Welcome and Intro with Alexandra Gillespie
Workshop Overview with Melissa Moreton
The contents of the following pre-workshop videos were discussed by panelists during the workshop on June 2-3, 2021.
The session on Textiles in Syriac Manuscripts is hosted by co-discussants Georgios Boudalis (Museum of Byzantine Culture, Thessaloniki), Aaron Butts (Catholic University of America), and Thelma K. Thomas (NYU Institute of Fine Arts).
The video explores a Syriac New Testament (Peshitta) manuscript from the Lake Van region (today SE Turkey) likely dating to the 12th century, now in the collection of Chapin Library, Williams College (Codex Mss. 037). The co-discussants’ research suggest that the book’s textile pastedown and binding (sewing, endbands, spine lining, covering) may have been added by an Armenian binder in the early 17th century when the book was rebound. Co-discussants explore the origins of the block printed cotton pastedown, which is similar to early modern printed cotton from Gujarat, but may have been produced in the Lake Van region where the manuscript was originally scribed and bound centuries earlier. This evidence, bound within the book’s covers, may offer important information about the production of printed textiles in this region. The manuscript contains an Arabic ‘renewal’ note from this 17th-century period of rebinding, indicating it was re-consecrated in a religious ceremony at the Church of Our Lady in Siirt (Turkey). The origins of early codex are discussed – particularly the adaptation of textile technology to bind early books, sew the endbands, and incorporate textiles into the structural aspects of the book. Comparative examples of Byzantine, Georgian, Armenian bindings contextualize the production of the Williams Syriac manuscript. Co-discussants demonstrate how the manuscript bears witness to a life lived for centuries within the rich multicultural and interreligious milieu of the Tur Abdin (today SE Turkey, bordering Syria and Iraq) in which Muslims and a broad range of Christian communities lived intertwined lives, with the inevitable result that the objects that survive from this place and time are a testament to a shared cultural experience.
This research was supported by consultation with past and present textiles curators from the Victoria & Albert Museum – Rosemary Crill, Jennifer Wearden, Clare Browne – as well as Philip Sykas (Manchester Metropolitan University), and Ruth Barnes (Yale University Art Gallery). The BSR thanks Williams College and Chapin Library Special Collections librarian Anne Peale for sharing images and information on this case study.
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 workshop session on textiles in Ethiopian manuscripts is hosted by co-discussants Eyob Derillo (British Library) and Michael Gervers (University of Toronto).
Textile use in Ethiopian manuscripts is extremely common from the early modern period to the present day, but quantitative research is lacking on this topic. Derillo and Gervers explore their extensive dataset of 154 manuscripts with textile pastedowns from the Maqdala Collection at the British Library, the monastery of Gunda Gunde, and other ecclesiastical sites in northern Ethiopia. Because of the size and date range (15th-20th c.) of their dataset and identification of pastedown cloth by textiles scholars, they are able to demonstrate the proliferation of textile use in manuscripts beginning in the 16th century. They analyze manuscript textiles by date, origin, and type, and discuss the trade routes, partners, and Ethiopian patrons that facilitated the prolific trade in textiles from this period onward. Together with paintings of textiles and clothing shown in miniature painting, this demonstrates the extensive trade Ethiopian courts engaged with manufacturing centers across Europe, the Red Sea, Indian Ocean, and Asia. These textiles include silks, velvets, and cotton fabrics from India, Middle and Far East, Europe, and North Africa. The material evidence of these textiles captured within books, paired with the literary evidence of Ethiopia’s trade in textiles, illustrate that Ethiopia was a global trade partner connected to vast networks across the premodern and early modern worlds. The research team’s approach, thus far, has centered on the pastedowns in the manuscripts, to the exclusion of oversleeves, protective cases, veils and page markers. Their longer term objectives are 1) to identify what the textiles have to tell us about the international trade in textiles that brought these pieces to the Ethiopian highlands; 2) to determine the relationship between pastedowns, binders, patrons and book genre; and 3) to compare extant textiles to apparent counterparts in miniature painting and church decoration.
This research was supported by consultation with past and present textiles curators from the Victoria & Albert Museum – Rosemary Crill, Jennifer Wearden, Clare Browne, Sau Fong Chan – as well as Philip Sykas of Manchester Metropolitan University, Silk Roads textile scholar Helen Persson, Carolina Melis (Research Assistant, University of Toronto), Jacek Tomaszewski (Asia and Pacific Museum, Warsaw), and Sean Winslow (Austrian Centre for the Digital Humanities).
