A Bibliography: Tribal Flatweaves
|I've been asked repeatedly to recommend a
"best kilim book." Unfortunately, there is not a single publication that
covers the broad spectrum of Middle Eastern tribal flatweaves. The available books
either focus on new production, weavings from specific areas, or very early fragmented
kilims that appear only rarely on the market and carry very high price tags. Many types of
beautiful bags and bag faces have been ignored, while a few specialized areas have been
covered in detail. The dismal lack of accurate information on flatweave techniques led me
to produce Woven Structures,
a book which is described elsewhere on this website, along with
From the many publications available, I've listed my favorites below. Most are available from the specialty book dealers on my Links page.
|The Tribal Eye: Antique
Kilims of Anatolia. Peter Davies. New York,
1993. 50 color plates of kilims, plus many ethnographic photos by Josephine Powell.
This is probably the best general introduction to kilims as nomadic fiber art, yet it
deals solely with Anatolia. The text is nearly free of the fantasy and hype which
pervades much of kilim literature. The Turkish kilims shown are mainly late 19th century
examples, but a few are older. Paper, about $30.
|Flatweaves of Turkey. Arend Bandsma and Robin Brandt. Bathurst NSW, Australia, 1995. 118 color plates of kilims and bags, plus several large details. This publication covers both Turkic and Kurdish flatweaves from Anatolia, and is notable because it gives attention to Anatolian bags and bag faces -- pieces that have been slighted elsewhere. This book illustrates the kind of late 19th and early 20th century weavings most likely to appear on the market. About $60.||
A Survey of Flatwoven Floor Covers and Hangings and Royal Masnads. Parviz
Tanavoli. Woodbridge, Sufflok, 2002. 244 color plates. This is a
survey of Persian weavings that have been much neglected in the
literature. It describes the history of flatweaves, showing their relation
to pile weaves. It then deals with the different types of
weaves: gelim (tapestry-woven kilims), palas (weft-substitution
weaves), soumak weaves, zilu, and jajim. The emphasis is on the kinds of
late 19th and early 20th century textiles actually available to
collectors. About $65.
|Flat Woven Rugs & Textiles from the Caucasus. Robert H. Nooter. Atglen, Pennsylvania, 2004. Innumerable color plates of kilims, saddlebags, mafrash and a few costumes. The weavings of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia are covered. This book is unique, as it includes precise information gathered on several field trips in the region. Pieces found in specific villages are illustrated, and in many cases the weavers are identified (i.e., "woven by the grandmother of the woman shown in the photo.") Geographic attributions of other pieces are based on the opinions of local dealers and museum people. The author has demonstrated that several of the standard labels we've used for years are erroneous. The weavings shown are mostly from the late 19th or early 20th century. Clear maps help to locate the sites mentioned. About $60.|
Kaukasische Volkeren/The Caucasian Peoples. V. Dmitriev ed. et.al. Antwerp, 2001. 325 pages. Paper. Museum exhibition catalog of the material culture of the peoples of the Caucasus mountains loaned by the Russian Ethnographic Museum. Includes chapters on carpets and textiles. Fascinating historic photos.
||The Nomadic Peoples of Iran. Richard Tapper and Jon Thompson, editors; photos by Nasrollah Kasraian. London, 2002. Large format, 324 pages, lavishly illustrated. This book documents the life of the nomads in Iran at the end of the 20th century. Seventeen essays by anthropologists, ethnographers, geographers and other specialists deal with different nomadic groups.|
|Anatolian Kilims & Radiocarbon Dating. Jürg Rageth, Editor, Basel, 1999. 64 color plates; numerous black and white illustrations. Of potential importance to collectors and scholars interested in early Anatolian kilims and the development of that tradition, this book focuses on the results of carbon 14 tests of 64 slit-tapestry and brocade weavings. The material was first presented at a 1997 symposium in Liestal, Switzerland. The usefulness of such testing for recent objects has been questioned by many, but the results are tantalizing, and suggest that some existing pieces may have been produced as early as 1450-1650 AD. Accompanying material provides carbon 14 test data for related textiles from North Africa and Asia. Included are essays by Belkis Balpinar, Herwig Bartels, Harald Böhmer, Georges Bonani, Volkmar Enderlein, Udo Hirsch, Norman Indictor, David Lantz, Dietmar Pelz, Jürg Rageth and Daniel Walker. About $80.|
|Kilims: Masterpieces from Turkey. Yanni Petsopoulos, with commentaries on the illustrations by Belkis Balpinar. New York, 1991. 100 color plates. The superb early kilims are primarily from central Anatolia, although the selection is slightly wider-ranging than that in the following publication. Most of the pieces are late 18th or 19th century examples, but a few may be earlier still. The exceptional examples were drawn from several prominent collections for a widely heralded European exhibition. About $50.|
|Anatolian Kilims: The Caroline & H. McCoy Jones Collection. Cathryn Cootner, with contributions by Garry Muse. San Francisco, 1990. 112 color plates of a well-known collection first exhibited at the 1990 ICOC, and now in the De Young Museum. If you can get past the hyperbole in the plate descriptions, and realize that colors have been intensified in many of the photos, you will enjoy the assortment of superb kilims. Many are fragmented, and most are from central Anatolia. Definitely not the kilims you will find in your local rug shop -- or in Turkey either, as those sources have been nearly exhausted. Paper, about $40; hardbound, about $80.|
|Moroccan Carpets. Brook Pickering, W. Russell Pickering, Ralph S. Yohe. London, 1994. Both
flatweaves and pile carpets made in Morocco are shown in 115 color plates along with
ethnographic photos. This large, beautifully produced book covers the subject well and
should convince collectors that this often overlooked area deserves more serious
attention. $75-95, but remaindered copies available.
