Textiles in Manuscripts: Cross-cultural Trade, Craft Production, and Influence in the Art of the Premodern Book (June 2-3, 2021) is an interdisciplinary workshop bringing together a range of book historians, textile scholars, conservators, art historians, and codicologists to examine the wide use of textiles in manuscript books. The virtual workshop is part of The Book and the Silk Roads project, which seeks to map connections between parts of the premodern world by describing the technology of the book.
The aim of the workshop is to examine the vast use of textiles in manuscripts, both practical and ornamental: their uses within bindings, as wrappers, enclosures, and covering, as cloth used to protect images, as symbolic or talismanic artefacts, and within manuscript painting. Workshop sessions focus on the use of textiles in Armenian, Chinese, Ethiopian, Islamic, Kashmiri, and Syriac manuscripts from the middle ages through the early modern period. The workshop is not meant to be exhaustive, but to take a unique approach in beginning an interdisciplinary conversation about the production and use of manuscripts across the Silk Roads.
The workshop contributes to a comparative understanding of textile use in manuscripts across cultures from a broad global perspective – opening up a deeper understanding of trade, patronage, craft production, religious and cultural networks. More importantly, it connects many strands of Silk Road craft production and reshapes an understanding of how books and their makers were intricately connected to systems of production, trade, and exchange – locally and globally.
Each session explores content presented in pre-recorded videos that participants watch in advance of the workshop. The workshop explores a range of religious and cultural traditions – from Ethiopia to India, Syria to China, Kashmir to Armenia. Video discussions focus on a small number of case studies of textile use in manuscripts. Some conversations between co-discussants – such as in the Ethiopian and Armenian sessions – also touch on analysis of large datasets of hundreds of manuscripts with textiles. These videos are a starting point for the workshop discussions on June 2 and 3.
Research questions include:
-How does the textile offer information about the manuscript’s patronage, craft production (date, place, level of artistic/ craft production)?
-What networks of local / global exchange and collaboration are suggested in the juxtaposition of the textile and manuscript/ text?
-Does the textile use intersect with any other artistic production (altar cloths, manuscript painting, wall painting, etc.)?
-Is the textile part of the ritual use of the manuscript (cloth wrapping as ritual, symbolism of the case, ritual use of manuscript painting curtains and coverings)?
-What is the cultural, economic, symbolic value of the textile and how does its use signify in connection to the manuscript (if any)?
-Is there a relationship between the textile and the manuscript’s genre/ text/ contents?
-How does the painting within the manuscript relate to textile use and decoration (decorative borders imitating textile patterns, painted depictions of figures wearing textiles, etc.)?
Watch the videos here: