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Indian Block-Printed Textiles in Egypt: The Newberry Collection in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

A catalogue of Newberry's block-printed textiles by Ruth Barnes (published Oxford, 1997).

Indian Block-Printed Textiles in Egypt: The Newberry Collection in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

The collector and his collection

In the winter of 1941 E. T. Leeds, then Keeper of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, prepared a memorandum to be presented to the Visitors, the Museums’ board of governors. It read:

Professor P. E. Newberry, 14 January 1941

Offer of his collection of textiles.

From 1890, at which time the collection of mediaeval and later ceramics from the old mounds was rife, he applied himself to the formation of a collection of textiles, embroidered and printed materials from the same sources, and has continued since the Great War, securing most of the more important examples. These textiles (largely fragments), important in the history of pattern, include specimens of materials imported into Egypt from India, others with Arabic inscriptions, and illustrate not only methods of printing illustrated [sic] further by example of the stamps used in the process, but [also] methods of dyeing.

They number thousands, collected in 10 large sample-folios. The printed textiles, dating from the 12th to the 16th century, and embroideries from Old Cairo are unequalled. There also are specimens of the 18th century and 19th century weaving, etc [1].

This remarkable collection, gleaned largely from the ‘old mounds’ of Fustat (old Cairo), has been brought together by the Egyptologist Percy Edward Newberry during his extensive archaeological and academic visits to Egypt. At the time that the donation was offered to Oxford University, Newberry was 71 years old, and after a long academic career he clearly felt it was time to think about how to dispose of his papers, his library, and his large collection of textiles. Oxford, with its important Egyptological collection in the Ashmolean Museum and the recently established Griffith Institute, was an obvious choice.

Percy E. Newberry

Born on 23 April 1869 in Highbury, London, Newberry was educated at King’s College School and King’s College, University of London [img]1[/img][2].He studied botany and geology, and as his teachers in these subjects he particularly remembered Bentley and Whitaker. Newberry retained a lifelong interest in botany, both in the historical use of plants and in their actual propagation and horticultural effect. In his personal notes he writes that his earliest recollections of an awareness of Egypt were associated with his brother John’s visit to Alexandria in 1881, when Newberry himself would have been only 12 years old. Some time after John Newberry’s return he and Percy visited R. S. Poole, who together with Amelia Edwards was the driving force behind founding the Egypt Exploration Fund, soon to be the major supporting body for British archaeological work in Egypt. Poole eventually asked Percy Newberry to undertake some secretarial work for the EEF, and in this way he was introduced to the contemporary circle of British Egyptologists. He met Petrie and Griffith, and although he continued his studies in botany, his intellectual curiosity also turned to Egyptology. While still a very young man, he was of assistance to Petrie and contributed short botanical chapters to the publications on Hawara and Kahun (Newberry, P. E., 1889, 1890). This started his own career in Egyptology.

His archaeological work in Egypt began in 1890, when at the age of only 21 he was appointed to direct the EEF’s Archaeological Survey expedition at Beni Hasan and El-Bersha. He was occupied with the survey until 1894; his brother John, who was trained as an architect, assisted him as draughtsman at Beni Hasan [3]. Newberry also was responsible for Howard Carter’s introduction to Egyptology, as he had arranged for him to join the Archaeological Survey as the team’s artist in 1891 (Reeves and Taylor 1992: 15, 20-2). From 1895 to 1905 Newberry was involved in a series of excavations, including a survey of the Theban Necropolis.

In 1906 he was appointed the first Brunner Professor of Egyptology at the University of Liverpool, and he held the chair until 1919. Many years later Newberry told Eiddon Edwards, then curator in the Egyptian Department at the British Museum, that he vacated the chair to make room for his student T. E. Peet, who would otherwise not have been able to have a position and might have had to abandon Egyptology [4]. The correspondence between Peet and Newberry, now in the Griffith Institute in Oxford, largely confirms this [5].Newberry then was made Honorary Reader in Egyptian Art at Liverpool, which meant that he gave some lectures during the academic year but could retire completely from departmental duties. He and his wife moved to live at Oldbury Place in Ightham, Kent, a large house they had owned since before the First World War, with easy access to London [6].The winters were usually spent excavating in Egypt; during several seasons Newberry worked closely, for example, with Carter and was part of the Tutankhamun team. Ten years later in 1929, Newberry accepted a second academic chair, this time as Professor of Ancient History and Archaeology at Cairo University. He stayed in the post until 1932. At the age of 63, he returned to England, and he and his wife settled in Surrey [7].

Newberry’s considerable experience in Egypt, his publications, and his personal contacts placed him in the mainstream of Egyptian archaeology at his time. His wide-ranging correspondence, as it is preserved in the Griffith Institute in Oxford, is evidence for his contacts and relationships in the field. His Egyptological bibliography consists of 127 publications and impresses by the wide range of topics addressed (Magee 1990). In addition, he continued for some time to publish on botanical topics, as well as writing numerous newspaper contributions. Although he never achieved the lasting academic fame of Flinders Petrie or Griffith, nor the popular acclaim of Howard Carter, his research methods were apparently careful and meticulous. He was not a flamboyant personality, and from the surviving correspondence it seems unlikely that his relationship with colleagues and friends was either difficult or erratic. Eiddon Edwards, who knew Newberry professionally and visited him privately, has said that he had the reputation in his middle age of having strong likes and dislikes, but that he, Edwards, himself had not been aware of that, apart from an obvious disapproval of Lord Carnarvon [8]. As is evident in his continuing support for Howard Carter, who was well known for his often awkward behaviour, he could be quite tolerant in accepting the rough with the talented.

Percy and Essie Newberry

P. E. Newberry was married twice [9]. Very little can be discovered about his first wife. In a letter to his brother John, dated 31 January 1894 and written while the latter was in Egypt, he describes his courtship and engagement to Nelly [Helene] Aders during that month, and he was obviously enchanted by his fiancee. Usually brief and to the point in his correspondence, he writes over four sides on the smallness of her hands and feet, on the colour of her eyes, and on her many accomplishments (but also adding as a positive feature that ‘she is not too clever’). It is not known when the wedding took place, but towards the end of the following year, John writes to his brother, then in Egypt, and sends regards to Nelly as well. One can assume that they were married by that time. In 1900 Newberry published The Life of Rekhmara; the book had the following dedication: ‘To my wife Helene Newberry who for three years was my companion at Thebes, this volume is affectionately inscribed’. We hear no more of her. Seven years later, on 12 February 1907 Percy E. Newberry married Essie Winifred Johnston, of Woodslee, Bromborough, Cheshire; the wedding was advertised in The Times on 15 February.

Essie Newberry, born on 30 September 1878 in Rock Ferry, Cheshire, was almost ten years younger than her husband [img]2[/img]. The marriage was obviously very companionable, and the two shared many interests and activities. Essie was a member of the Egypt Exploration Society from 1920 to her death; she accompanied her husband on his expeditions to Egypt, and she lived in Cairo with him from 1929 to 1932. Both were involved with Carter’s opening of the Tutankhamun burial chamber in 1923, and while Percy Newberry reported on the botanical specimens found in the tomb, Essie assisted with the care and partial restoration of the textiles, including the linen pall. Reeves (EA1990: 101) illustrates a photograph of Professor Newberry and his wife unrolling the fragile pall after its removal from the tomb [10].

Egypt provides perfect conditions for preserving fibre material that has not often survived elsewhere, and the archaeological excavations have produced organic material that is unheard of from most parts of the world [11]. Unfortunately our understanding of the chronology of the later (post-Pharaonic and post-Ptolemaic) finds is frequently obscure, either because of excavation difficulties or careless recording. We therefore have a wealth of surviving material, but more often than not an unreliable context. This problem affects virtually all Coptic and early Islamic textile groups. The collection of P. E. Newberry is no exception.