From the Far West: Carpets and Textiles of Morocco. Patricia Fisk, W. Russell Pickering, Ralph S. Yohe. Washington, 1980. When I began making buying trips to Morocco in 1976, very little in print in English documented either the fascinating Berber flatweaves from the Atlas Mountains or Morocco's unusual pile carpets. A 1980 Textile Museum exhibition and this informative catalog were eye-openers for many Westerners. The volume has 87 plates, 52 in color. Both flatweaves and pile carpets are included. English/French. About $40.
|Anatolia: Kilims and Other
Flatweaves from Anatolia (Vok Collection). Ignazio Vok,
Udo Hirsch, Krys Pupko. Munich, 1997. 77 kilims are shown in color plates, many
in large details also. It's a delightful selection of old Anatolian kilims that includes
unusual and compelling works. In both this and the following volume, the collector
describes his feelings about the pieces. The kilims are early, but are dated more
conservatively than similar pieces elsewhere. About $115.
Caucasus Persia: Gilim and Other Flatweaves (Vok Collection). Ignazio Vok, Hamid Sadighi, Karin Hawkes. Munich, 1996. 107 color plates, plus a few large details. As with the Anatolian volume above, this selection includes many atypical examples. Major attention is devoted to bold, dramatic south Persian pieces. About $145.
|Flatweaves of the Vakiflar Museum Istanbul. Belkis Balpinar and Udo Hirsch. Wesel, Germany, 1982. 120 color plates. This illustrates the important collection of kilims gathered from mosques around Turkey and now housed in an Istanbul museum. They range from exceptional early pieces to rather mundane late weavings. The color reproduction seems dull when compared with other publications in which hues have been intensified. About $135.|
|Early Turkish Tapestries. Bertram
Frauenknecht. Nürnberg, 1994.
63 good color plates of early kilims. This volume, along with the small paperback
book below, first exposed rug enthusiasts to early fragmented weavings and convinced us
that the imagery in such pieces could still be powerful. The text consists mainly of a
James Mellaart essay devoted to archaeological materials that have since been discredited.
Anatolische Kilims/Anatolian Kilims. Bertram Frauenknecht. Nürnberg. This small catalog has 24 color plates showing early kilims. Some of the pieces appear also in the volume above. German/English. Paper, about $15.
Anatolische Gebetskilims. Bertram Frauenknecht and Klaus Frantz. Nürnberg, 1978. This small catalog devoted to Anatolian namazlik, or prayer kilims, has 40 plates, about half in color. German. Paper, about $25.
|Kilim: The Complete Guide. Alastair Hull, Jose Luczyc-Wyhoska. London, 1993. This guidebook
covers all of the kilim-producing areas, from North Africa to Central Asia, and thus shows
weavings not illustrated elsewhere. It is focused on 20th century production, with a few
earlier pieces sprinkled throughout. An immense amount of material is included: there are
649 illustrations, the majority in color. About $75.
Living with Kilims. Alastair Hull, Nicholas Barnard. London, 1995. If you want ideas on decorating with tribal flatweaves, this publication is inspirational. It shows how unpretentious, colorful nomad art can enrich one's surroundings. About $25.
