Zhao Feng). The book is dedicated to Dr. Irne Lee Good (1958-2013), a prominent textile historian working on Central Asia, who was instrumental in bringing many ideas and peoples together.

Recommendation: this book is a must for anyone working on early Chinese, Central Asian and Western Asian textiles. It contains a wide variety of information and should stimulate readers to think a little further about this fascinating and historically important subject. It should be in any serious research library dedicated to the study of textiles and related subjects.

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood

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LITH, Wendy van, Valentine RIJSTERBORGH and Rosalie SLOOF (2016). Mode bij Van Loon, Amsterdam: W. Books and Museum Van Loon, ISBN 978-94-625-8125-8, soft back, pp. 79, fully illustrated in colour and b/w, notes, no bibliography or index. Price: €19.95.

Between the 3rd March and the 30th May 2016 the Museum Van Loon in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, staged an exhibition of garments worn by various members of the Dutch aristocratic family, Van Loon. The majority of the items illustrated in the book date from the mid-nineteenth to 2013. The book includes a wide range of family portraits and photographs intermingled with objects. Both men and women’s clothing are depicted and described, as well as accessories such as headgear and fans. These items are from various museum collections as well as the Museum Van Loon collection. There is also a chapter on the manner in which the Van Loon family has used clothing and fashion to emphasise and support their role at the royal court of The Netherlands and elsewhere. Many of the garments were made by fashion houses in France and The Netherlands.

Recommendation: An interesting book to see how one family has understood, and used, the role of clothing within their private, social and public lives. The items illustrated have been beautifully photographed and in many cases there are portraits of a particular person and the garment they are wearing in the painting or photograph.

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood

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MORRELL, Anne (2013). Indian Embroideries, vol. II, pt. 2, Ahmedabad: Sarabhai Foundation, Calico Museum of Textiles. ISBN: 978-81-86980-47-7. Hardback, pp. 190, fully illustrated in colour, bibliography, index. Price: 2700 Indian rupees (about €38). The book also comes with a CD rom with extra images and explanations. Available here.  

The title of this book is a little curious, if you do not know the history of publications by the Calico Museum of Textiles. It is in fact the accompanying book to John Irwin and Margaret Hall, Indian Embroideries, Vol. II of the Historic Textiles of India at the Calico Museum series, which was published in 1973. The Irwin and Hall book is basically a historical (art, social and trade) account of what was regarded, at that time, as the most important examples of Indian embroidery in the Calico Museum. Anne Morrell’s book is a detailed technical account of these and a wide range of other relevant embroideries in the Calico Museum of Textiles collection. The subjects included in the book include a variety of regional styles of embroidery, such as  those from Saurashtra and Kutch (which is divided into hangings, appliqués, beadwork, animal decorations and torans), as well as Kutch, Punjab and Sihar forms. In addition there is a section on ‘miscellaneous’ embroidered items including game boards, bags, gun covers, temple hangings and manuscript covers. The book also includes detailed technical information (with many clear and concise illustrations) concerning the main embroidery stitches, design applications, phulkari work, mirror work and appliqué in general.

Recommendation: This book has already become a standard book for understanding and practicing various types of Indian embroidery techniques. Anyone interested in the subject of Indian textiles and embroideries in particular will find a wealth of information both visually and in the written form. Anyone who uses the Irwin and Hall book should seriously consider acquiring this book as well. It will be a source of inspiration to many.

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood

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MORRELL, Anne (2015). Stitches in Gujarati Embroidery, Ahmedabad, Sarabhai Foundation, Calico Museum of Textiles. ISBN: 978-81-86980-53-8, paper back, pp. 71, fully illustrated in colour, reading list, no index. Available here.

A useful, technical book that describes and explains the main stitches used for the production of Gujarati embroidery in western India. The book looks at seventeen different stitches and techniques, that range from running stitch to Romanian style stitches. It also includes stem stitch, chain stitches, herringbone stitches, cross stitches, satin stitches (including a variety of different forms of each of these stitches), as well as couching and mirror work. Details are given of the local names for the various stitches (sometimes more than one), as well as clear illustrations and photographs of how and in which direction (which is important!) the stitches are worked. There are detailed images of the front and (in some cases) back of the stitched areas.

Recommendation: this book is based on Anne Morrell’s many years of experience both as a professional embroiderer and as a specialist in Indian embroidery (she was born in India and was taught embroidery as a young child). This book is essential for anyone working with Gujarati embroidery, Indian embroidery in general, as well as those looking for inspiration. The information is given in a very clear manner, which means beginners as well as those who are more experienced will enjoy reading and looking through the publication.

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood

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MULLER, Helen and Katy MULLER (2009). Whitby Jet, Oxford: Muller, Shire Publications. ISBN: 978-0747807315, paperback, pp. 56, fully illustrated with photographs, Price: £7.99/ US$12.95/ €9.50. Available here.  

This is a general, but comprehensive introduction to an interesting material. Jet is essentially brown coal, made from fossilized wood. It has been used since antiquity for jewellery and amulets. The Greeks and Romans sourced their jet from an area called Gagates, in what is now Turkey, hence the name in English: jet. Jet has also been used for jewellery in the British Isles since at least the Bronze Age. The Romans were pleased to discover that jet could be found both on the beaches of the Yorkshire (northern England) coast and in mines in the same area.  In the 18th century workmen were still carving beads and crosses out of jet around the Yorkshire town of Whitby. You learn all this and much more history in this book. The training of the craftsmen; influential manufacturers; the rise of the industry and its decline are outlined. Famously, jet jewellery became popular as mourning jewellery during the Victorian period in England. But jet was also popular as a material for necklaces, rings, broaches, watch chains and bracelets both before and after this time; many such designs, well-illustrated by photographs, are included in this publication. For collectors, there is a short chapter on imitation jet (e.g., French jet—also known as black glass, bakelite, bois durci and horn), and some simple tests that can be done to detect these materials.  