Both Percy and Essie Newberry were collecting textiles for their own, private enjoyment and affinity for the material, as well as out of intellectual curiosity. No doubt Newberry had an independent interest in textiles that went beyond his immediate academic period of expertise. He carried on an early correspondence with the Textile Department at the Victoria and Albert Museum, both with A. F. Kendrick and A. J. B. Wace, concerning early Egyptian textiles as well as Coptic and later medieval fabrics, and he occasionally gave public lectures on the material. He also donated or possibly sold fabrics to the Museum, as from the current list of accessions in the Textile Department we see that a total of 89 textiles came from Newberry, most of them given during the 1920s. The wide scope of the material may surprise: there are Persian, Turkish, Moroccan, and Greek Island textiles, even an Italian and a Russian fabric [12]. Among the fabrics he later donated to the Ashmolean Museum, there also were a few pre-Islamic textiles; these numbered 36. I do not think that there is evidence for saying that the overwhelming emphasis on textiles in the Newberrys’ personal collection was primarily due to the enthusiasm and interest of Essie Newberry, as Taylor has suggested (Taylor 1987: 45) [13]. As is obvious from his correspondence, P. E. Newberry himself had a great interest in textile history and was aware of its importance in Islamic and Mediterranean societies.

In London in the 1920s, there was a considerable interest in the history of textile design, and embroidery apparently played a particular part. Important collections were being brought together, especially regarding Eastern European and Mediterranean material (Taylor 1987). In part the attraction to textiles had grown out of the Art and Crafts Movement. As the Movement’s main concern was with creating an environment that combined quality of design with quality of craftsmanship, there had emerged a new attitude to the so-called minor arts, as represented by decorative objects with a functional purpose. These were now taken artistically seriously, and hence were appropriate for aesthetic consideration, but could also become topics of academic historical investigation. Although the mainstream of art historical research continued to focus primarily on the conventional European aspects of art, i.e. painting, sculpture, and architecture, an alternative approach towards the history of art had developed. This paid particular attention to all decorative aspects of material culture. In Britain it can be traced to the nineteenth-century movements concerned with quality of craftsmanship, to Ruskin, William Morris, and the foundation of the South Kensington Museum (later the Victoria and Albert Museum). Internationally, the German Werkbund and later the Bauhaus of the 1920s and early 1930s were the most influential manifestations of this approach [14]. The attempt was to break down the distinctions between ‘fine’ and ‘applied’ art. For the development of art historical research, this was an extremely fruitful move; for example, Islamic art history as a serious scholarly discipline could hardly have developed without the current interest in the decorative arts. For a history of design it was equally significant. Textiles began to gain value as historical documents, and their relationship to other ornaments used in a culture at a particular time became a topic of interest. The creation of important textile collections in Europe and North America in general goes back to this period; the material Percy and Essie Newberry collected is to be seen against this background, as is their interest in the history of textiles in general.

The Embroiderers’ Guild, set up in 1921/2 to promote both quality craftsmanship in embroidery and knowledge of the history of applied stitching in different cultures, was also the result of the interest in environmental arts and designs generally, and in textiles specifically. By calling the association a ‘guild’, there is an evocation of traditional, pre-industrial craft affiliations, as had been the case in earlier Art and Crafts and Reform foundations [15].

Essie Newberry was actively involved in the Embroiderers’ Guild, both as Vice-President (1922-45) and as Honorary Treasurer (1935-8): it was no doubt this interest, which she shared with her husband, that helped to bring together one of the most comprehensive collections of Mamluk embroideries, the material Leeds referred to as ‘embroideries from Old Cairo’. This part of the collection numbers 647 fragments, 59 of which are tiraz textiles. In addition there are four large boxes of 331 mostly later embroideries [16]. It must be pointed out though that the Newberrys considered this entire collection of embroideries to be Percy’s, although, as far as the later material is concerned, there was a certain degree of overlap between his material and the textiles his wife was interested in. Essie Newberry herself collected predominantly examples from the Mediterranean, especially the Greek islands and Turkey. The history and technique of embroidery remained her special area of expertise. Her samples were kept separately from her husband’s collection, and they were still partly on display in their house after Newberry had given his textiles to the Ashmolean Museum. She published in the Embroiderers’ Guild journal Embroidery, and an early contribution to a book that also had articles by A. F. Kendrick and Louisa Pesel showed that she was a respected member of the contemporary circle of textile scholars (Newberry, E. W., 1936, 1939, 1940; Newberry, E. W., and L. Pesel 1921).

