Sunday, March 8, 2015

Building Your Textile Library

Starting a Textile Library

I have a weakness for books.  Our home has floor-to-ceiling bookcases filled with books.  My office has bookcases filled with textile reference books.  I received a question not long ago asking if , in this day of internet information, it  is necessary to acquire texts for a personal library.  My answer is emphatically, “yes”.

Firstly, you must decide what type of library would be of the most use to you, would bring you the most information and the most enjoyment.  If there is a specific type of  textile, a specific time period, or region of the world that is of primary interest to you, then  you have a great starting point.  Today, there are so many publications on the market that cover every aspect of textile design, production, and collection.  These range from beautifully illustrated coffee table type books with stunning photographs to scholarly presentations. 

Once you have your starting point do you self a favor and spend time visiting libraries and book stores where you can actually examine the material.  What may sound interesting in a written review may not suit your level of interest.  What I look for are lots of illustrations, preferably in color, a bibliography and index, and a glossary of terms.

Since my field is general textile history from prehistoric textiles to contemporary designs and production methods, nearly any book would fit into my library catalog.  But since I am in the textile minority, having no specialization, you will wish to limit your purchases, but I must warn you, once you begin it may be hard to stop.  Another good resource is the library at your local museum (not necessarily just their bookstore) as curators and staff may have good recommendations for you..

Sources are obvious: bookstores and the internet.  The internet will provide sales information on all ranges , and prices from current editions to those which may be out of print.  Do not overlook second-hand bookstores or thrift shops, flea markets and garage sales.  Often older books contain a wealth of information, although some information, not well researched may be misleading.  Nevertheless they are often a delight to read.

To answer my reader’s question, there is no substitute for seeing actual textiles.  Museum collections, galleries and such are good.  The best would be access to actual textiles for you to examine.  One way is to become a member of a museum’s textile  group, join a textile related guild,  become a docent or take a course at  your local college.  While the internet may offer information, many sources are redundant, but they can provide you with a starting point for further research.  Books, however, are there when you wish to investigate a topic or spend time analyzing textile properties, such as design (which is why it is important to have a volume that has as many good quality photographs and illustrations as possible).  While I have my tried-and-true reference volumes which are constantly used, I often will select a book from the back  shelf which I haven’t really examined in some time.  I never have spent any length of time browsing through these editions without learning something I have not considered.

So, fellow enthusiasts, there is unlimited resources available and as your reference collection grows, I am sure your textile collection will do so also.

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