ANN: One Thousand and One Ways to Sell — Marketing Decorated Books and Album Paintings from Arab, Middle Eastern and South Asian Lands in Europe and America c. 1850-1950 (Online commencing 27 Oct)

One Thousand and One Ways to Sell — Marketing Decorated Books and Album Paintings from Arab, Middle Eastern and South Asian Lands in Europe and America c. 1850-1950    

Over three weeks, these sessions will explore the trade in decorated books from Asia in Europe and America between c.1850 and c.1950.  Each session includes two papers designed to serve as starting points for discussion. 


Tuesday, 27 October
16:00 GMT -17:30 GMT
(17:00 -18:30 CET, 12:00 -13:30 EST, 9:00 -10:30 PDT)

The Quest for Islamic Art — Like a Fairytale from the Arabian Nights
Karen Deslattes Winslow, PhD Student, IES, SAS, University of London

The vast number of Islamic works added to Western public and private collections in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century reflects the cultural fascination the exotic East had for collectors. To entice European and American collectors, dealers highlighted orientalist themes to transport collectors to a strange, “other” place. Dealers of Eastern heritage, including Hagop Kevorkian (1872-1962) and Dikran Kelekian (1867-1951), understood Western attitudes toward the East based on clichés and exploited this mindset. Such dealers also frequently used deceit and other unsavoury tactics. Despite misgivings, collectors like Charles Lange Freer (1854-1919) and Calouste Gulbenkian (1869-1955) used these dealers in the pursuit of fantastic objects. Interactions with unscrupulous dealers confirmed the collectors’ visions of an imagined Orient populated with shady characters and provided collectors with colourful anecdotes to share with other collectors in addition to their treasures.

This talk presents a series of vignettes illustrating the extraordinary approaches dealers and collectors used to create interest in their objects. The more outrageous the story associated with an item’s discovery, the more a collector desired the object. In some instances, collectors assumed a romanticised, exotic aura – hair style, clothes, or home architecture – after acquiring Eastern art. The discussion also highlights attempts by a few well-meaning scholars to counter negative stereotypes, contemptuous depictions of Eastern dealers, and the entire imperial and orientalised spectacle. Their initial efforts were very forward-thinking and met with much resistance. Unfortunately, the narrative scholars desperately tried to squash still rears its ugly head.  

‘Into the realms of glory’; Islamic Manuscripts in the Bibliotheca Lindesiana
John Hodgson, Associate Director (Curatorial Practices), The John Rylands Library, The University of Manchester

Alexander William Lindsay (1812–80), 25th Earl of Crawford (generally known as Lord Lindsay), assembled one of the most important collections of ‘Oriental’ manuscripts in Victorian Britain, with a particular emphasis on material from the Islamic world, purchased singly and en bloc. This paper examines Lindsay’s motives and methodologies for collecting such material and situates his activities in relation to other nineteenth-century collectors and within the wider cultural and epistemological context.

Tuesday, 3 November
16:00 GMT -17:30 GMT
(17:00 -18:30 CET, 12:00 -13:30 EST, 9:00 -10:30 PDT)

‘Worth more’; Islamic and Persian manuscripts in the Collection of R.E. Hart
Cynthia Johnston, Lecturer in History of the Book, IES, SAS, University of London

Over a lifetime of collecting, Blackburn ropemaker Robert Edward Hart (1878-1946) amassed two internationally significant collections; one of manuscripts and rare books, and another of ancient coins. Most of the material in both collections is from Greco-Roman and western European Christian culture. Hart’s collections certainly display some intellectual ambitions. His collection of Roman Imperial coins is complete, and only equalled by that held by the British Museum; his collection of 50 incunables includes examples from every major printing centre in Europe, and his medieval manuscripts contain work from some of the most prominent manuscript illuminators of the later Middle Ages including the Master of Edward IV, and the workshop of Hermann Scheere. But beyond his tightly focused collecting goals, Hart also purchased material for both collections beyond a Euro-centric agenda. Hart’s Islamic and Persian material includes a 15th century copy of Nizami Ganjavi’s Khamsa, unbound pages from the Shahnameh, a 17th century Qur’an and three 18th century copies of Muhammad ibn Sulayman al-Jazuli’s Dala’il al-khayrat (Guide to Goodness). Amongst Hart’s private papers is a handlist of his acquisitions. Next to his list of ‘oriental’ material is an estimate of the total price he paid for these items, and the note, ‘Worth more’. In this paper, I will discuss Hart’s ambitions as a collector for this material, and examine his sense of the cultural capital of his Islamic and Persian purchases with regard to enhancing the cultural breadth of his collection, as well as its monetary value.