Newberry’s collection of textiles

Establishing the collection

Newberry himself also had a minor academic interest in embroideries, as is apparent from an article he published in 1923 (Newberry, P. E., 1923). From the correspondence with Wace and Kendrick, while either was in the Textile Department at the Victoria and Albert Museum, it is clear that, although he and his wife had a collection of textiles by the early 1920s, the bulk of the material only came together during their stay in Cairo from the later 1920s to 1932. In a letter from Wace to Newberry, dated 13 November 1928 and sent to Cairo, we hear:

Your news about the embroideries and other textiles which you have acquired from Fostat &c. sounds most exciting, especially the printed stuff. We have very little of this type of work from Egypt in the Museum...

A year later, on 12 November 1929:

My dear Newberry,

Very many thanks indeed for your letter of October 22nd with the news about the wonderful things you have been acquiring. We shall very much look forward to seeing them when you come home next year... Although we [Wace and his wife] cannot, as you see, come this winter, we both hope it will be possible to come another time. It would be splendid to hunt the Bazaars with you for textiles and also to see your 4th Dynasty dig near the Pyramids. It is splendid to be in a place where you can combine textiles and archae­ology so well...

The same letter also mentions that Mr George Hewitt Myers from Washington and A. B. Benaki from Athens were going to come to Cairo within the next few months, both looking for textiles. The Myers collection later became the foundation of the Textile Museum in Washington, and the Benaki Museum in Athens houses one of the finest textile collections acquired in an Egyptian context. Newberry was obviously buying his textiles at a time when great numbers of finds appeared on the market, and he was in the right place to have first choice.

It was never quite clear where the textiles available actually had been found, although Fustat, the original site of Cairo and an important medieval commercial centre, is most frequently mentioned. But textiles, glass, and ceramics were appearing in the bazaars of Cairo from all sorts of sites, usually as casual finds or illegally excavated. Many of the textiles, which were almost inevitably fragmentary, were sold for very little money. As they were often no more than scraps, their aesthetic value had a limited appeal. We also do not know the name of the dealer who supplied Newberry with the textiles. In connection with other collections, the name of Phocion Jean Tano has come up as the major source for printed fragments (Cornu 1992: 437; Barnes 1993: 1).

As we hear in the first letter quoted, two types of textiles in particular interested Newberry: embroideries and printed fabrics. The embroideries have been referred to above. Both Essie and Percy Newberry had an interest in stitching techniques and designs. The second type consisted of printed textiles, which Wace had found especially interesting, as it seemed to be new material appearing on the market. By the time P. E. Newberry’s collection was completed, it consisted of more than 2, 200 textiles. When the fragments were finally counted in the Ashmolean Museum, it was discovered that the collection of printed fabrics alone held 1,226 textiles. Its geographical origin makes this material especially interesting. Although initially treated as indigenous Islamic textiles, most of them were soon shown to have an Indian origin. Despite the lack of a definite provenance and their not being excavated under datable conditions, this part of the Newberry Collection was potentially of outstanding historical importance. Even without a datable context it seemed likely that many of the textile fragments were very old indeed, and were probably traded to Egypt as part of the pre-European Indian Ocean trade.

