A Bibliography: Tribal Flatweaves

Marla Mallett

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 ordering information.

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.

Persian Flatweaves: 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.

Josephine Powell Collection, Kilim Ornekleeri:  Examples from Kilims.  Josephine Powell.  Istanbul, 2007.  This is the catalog for a 2003 exhibition of 42 early Anatolian kilims.  The large photos, many of them on fold-out pages, were made by Josephine, and are the best in any current publication.  Large details of all of the pieces give us an excellent "feel" for the pieces.  The pieces are not dated, nor are the origins given.  Rather, she lists locations where she documented similar motifs.    Paper; about $100
Giving Back the Colours: Josephine Powell Collection. Ed: K. Hart, with contributions by several others.  Istanbul, 2007. This catalog documents an ICOC convention exhibition which included 48 early Anatolian kilims and cicims not included in the catalog above, and a very large selection of Anatolian çuvals--70 in all.  Large photos of each piece, as well as large details, were all provided by Josephine, and are excellent in quality.  The bags are identified by tribal groups.   Paper; about $115 
Nomads in Anatolia:  Their Life and Their Textiles;  Encounters with a Vanishing Culture.  Harald Böhmer, with Josephine Powell and Şerife Atlihan.  Ganderkesee, Germany.  2008.  316 pages. German and English editions. ISBN 979 3 9936713 03 09.  In this very large, extensively illustrated volume, the author describes his visits to the main nomadic communities in Anatolian Turkey, giving us valuable glimpses into their lifestyles.  He then surveys kilim and bags produced by Anatolian nomads in earlier centuries.  An essential publication for any collector of Anatolian kilims.   About $100
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. German/English. $65-75.

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.  An example of superb field research.  The text is in German, with a separate short English summary. Paper, about $115. 

Yayla: Form und Farbe in türkischer Textilkunst. Werner Brüggemann. Frankfurt 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.

And more...if 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.

The 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.

Textiles of Baluchistan.
M.G. Konieczny. London, 1979. 48 photos, including 10 color plates. Baluchi flatweaves, with an emphasis on those from Pakistan. About $55-80. 

Traditional Textiles of Central Asia. Janet Harvey. London, 1996. Embroideries, ikats and felts are covered along with flatweaves in 212 color illustrations. About $40.

Kordi: Lives, Rugs, Flatweaves of the Kurds in Khorasan. Wilfried Stanzer. Wien, 1988. Expanded Edition, 1993.  98 color illustrations, including both ethnographic photos and 20th century rugs and bags. Both pile and flatwoven objects. About $65.  

Kultkelim: ausgewählte anatolische Flachgewebe. Kelim-connection. Aachen, 1999.  This book, which accompanied a Cologne exhibition,  has 36 excellent color plates of antique kilims -- exceptional pieces primarily from central Anatolia.  A short text by Harry Koll, along with contributions from Manfred Bieber and Udo Hirsch, is translated in a separate English supplement. About $80.

Persische Flachgewebe: Bilder einer Ausstellung.
P.R.J. Ford and H.E. Pohl-Schillings. Köln, 1987.  46 color illustrations of Persian kilims, mostly 20th century. German text, with English insert. About $40.

Caucasian Carpets and Covers. Richard E. Wright and John T. Wertime. London, 1995. 132 illustrations. The emphasis is on organized commercial kustar production at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, with rug and kilim attributions based primarily on publications that accompanied major Russian exhibitions. About $75.

Sumakh: Flat-woven Carpets of the Caucasus. Alberto Boralevi. Firenze, 1986. 32 color plates showing soumak rugs. Italian/English. $60-100.

Flowers of the Yayla: Yörük Weaving of the Toros Mountains. Anthony N. Landreau and Ralph S. Yohe. Washington, 1983.  102 illustrations, including 10 in color. The authors discuss personal time spent with villagers in Anatolia's south-central Içel Province. Paper, about $20.

Lori and Bakhtiyari Flatweaves. Amedeo de Franchis and John T. Wertime. Tehran, 1976. 60 black and white plates show mainly bags, but a few kilims and horse covers. Paper, about $145.

Traditional Crafts of Saudi Arabia. John Topham. London, 1981. The full range Bedouin crafts is illustrated: weavings, jewelry, costumes, weapons, leather objects, and utensils of wood, basketry and metal. $30-60.

The Bedouin. Shelagh Weir. London, 1976. A short ethnographic study focused primarily on Jordan. Paper.

Yörük:  The Nomadic Weaving Tradition of the Middle East. Anthony N. Landreau, ed. Pittsburg, 1978. A series of essays on nomads and their weavings. Paper, $20-45.

Tents: Architecture of the Nomads. Torvald Faegre. New York, 1979. The broad spectrum of tent construction is covered--from goat-hair tents of various types to several kinds of yurts. From Tuareg to Mongol.  For anyone who cannot handle the cost of Peter Andrews' more exhaustive volume, Nomad Tent Types in the Middle East. Part 1: Framed Tents.

Flat-woven Rugs of the World: Kilim, Soumak, and Brocading. Valerie Sharaf Justin. New York, 1980. A comprehensive introduction to the rugs of all areas with a wealth of black and white illustrations but just a few color plates. $30-55.

Kilim anatolici/Anatolian Kilims. Milano, 1984. Hirsch and Balpinar. 21 color plates and a text focusing on ethnographic history. Italian/English.

Kelim: Antike orientalische Flachgewebe. Peter Bausback. München, 1983. 178 color plates. Kilims from all areas. German text. About $45.

Gewebte Poesie: Frühe Anatolische Kelims. Konzett; text Helmut Ploier. Graz, 1991.  85 early kilims in color plates. German text.

Kilims: Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts. Nazan Ölçer. Istanbul, 1989.  80 color plates with early kilims from this Istanbul museum. Most are Anatolian. About $50.

From the Danube to the Euphrates: Kilims of the 18th and 19th Centuries. Yanni Petsopoulos. London, 1990. 46 color plates. Both Thracian and Anatolian kilims. Greek, with English insert. Paper, about $35.

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.

Kilim anatolici. John Eskenazi and Dario Valcarenghi. Milano, 1985. Assorted Anatolian kilims shown in 85 color plates. Italian text. Paper, about $50.

Alte und Antike Orientalische Flachgewebe. Peter Bausback. Mannheim, 1982. 50 color plates. German text. Paper, about $50.

Kilim. John Eskenazi. Milano, 1980. Assorted kilims. 32 plates.  Italian/English. Paper, about $50.

Most rug and textile books are printed in small editions, and once out of print, their prices sometimes escalate dramatically. The lesson: purchase them if possible when they first appear.

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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