|From the Bosporus to Samarkand: Flat-woven Rugs. Anthony N. Landreau and W.R. Pickering. Washington, 1969. This Textile Museum catalog from the first serious exhibition of flatweaves is a sentimental favorite for many long-time collectors. It covers a wide variety of flatwoven objects -- more bags, horse covers, etc. than kilims -- but most of the 113 illustrations are in black and white. Because these tribal weavings had been studied so little by the late '60s, a great many of the attributions are now acknowledged to be incorrect. This little paperback is still in print, after all these years, and available for about $15.|
|Saddle Bags/SattelTaschen. Helmut Reinisch. Graz, 1985. 70 saddlebags are shown in color, although a few of the photos are very small. The pieces are from all geographic areas, and display a wide range of weaving techniques -- both pile and flatweaves. The text discusses the wide variety of closure systems used. German/English. $55-80.|
|Mafrash. Siawosch Azadi and Peter A. Andrews. Berlin/Munich, 1985. This was the
first publication to focus attention on the spectacular soumak bedding bags from northwest
Persia and the Caucasus. About 95 complete bags or panels are illustrated in
excellent color plates. Most are Shahsevan objects. English/German. $120-140.
|Sumak Bags of Northwest
Persia and Transcaucasia. John T. Wertime. London,
1998. Another lavish publication on soumak weavings, this one is devoted primarily to
saddlebags and saddlebag faces, but includes a few mafrash as well. The text concentrates
on separating weaving groups. 170 color plates. About $120, but
remaindered copies are available.
Schahsavan Sumakh Taschen. Bertram Frauenknecht. Nürnberg, 1993. 64 color plates showing primarily saddlebag faces. Very brief German text. About $60.
Rare Oriental Woven Bags. Heinz Hegenbart. Munich, 1982. One of the first publications to illustrate a variety of excellent small bags, the 43 color photos show mainly Shahsevan pieces from the Adil Besim collection. German/English. $45-60.
|Bergama Cuvallari: Die Schmucksadke der Yuruken Nordwestanatoliens. Doris Pinkwart, Elisabeth Steiner. Wesel, Germany, 1991. An esoteric publication devoted entirely to the important brocaded storage sacks made by nomads in northwestern Anatolia: Yagcibedir, Karakecili, Yuncu, Kilas and other tribal groups. Numerous small color photos illustrate material not shown elsewhere. The text is in German, with a separate short English summary. Paper, about $115.|
|Yayla: Form und Farbe in
türkischer Textilkunst. Werner
am Main, 1993. The kilim exhibition mounted in Berlin for the 1993 ICOC is documented in
this large volume. 147 Anatolian objects are illustrated with color plates, including
brocaded pieces and numerous bags and bag faces. The selection was made to accompany the
author's lengthy German text expounding on his design evolution theories. About $100.
|Bread and Salt: Iranian Tribal Spreads and Salt Bags. Parviz Tanavoli. Tehran, 1991. In this large volume, the leading Iranian textile researcher has focused solely on sofreh and salt bags. Of the 140 illustrations, 90 are in color. In a few of the illustrations it is difficult to see details, and the color is not exceptional, but pieces not shown elsewhere are included. Persian/English. $95-115.|
|Tribal Rugs: An Introduction to the Weaving of the Tribes of Iran. Jenny Housego. London, 1996, 3rd edition. 133 illustrations, 26 in color. This popular small introductory book, with mostly black and white illustrations, includes collectible bags, rugs, kilims and trappings from all parts of Iran. About half are flatwoven. Ms. Housgo was among the first to do field research in the Shahsevan areas, and the first edition of this book introduced that tribal material in 1978, at a time when most soumak work was being attributed to the Caucasus. About $20.|
|Turkish Flatweaves: An Introduction to the Weaving and Culture of Anatolia. William T. Ziemba, Abdulkadir Akatay, Sandra L. Schwartz. Vancouver, 1979. 96 illustrations, 46 in color. This is another popular small book that provides beginning collectors with a helpful survey of late 19th and early 20th century weavings -- this time, Anatolian flatweaves. The reproductions are not inspiring, but the book offers novices a reasonable starting point. $30-40.|
|The Undiscovered Kilim. David Black and Clive Loveless. London, 1977. Like the small Textile Museum catalog listed above, this book is a sentimental favorite. Kilims and other tribal flatweaves were still unfamiliar to most collectors in 1977, and this was the first presentation of dramatic flatwoven textile art in good color reproductions. The book has 52 plates, and is useful still because it includes Caucasian kilims that have not been given much coverage elsewhere. $60-80.|
|The following books are out of print, and used copies are expensive. They are worth watching for, however:|
|Kilims: Flat-woven Tapestry Rugs. Yanni Petsopoulos. New York, 1979. This monumental volume surveys kilims made in Turkey, the Caucasus and Iran. 422 kilims are illustrated, 72 in color. Although some early pieces are included, a majority are mid- or late-19th century work -- weavings which were often neglected as earlier pieces surfaced and were energetically promoted on the international market. Now, with caches of the earliest surviving weavings and fragments nearly exhausted, the kilims illustrated here are the types most frequently available to collectors. Tapestry-woven kilims are the focus; there are very few pieces in other flatweave structures, and no bags. Unfortunately there were some binding problems with this heavy Rizzoli publication, and pages have often come loose. $250-300.|
|Shahsavan: Iranian Rugs and
Textiles. Parviz Tanavoli. New York, 1985. This
thick Rizzoli volume, like the one above, illustrates an immense number of weavings --
this time the kilims, trappings, covers and many kinds of bags produced by Shahsavan
tribal weavers in Iran. Included are 495 illustrations, 96 in non-exceptional color.
