Co-discussants present evidence that highlights Armenian participation in global trade networks as well as regional production of textiles and manuscripts produced for Armenians and other communities living in the Near and Middle East during the medieval and early modern periods. Hawk Khatcherian discusses his work photographing thousands of manuscripts and compiling an archive of over a million photographs of Armenian manuscripts and artifacts. This work includes photographs of Armenian manuscripts in the Armenian diaspora, in North American and European collections as well as images of some of the 14,000 manuscripts at the Matenadaran repository and museum in Yerevan, Armenia. Drawing on several examples, co-discussants address possible uses for cloth in Armenian manuscripts, which include cloth doublures that hide manuscripts’ board attachments, spine coverings used in the process of binding, fabric bookmarkers sewn into important sections of the manuscript, foredge tabs, curtains protecting full-page illuminations, votive offerings, and pouches meant to protect and honor manuscripts. Other potential uses include bookmarks or embroidered inserts in manuscripts or page reinforcements in printed books. Examples of textile patterns depicted in manuscript paintings are rich in the Armenian tradition and co-discussants explore how these depictions highlight Armenia’s position as a crossroads between Europe and Asia. Co-discussants explore the intermediality presented in the manuscript and its materials and suggest connections between Armenian manuscript painting, textile use, leather and metalwork and the arts of ornamental architecture, liturgical vestments, wall and panel paintings. One of the many case studies highlighted is Morgan Library MS M.1149, a manuscript that contains 25 pieces of fabric which were most likely used as votive offerings. The co-discussants address textile patterns that repeat across multiple manuscripts – especially block-printed cottons, which may have been produced by craftspeople in the region (today Turkey, especially Diyarbakir), rather than imported. Several manuscripts, now in dispersed collections, share the same textile doublure and point to their original production or rebinding within the same workshop. Given the dispersion of manuscripts and people in the Armenian diaspora, the proliferation of colophons in this tradition has been of primary importance in placing and dating manuscripts. However, as the presentation makes clear, the manuscripts’ textiles offer important clues about how and where these books were first produced, rebound, and used. Used throughout the manuscript – to reinforce the physical binding, protect the book and its sacred images, decorate and embellish – textiles are an essential part of the layered history of these manuscripts, connecting modern users to the medieval and early modern craftspeople who created and shaped these objects.
This research was aided by consultation with textiles scholars from the Victoria & Albert Museum – Rosemary Crill, Jennifer Wearden, and Clare Browne – as well as Ruth Barnes (Thomas Jaffe Curator of Indo-Pacific Art, Yale University Art Gallery), Philip Sykas (Manchester Metropolitan University), Ariel Salzmann (Queen’s University, Kingston), Sergio La Porta (California State University, Fresno), the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Morgan Library & Museum.
The contents of this pre-workshop video were discussed by panelists during the workshop on June 2-3.