A common question I am asked, by both rug cleaners and rug enthusiasts, is: “What are some good rug books to buy?”
Since I have been giving similar answers in emails quite a bit lately, I decided to share those recommendations in this post.
There are scores of books out there on rugs. Some are general, covering all regions. Others are specific, on particular countries, villages, or tribes.
For those beginning their rug library, these are my top 4 very favorite general rug books.
1. “Oriental Rugs” by Peter Stone
“Oriental Rugs: An Illustrated Lexicon Of Motifs, Materials, and Origins”: This book by Peter Stone is the newest of the four (released in 2014), and has become my top recommendation to just about everyone who asks me for a book for their own education, or as a gift to a fellow textile enthusiast. (Click here to read the listing on Amazon http://bit.ly/stonerugbook)
What I enjoy most about this book is the ease of use. It is essentially an encyclopedia of rugs, rug terms, rug construction, rug history, and anything you can think of that is rug-related.
It is very user-friendly if someone is just beginning, but it also feeds the curiosity of the more experienced in the field. I enjoy flipping it open and just reading random sections to learn something new, or in using it to help explain a term, or rug type, to a client.
This is also a visually stunning book. And rather than sharing “rare” rugs that you will likely never see in your lifetime, I find a great collection of rugs that we rug cleaners see now and then through our doors – so the content is relevant to those cleaning today, and those rug shopping today.
Another plus of this book is the extensive bibliography at the end, which lists many great rug books (classics and contemporary) organized by country/weave/topic so that anyone who becomes enamored with a specific rug they see can delve deeper on that topic.
I have purchased multiple copies of the hard cover book (for my own use and for gifts), and I also was thrilled to discover this to be one of the first Kindle edition rug publications I’ve seen. As an avid iPad user, now I have access to this great content no matter where I am.
Great rug books tend to come out with limited publications, and when they soon are no longer in print, the existing copies become extremely pricey to acquire. So get your copy now while the price is down right cheap. This can be on the gift list for any rug lovers in your life.
2. “Oriental Carpet Design” by P.R.J. Ford
“Oriental Carpet Design: A Guide To Traditional Motifs, Patterns and Symbols”: Here is a book that focuses on rug designs. This is a beautifully produced book, and gives you a wide range of history on specific motifs and how they are utilized in different weaving regions over the ages. (Click here for a link to the Amazon listing => http://bit.ly/fordrugbook)
Many people who are first drawn toward rugs come in based on designs they like, or that the begin to recognize. This book lays out the most common field designs, border designs, motifs, and styles. You get a great visual education on how they vary from tribal weaving to city weaving regions.
The rug examples are excellent, as is the observations and historical descriptions. It helps to identify where certain symbols came from, and what they intended to represent. This is another great book to give as a gift because it is a beauty to flip through and randomly read sections from.
I especially enjoy the details on the various Turkoman gul designs, and have referenced those pages often when trying to determine which clan wove a particular carpet. With this book, as with the Stone book, the writing style is easy to follow and not stiflingly academic. (Though if you ever find yourself stumbling upon a particular rug term, the Stone book acts as a fantastic rug glossary in the format that it is laid out with.)
3. “Oriental Rugs” by Janice Summers
“Oriental Rugs: The Illustrated World Buyers’ Guide”: I was first introduced to this book in a rug identification course that I took part in. It is a very clear read, and gives a good general overview of the different weaving countries and various rug types within each region. (Click here to view the Amazon listing of this book => http://bit.ly/summersrugbook)
What I love about this book though is the format of how she lays out the rug identification process. Summers is the first rug author that I have seen that has provided an excellent front/back view of rug types, and the identifying characteristics in such a user-friendly manner.
In reading about a particular rug, you can know what identifiers that specialists look for, such as knot type (asymmetrical or symmetrical), weaving materials, weft count, side finish, end finish, etc.
This is a must-own book for anyone seeking to begin on a path of becoming able to identify which country a rug may have been woven in. It also is an excellent tool to use to help determine whether a rug may be from one village, or another, based on its characteristics.
The weaving region histories are not at the level of detail in this book as you will find in the Ford book, but this is a great general book to begin your library with, and one that you will reference often.
4 “Woven Structures” by Marla Mallett
“Woven Structures: A Guide To Oriental Rug And Textile Analysis”: While the three previous books are all great color photo-rich rug publications for everyday use, or to choose as a gift, this fourth mention is a book for someone who truly wants to understand the structure of woven rugs. (Click here for the order page for this book => http://bit.ly/mallettrugbook)
This is a textbook on understanding the construction of rugs. Her focus is more on tribal weavings, and in particular flatweaves, but she does address pile rugs in the book as well.
What I love about Mallett’s book are her illustrations and drawings that very vividly “show” the reader how to understand a rug from a weaver’s point of view. You come away with insight on the nomadic lifestyle, fiber cultivation and preparation, and the intricacies of crafting a textile.
It was with this book that I began to look at rugs, especially tribal rugs, very differently. I gained an appreciation of the workmanship through the analysis breakdown provided in this book.
Mallett is an excellent instructor in print, and I am certain even more so in person. She also has a wonderful website (www.marlamallett.com) with a wide range of photos, articles, recommended resources, and rug education.
Many websites in the realm of rugs are garbled messes of outdated material, bad links, and just general chaos. Mallett provides one of the better organized, updated, and easy to navigate sites in our industry. I always learn something new from her website. Though the illustrations and photos in her book are primarily black and white, there is a tremendous amount of color on her website.
If you have a friend who is a weaver, collector, or a serious student of rugs – this is the book to buy for them (or for yourself). And if you have ever struggled with trying to understand the difference in different rug knots, or selvedge finishes, this book will clear it all up for you. Her drawings masterfully illustrate how rugs are crafted.
Rug Book Wrap-up
There are MANY great rug books out there. I expect my blog readers will chime in on some of their favorites in the comments (I encourage you to do so).
What I wanted to do here was to share the ones I grab most often to reference and recommend to others, and the ones that make great gifts to others, or to yourself if you are in the process of beginning your rug library.
(FYI: All of the links provided in this post are general links to general listings. I have shortened the URL’s for convenience sake, but these are NOT affiliate links, so please don’t worry that buying through these means that I am making anything on the sale. I am not. I just wanted to save you some time searching for a listing by providing you the direct links.)
One final request for those of you who already own these books, or plan to buy and enjoy them. PLEASE share the recommendations with others if you like them, and post your reviews on Amazon also if you can. Any of you who have written a book, you know the amount of time/energy projects like this take, and how much work was put into each of these books. Let’s show our appreciation by sharing great rug education with others.
Happy Rug Learning!
P.S. I am officially the “international” Rug Chick! I had the pleasure of working with Modern Rugs UK in crafting a rug care guide section of their website. If you are looking for some quick rug care tips, go take a look at their site => http://bit.ly/modernrugUK – they also have a huge collection of rugs for sale to UK rug shoppers.