The first part of the video focuses on a case study from Dunhuang, located in northwestern China – a wrapper and Buddhist scroll from the Mogao caves currently held at Princeton (Gest Collection, Rare Books Collection, Princeton East Asian Library). The hemp wrapper, which has a loop, a button hole, and a long tie, provides clues regarding how it might have been wrapped around scrolls. An archival photograph published in 1912 shows how scrolls were completely enveloped inside such wrappers. Yet, a tenth-century Dunhuang painting of a monk carrying bundles of scrolls illustrates a different style of sutra wrapper, in which the wrapper did not completely cover the rolled texts, but instead left the ends exposed. The textile wrappers may have served as protection for the text, a covering to bundle texts and ease transport, and a device for labelling and classifying texts. Scholars have noted that the same character can mean either “wrapper” or “bundle (of scrolls)” based on translation choices from Chinese. The scroll is part of the Buddhist text, Light-Emitting Perfection of Wisdom Sutra, in Chinese script. Although the seal impression on the scroll is the same as that on the wrapper, questions remain regarding whether or not the wrapper and scroll originally belonged together as many scrolls and wrappers were separated after their discovery in the early 20th century and deposited in either library or museum collections. The second part elaborates on the Qisha Canon. This massive project was first collated, carved and printed in the Qisha Cloister near Suzhou, from 1216- 1322. The silk textile cover of the Princeton holding suggests that the volumes may have been produced in the late-16th century. This brings up the important point that the dating of Chinese books can vary according to the cutting of the woodblocks or the printing. A further issue regarding dating is raised when observing that many of the volumes in the Princeton Qisha Canon are handwritten manuscripts from 1600 or 1602, and while their paper is different from the printed volumes, their silk covers are similar. The presentation also touches on examples of Mongolian Ganjur with silk windows protecting images of deities, textile wrappers for Burmese palm-leaf from Gujarat, Burmese sazigyo (woven binding tapes), and printed cotton coverings for vertically hung Shan manuscripts from Burma.
This research was aided by consultation with textiles scholars from the Victoria and Albert Museum–Sau Fong Chan, Rosemary Crill, Jennifer Wearden, and Clare Browne, Silk Roads textile scholar Helen Persson, and Philip Sykas from Manchester Metropolitan University.
The pre-workshop video for the session on Textiles in Islamic Manuscripts focuses on case studies from Yemen and the wider Middle East. Video co-discussants are Karin Scheper (Leiden University) and Sabine Schmidtke (IAS). Co-discussants for the workshop on June 3, 2021, are Alison Ohta (Royal Asiatic Society, London) and Paul Hepworth (independent textile and manuscript conservator, Istanbul).
Islamic I with Karin Scheper and Sabine Schmidtke
Co-discussants touch on the 1,500-year history of book production in the Islamicate world – focusing primarily on the region of the Middle East and Yemen in particular. In the first part of the video, Schmidtke focuses on the expansion of digital collections of Islamic manuscripts. Due to the comparatively late adoption of printing in the Islamic world, a relatively large number of texts are preserved in manuscript, and numerous libraries and institutions have begun to digitize their collections and provide open access. Schmidtke provides an overview of some of these collections, discusses the linguistic and geographic diversity of Islamic manuscripts, and outlines some estimates of the number of extant Islamic manuscripts. The co-discussants then begin a two-part discussion of Islamic manuscripts: 1) a general overview of textile use in bookmaking in Islamic manuscripts. 2) a description of the use of textiles in Yemen specifically. The aim of the two-part format is to highlight some general characteristics while also providing a sense of regional and geographic variations in the use of textiles in manuscripts. Scheper covers the use of textiles, threads, and fabrics in Islamic manuscripts, as well as discussing common types of end-band patterns, spine-linings, doublures, manuscript coverings, and page markers. The co-discussants then examine examples of the use of textiles in Islamic manuscripts. The second part of the discussion centers on Yemen and its unique position between the Arabian Peninsula and northeastern Africa, as well its connections to the maritime networks of the Indian Ocean. Focusing on Zaydi texts, the co-discussants describe the distinctive appearance of manuscripts from this region.
This research was aided by consultation with textiles scholars from the Victoria & Albert Museum – Rosemary Crill, Jennifer Wearden, Clare Browne – as well as Philip Sykas of Manchester Metropolitan University.
Islamic II with Paul Hepworth and Alison Ohta
Co-discussants for the session on Textiles in Kashmiri Manuscripts are Jasdip Singh Dhillon (Oxford Conservation Consortium), Luther Obrock (University of Toronto), and Marika Sardar (Aga Khan Museum).
By examining evidence from several codices produced in the Kashmir valley from the 11th to the 19th century, the discussants show the complex cultural and religious atmosphere of the region reflected in book production technologies. Manuscripts include birchbark codices such as the The Lhasa Manuscript, textile-lined manuscripts from the Aga Khan Museum, and the central case study – a cloth-covered Bhagavad Gita manuscript at the Fisher Library, University of Toronto (MS 01106). Co-discussants demonstrate how textiles functioned not only in spine linings but also in bindings in the form of sewing techniques, suggesting the connection between Kashmiri book production and other crafts such as leather work and shawl weaving. Moreover, the consistency of binding techniques in Kashmiri birchbark codices before the 14th century reveal an established codex tradition well before Muslim rule in Kashmir. This gives rise to questions regarding how and where these techniques arrived in the region. The discussants illustrate how the traditional Kashmiri method survived through centuries of political and social change even as newer forms of Persianate and Islamicate bindings appear (often without specific ties to the content of the codices). This suggests that Kashmiri bindings may offer clues for understanding earlier, now lost, book structures such as those of the Manichaean and Sasanian traditions. The fact that many of the textile covers of Kashmiri manuscripts are not originally from Kashmir itself further complicates the account of the interactions between peoples in the context of book production. All this serves to highlight the point that the history of the development of the codex in Kashmir is tightly bound with the history of Kashmir itself.
This research was aided by consultation with textiles scholars from the Victoria and Albert Museum–Rosemary Crill, Jennifer Wearden, Clare Browne–and Philip Sykas of Manchester Metropolitan University.