on 23 November 1998
With wonderful full color reproductions of the subject, this book is a piece of art in itself. After a wonderful introduction, the chapters are regionally oriented, making it easy to access specific information, or get an in-depth history. I can imagine myself returning to this book again and again, for many years to come.
on 25 May 1999
With the mass of Oriental rug books that have been published in the last ten years (let alone since the 1960s, when writing about Oriental rugs became the raison d'être for collecting them or dealing in them), it seemed almost impossible to hope for a *Good* general book on the subject ever being attempted again - there was simply so much information that had become critical to even a broadly accurate understanding of the subject that one couldn't imagine the surface even being scratched by anything less than a proper ten-volume "Survey".
But Murray L. Eiland - one of the authentic Big Daddies of the early Oriental Rug Book Revival - hit on the brilliant idea of taking as a starting point his distinguished standard work 'Oriental Rugs - A Comprehensive Guide', published in the high scholastic manner and drab production values of the early 1970s, and then re-engineering it in co-authorship with his aptly-named son Murray L. Eiland (who says No Man is an Eiland?), to produce, against the odds, what must surely be The General Oriental Carpet Book of our time.
Iconoclastically renamed 'Oriental Rugs - A Complete Guide', 'Oriental Rugs', as the new baby will undoubtedly become known in the footsteps of its parent volume, not to mention of the Eilands, incorporates the bulk of the most interesting and important new discoveries, attitudes, nomenclatures, theories and attributions of the past 25 years and packages it all up in the definitive Major Oriental Rug Book De Luxe Coffee Table Edition format, the identifying attribute of which has increasingly become those huge and stunning full page bleeds depicting in the most intimate close-up detail some isolated felicities of colour and ornament extracted from appropriately major examples, which serve here to introduce each of the book's main sections.
Within each such section, the work is lavishly endowed with a wealth of richly glowing colour plates illustrating many of the best and most legendary rugs that have been on the world markets over the past two decades, these punctuated by a scattering of excellent maps, diagrams and well-chosen atmospheric pictures of weavers, deserts, mountains, animals, old paintings and the like. The thorough and well laid-out text is similarly interspersed with those entertaining anecdotes and telling on-the-spot findings gained from field-research trips by both father and son to the rug producing countries of the kind made famous by Mr A. Cecil Edwards, although in the hands of the Eilands this documentary evidence is timed and honed for optimum impact with a post-CNN suavity noticeably (some might say, regrettably) absent from A.C. Edward's chapter-ending 'Conversation Piece' cliff-hangers.
The result of all this lavish and entertaining mixture is a truely fin de siècle book on Oriental carpets, encompassing outstanding print and paper quality, superb colour illustrations of many of the 'keynote' rugs of the past twenty years that any budding rugaholic simply has to know about, the whole held together - and God bless the Eilands for this! - with a wealth of real, useful, accurate information, this given added interest and relevance by the penetrating and often gently provocative personal opinions of the authors.
For anyone wanting access to as wide and accurate a knowledge base on Oriental rugs of the 19th and 20th Centuries as could possibly be wished for within one book, there has been nothing remotely approaching this 'Oriental Rugs' of the Eilands since Ian Bennett's 'Rugs and Carpets of the World'.
The authors' breadth of knowledge and eclecticism of taste allow them to range wider and deeper, untroubled by the blur of bias effecting their focus, than the incomparable Bennett. Thus they provide a deeply knowledgeable, balanced and scrupulously fair examination and appraisal of virtually every type rug and flat-weave that is both worth bothering about, and remains (however intermittently) available.
'Oriental Rugs - A Complete Guide' is also - and this may come as a surprise to anyone who doesn't buy Rug Books on an acceptably regular basis - quite reasonably priced for a work of such size, quality, and number of colour plates, especially when written by so eminent an authority as Murray Eiland Senior. The whole thing is a joy to look at, and succeeds in communicating the unique beauty possessed by the best knotted-pile Eastern rugs as much through its overall 'look and feel' as by the brilliance, elegance and subtlety of the individual items depicted. And then on top of all this is the substantial textual content, all of it pertinent, up-to-date, and attractively written. If 'Oriental Rugs' doesn't in fact come up with anything exactly groundbreaking in the issues it addresses, perhaps more helpfully it judicially and accurately records the real groundbreaking stuff that has set the tone and temperature of the rug world in recent times. Verdict: Extremely Desirable, if not quite Absolutely Essential, and with its truth and taste entirely uncompromised by the opposing forces of ego or e-commerce.