One of the amazing things about the internet is that it offers us access to all sorts of information once virtually impossible to find. Here is an example of such a case for book and paper collectors and researchers in a highly targeted niche – textiles. This is not a field with enormous quantities of written material, like travels and exploration or theology. Nevertheless, much has been written about the manufacture of what we wear, use to cover our windows and floors, use to decorate our homes, and so much more. Where to learn about this material is another question. There have been a few bibliographies over the years, none likely to be found in your average local library.
One such bibliography was the Bibliographica Textilia Historiae, edited by Seth Siegelaub of the Center for Social Research on Old Textiles (CSROT). The Amsterdam-based CSROT (a part of the Stichting Egress Foundation) was formed in France in 1986, although a forerunner library had existed in the United States from the early 1960s to the 1980s. The purpose of the Center was to provide information about textiles, their past and production, and their role in cultural and economic history. It developed a library as well as a collection of historic textiles. Then, in 1997, it published the aforementioned bibliography. It contained 5,000+ entries covering over 10,000 individual texts, including books, pamphlets, serials, offprints, reviews, magazine articles, royal decrees and laws.
Now, the CSROT has moved into the electronic age, and its bibliography is available online. It has been updating its bibliography since 1997, and recently made it available online. Access is provided free (the older, printed bibliography costs $150). It has expanded to 9,000 records, including over 25,000 individual entries. Over 500 titles predate 1800, some going as far back as the 15th century. New entries are being added at a rate more than 500 per year.
Long term, the CSROT is hopeful of establishing a relationship with a European library or other institution. Most of its printed material is “boxed up,” unavailable for research at the moment. The CSROT is a private organization, making it difficult to provide the level of service of a larger, well-funded institution. Such an institution could take the material on a long-term loan, or perhaps as a gift, and could then help expand and maintain the bibliography.
The CSROT textile database search is about as simple to use as it gets. There is just a basic keyword search box. Enter the term or terms you wish to search for matches and click the button. For those who would like to give the textile bibliography search a spin, here is the link: www.egressfoundation.net/bth.php.