Tanavoli is the most credible researcher working in Iran, and has produced books on a
variety of subjects. About $200.
In the list above, I have not included titles which focus primarily on pile carpets, although many of the best recent general Oriental rug books include at least a few kilims and bags. The best appear at the end of this page. Informative articles on various groups of flatweaves have appeared in both HALI and Oriental Rug Review over the years as well.
Not only must we approach the texts in most rug books with healthy skepticism, we must often question the accuracy of the color reproduction. This is not just a web site problem! Dull photos can usually be recognized as such, but when colors are intensified to enhance a publication, our impressions of the weavings may be erroneous. It can be a shock to find the real weavings much more subdued.
you're looking for more specialized material...
or just MORE KILIMS:
|Koekboya: Natural Dyes and
Textiles. Harald Bohmer. Ganderkesee,
Germany, 2002. 500 color illustrations, plus drawings, graphs and maps.
300 pages. In this book almost 100 dye plants from Turkey and around
the world are introduced on a scientific basis: their botany, their
qualities for dyeing, their cultural and historical importance, and
aspects concerning their reintroduction to use for dyeing. Instructions
for their use are included. Excellent photos show the plants, as
well as yarns dyed with them. The author was the initiator of the
well-known DOBAG project which reintroduced the use of natural dyes in
Turkey-- in Ayvacik and Yuntdag villages of the northeast. About $120.
Kyrgyz and Their Reed Screens.
John L. Sommer. Freemont, CA, 1996. THE book on the decorated reed
screens that form part of the basic furnishings in a Kyrgyz nomad's yurt. 30 screens are
illustrated in color. Included are writings of several Soviet ethnographers and
innumerable black and white archival photos. About $40.
Shelagh Weir. London, 1976. A short ethnographic study focused primarily on Jordan. Paper.
Fetzen. M. Kirdok. Wien, 1991. 16 Anatolian kilim fragments are shown in color plates. German text. Paper, $35-40.
Orientalische Kelims: Flachgewebe aus Anatolien, dem Iran und dem Kaukasus. Volkmar Enderlein. Wesel, 1986. 158 illustrations, 48 in color. A variety of kilims, mainly from the Islamic Museum in Berlin. German text, with a short English insert. $50-60.
John Eskenazi and Dario Valcarenghi. Milano, 1985. Assorted Anatolian kilims shown in 85
color plates. Italian text. Paper, about $50.
Eskenazi. Milano, 1980. Assorted kilims. 32 plates. Italian/English. Paper, about
|Recommended books for people beginning a general Oriental rug study. The publications below focus primarily on knotted-pile carpets.|
|Among the dozens of Oriental rug
books currently available, few offer the guidance and advice needed by
beginning collectors. The three below stand out from the crowd:
Carpet Magic. Jon Thompson, 1983. Reissued as Oriental Rugs, 1988, 2nd edition. 159 illustrations, 148 in color. A very readable and informative overview of the field of Oriental rugs. It discusses the production in several categories: tribal, cottage industry, workshop, and court carpets. The pieces illustrated are exemplary, as the book served as the catalog of a 1983 London International Carpet Conference (ICOC) exhibition. Paper, about $25.
|The Official Price Guide to Oriental Rugs. Joyce Ware, 1996, New York, 2nd edition. 92 illustrations, 14 in color. The title of this small paperback is misleading, as its value lies in its excellent information concerning the rugs most often available to collectors. The reader should keep in mind that it is extremely difficult to compare auction prices and photos with rugs on the market which may be only superficially similar. Ms. Ware offers first-rate guidance for beginning collectors. Paper, about $15.||
|Oriental Carpets: A Complete Guide.
Murray L. Eiland Jr. & Murray Eiland III, 1998. 365
illustrations, 330 in color. Most people in the field agree that this is
the best general survey of Oriental Rugs. It is a large volume, with
excellent text, maps and illustrations, covering all of the rug-producing
areas. It is not just for beginners; it should be on every
collector's shelf. About $75.
For a discussion of favorite rug books in a wide variety of categories, you may wish to check out the Salon discussion devoted to this topic a while back on the Turkotek discussion board: Salon 19, Rug Books.
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