Indian Manuscripts on the London Market c. 1900-1920 
Laura Cleaver, Senior Lecturer in Manuscript Studies, IES, SAS, University of London

On his death in 1958, Charles William Dyson Perrins bequeathed two manuscripts to the British Museum. One was the fourteenth-century Gorleston Psalter, made in England. The other was a sixteenth-century volume, ‘Nizami: The Khamsah’, that had been described in 1912 as ‘the most wonderful Indian manuscript in Europe’. Perrins acquired both manuscripts through London dealers in the first decade of the twentieth century and both were included in the catalogue of his collection published in 1920. In that catalogue, the Khamsah was one of just four manuscripts categorised as ‘oriental’. In the early twentieth century, it was not unusual for British collectors of European premodern books to acquire a small number of manuscripts from further afield. Similarly, material described as Persian and Indo-Persian was included in auctions of ‘Illuminated & other Manuscripts’ dominated by European books. This paper will examine the descriptions of ‘oriental’ manuscripts in catalogues of diverse material together with the prices paid for them to analyse how these objects were positioned within the trade in valuable and rare books in London in the first two decades of the twentieth century.

Tuesday, 10 November

16:00 GMT -17:30 GMT
(17:00 -18:30 CET, 12:00 -13:30 EST, 9:00 -10:30 PDT)

The Demotte Gallery and the sale of Persian Art (1907-1935)
Christine Vivet-Peclet, Responsable du centre de documentation – Musée des monuments français – Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine – Paris

The Demotte Gallery is best known among Persian book art specialists for owning the Great Mughal Shah Nameh in its entirety before the First World War and dismembering it in order to sell it to a greater number of amateurs.

This gallery is important in this area in other ways thanks to the successive actions of its directors Georges Joseph and Lucien Demotte. In less than thirty years, they assembled an important collection of manuscripts sold in France and the United States.

Joseph and Lucien participated in the promotion of this art by lending their collections to national and international events, and organizing large-scale exhibitions in their own galleries. The catalogues that accompany them are pure commercial tools but also offer a history of the art of the Persian book, a scientific analysis of the objects and call on the greatest specialists. Thus, one of these exhibitions was presented in the gallery and then in three American museums, which questions the boundary between the worlds of the art market and museums.

The study of the various catalogues of the gallery allows us to follow the evolution of the discourse on the art of the Persian book, the place given to the notices and illustrations as well as the reception of these exhibitions. In particular, between the first catalogue dated 1913 and the last one dated 1934, we follow the evolution of the taste of amateurs, which goes from the simple delight of a beautiful image to knowledge of Persian literature and culture.

Reaching the Popular Culture: Displaying modern Egypt through Illustrated Books and Advertising Ephemera in London and Paris around 1850
Paulina Banas, Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, Maryland.

In 1848, the British publisher James Madden released an illustrated travel book on Islamic Egypt, entitled the Oriental album: characters, costumes, and modes of life, in the valley of the Nile. This luxury publication included, among other visual and textual components, thirty-two large size colored lithographs presenting people and villages of the Nile Valley. These illustrations were meant to produce on its readers an experience that could be “analogous to that of travelling,” according to one contemporary reviewer. This experience of indulging in a luxury volume and receiving a glimpse of modern Egypt had already been marketed to British armchair travelers a few years before the book was published through a number of printed pamphlets and advertisements commissioned by the publisher.

This paper will analyze the process of marketing of the Oriental album and other illustrated albums on modern Egypt sold (often by subscription) in London and Paris around 1850, such as David Roberts’ The Holy Land, Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt and Nubia (1842-49) and Prosper Barbot and Alexandre Bida’s Souvenirs d’Égypte (1851). This marketing process included the production of advertising ephemera and occasional public display of illustrations from these volumes. By doing so, this study points out the commercialism inherent in the process of publishing works which promulgated the difference between cultures for the British and French public. It will also showcase the role that illustrated books played in creating a public platform of display of modern Egypt in London and Paris before the advent of universal exhibitions.

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