Recommendation: this is a book for beginning collectors and anyone interested in the social history of jet, as well as those interested in the history and use of jewellery, mourning jewellery and so forth.

Shelley Anderson

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SIKARSKIE, Amanda Grace (2016). Textile Collections; Preservation, Access, Curation, and Interpretation in the Digital Age, Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9781442263659. Paperback, b/w illustrations, footnotes, bibliography and index, 161 pp. US$42.

This book covers the possibilities and benefits of the digitalization of textile collections. Based on her own experience, including her work on the Quilt Index, the author explores the current and future possibilities of digitalization and the benefits to the preservation, access and interpretation of such collections. A major, and very interesting, emphasis lies on the contribution that the public using the internet can make, by creating metadata using social tagging or enriching collections by user curation. In addition, there are many asides, for example, about Ada Lovelace, the introduction of the sewing machine and the similarities between textile and computers, which are sometimes enriching, but which just as often detract from the core work.

Recommendation: Although there are many interesting ideas about digitalization, this is not a very accessible book. For the layman there is too much computer and internet terminology and a considerable amount of technical knowledge is assumed, while the book seems to have been specifically designed for collection managers who have not yet put a lot of steps in the digital field. The emphasis on programs, websites and social media used by the writer herself and her focus on quilts and the American situation make the book somewhat unbalanced. However, there are some thought provoking ideas which make it worthwhile reading for those who already have experience within the computer world.

Marieke Roozeboom

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SMITH-SANDERS, BERTHI (2013). Merk- en Stoplappen uit het Burgerweeshuis Amsterdam, Amstelveen: Uitgeverij Tienstuks. ISBN 978-807994-0-0, softback, pp. 164, fully illustrated in colour and b/w. bibliography, index, English summary. Price: €27.50. Available here.

A fascinating story of the role needlework played in the lives of hundreds of girls who passed through the Burgerweeshuis (the Municipal Orphanage) of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The orphanage for boys and girls (who were kept separate) was set up in about 1520 and was one of the oldest official orphanages in The Netherlands. It was closed in 1899 and taken over by another group. There are various chapters dedicated to the history and personalities involved in the setting up and running of the orphanage. The samples and samplers were made by girls of various ages as part of their education to become useful citizens when they became older (usually as servants and/or wives). The sample may consist of darning exercises that were required by a girl to master in order to repair clothing, sheets, table cloths and so forth. Some of the samplers are signed and dated, others are anonymous, but they all include designs suitable for marking garments and textiles, as well as showing reading and writing skills. Some of the patterns are repeated on various samplers, including crowns and initials, as well as the Dutch lion within a garden, indicating that there was a set of standard designs which appear to have changed over time.

Recommendation: this is a well-researched book that places the role of samples and samplers within their cultural and social context. The book emphasises the orphanage and the girls who made the samplers rather than being a series of patterns (some patterns are included). A very interesting read and hopefully one that will be eventually translated into English so that a far wider public can enjoy it.

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood

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WEARDEN, JENNIFER (2016). Decorative Textiles from Arab & Islamic Cultures: Selected works from the Al Lulwa Collection, London: Paul Holberton Publishing. ISBN: 978-1-907372-87-2 (hardback edition also available), pp. 200, fully illustrated in colour with 140 colour photographs as well as b/w illustrations and line drawings as well; glossary, index, no bibliography. Price: £40. Available here.

A beautiful book with numerous colour illustrations and details of textiles and garments from the Al Lulwa (‘Pearl’) collection, which is based in Kuwait. As the title indicates the items illustrated come from throughout the Arab and Islamic worlds and include items from Morocco to Mughal India, with a liberal scattering of Ottoman Turkish items and Iranian pieces, as well as a few Indonesian items (such as no. 63). The book has an introduction by the British textile historian Jennifer Scarce (formerly of the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh). The contents of the book have been organised by Jennifer Wearden (formerly of the V&A Museum) on the basis of decorative appearance rather than technique (embroidery, printed, woven, etc.). So there are chapters that emphasise floral decoration, geometric patterns and finally the written word. Each section includes a wide variety of textiles and garments that have been decorated in one (or more) of these decorative forms. This makes it difficult to study, for example, woven or printed examples (or in my case embroidered forms), but it does make the reader more aware of cross-links with regard to patterns, techniques, uses and in some cases cultural and religious norms. Each item is given at least two pages, with a general view, a detail and a detailed visual and technical description of the object. The objects range in date from the medieval period (for example, no. 47 is a woven textile that dates to the Fatimid Dynasty, 12th century), to the twentieth century (such as no. 70).

Recommendation: this book can be used for dipping into and just enjoying the objects, or for more details about particular items. It suffers from the lack of a bibliography, so looking for more details is difficult. In addition some items have been given an early 20th century date (such as no. 71 from Yemen), when it is more likely to be mid- to late 20th century, but these are minor details in comparison to having such a wide range of beautiful (and at times stunning) objects displayed together. This book is a must for anyone interested in the history of Middle Eastern and South Asian textiles and garments, as well as those seriously interested in the history and development of textile technology and design in these regions. This book has presented a selection of items from the Al Lulwa Collection, which leads to the suggestion that in the future it would be possible for all of the collection to come online so it can be used and admired by a wider public?

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood

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