As Leeds pointed out in his memorandum to the Visitors in 1941, Newberry did indeed ‘secure most of the more important examples’. While the Textile Museum in Washington, based on the Myers Collection, and the Benaki Museum in Athens, in particular, have some very unusual pieces among their Indo-Egyptian material, including fragments with figural representations, Newberry’s collection impresses first of all by its wide range of internally related designs, so that sequences of design developments can be established. All the collections have a small number of printed textiles that are almost certainly not of Indian origin, as well as some fragments that are unlikely to be older than the nineteenth century. The Newberry Collection is no exception, but because of the number of examples it becomes more feasible to establish a historically coherent picture. It is possible with this collection to follow the trade from early times up to and into the nineteenth century. The most spectacular example for this is the sampler cloth [EA1990.1196]. There is some doubt at the moment whether this textile actually was acquired by Newberry in Cairo; in his correspondence is a letter from G. P. Baker which refers to giving Newberry an ‘Indian sampler of block-prints’ [17]. It is without any comparison among the Indo-Egyptian fabrics that have so far come to light, but is related to sample cloths and sample books we know from India itself (Gittinger 1982: 64-5, figs. 51-2; Guy 1992: 84, fig. 5).

From the correspondence in the Griffith Institute, it is certain that the Newberry Collection was well known in museum circles [18]. The printed and embroidered fragments had been arranged into separate volumes, and over the years P. E. Newberry added his pencil comments and bibliographical notes to them, comparing the material to similar textiles in published sources. Percy and Essie Newberry were generously hospitable and frequently invited professional colleagues and friends to stay at their large home in Surrey. They seemed more than happy to give access to their collections, and to provide the hospitality of a country house with it. Their garden was renowned for its beauty, and both took a great interest in the plants and their origins. They brought specimens with them from their travels, and had stories of where flowers and shrubs had originally come from. Visitors to their house were inevitably treated to walks through the grounds, as well. To quote from Eiddon Edwards’s letter:

At Hascombe they had a beautiful garden and Newberry, when showing you around, used to poke about with his stick drawing your attention to little plants that they had collected abroad, the Atlas Mountains, I remember, being one of his many sources. He studied botany before turning to Egyptology and he once told me he felt he had made a mistake by doing so [19].

Early attempts at analysis

During the 1930s, the Newberry Collection began to attract the attention of several scholars with an interest in publishing on textiles. Some of the embroideries were studied by Nancy Britton, formerly of the Boston Museum of Fine Art, but living in England during the early years of the Second World War. She was given complete freedom to use the collection, and even took some of the album volumes into her care. This was at a time when the Newberry home was affected by the air raids of 1941. She published an article on the early embroideries in Ars Islamica (Britton 1943). Although her work on the embroideries restricted itself to those with inscriptions, i.e. the 59 tiraz textiles, and therefore covered only a small fraction of the collection, she was meticulous both in her research and in her concern for the fragments. There is no doubt that the entire material deserves to be presented as an analytical catalogue, and Nancy Britton’s publication provides an extremely limited view of only a few of the textiles. But at least her article was an initial attempt to deal with some of the textiles in a manageable way.

Scholarly work on the printed textiles took a more circumambulatory way. In a letter of March 1923, A. F. Kendrick, then Curator of Textiles at the Victoria and Albert Museum, mentioned ‘a young Swedish art historian, Carl Johan Lamm, to Newberry and suggested a meeting. It is uncertain whether this occurred, but Lamm certainly met Percy and Essie Newberry while they were in Egypt at a slightly later date. In 1935 Lamm visited the Newberry home in Surrey, and that stay was the basis for his discussion of the Newberry Collection of printed textiles, in his publication on cotton in medieval Egypt (Lamm 1937a: 168-80). He also mentioned the embroideries in an initial discussion of Mamluk embroideries, although the article’s main focus was on textiles in Swedish collections (Lamm 1937b). Lamm’s publications served to introduce the Newberry Collection by referring to it in print, but as a serious discussion of the material they have long been surpassed by further research and are of limited value today. His interpretation of the printed textiles was not always historically sound, but frequently was based on misinformation and surmise; it certainly could not do justice to the material. The publication appeared just prior to a study by R. Pfister that discussed specifically Indian printed textiles traded to Egypt (Pfister 1938). Pfister’s work is up to now still the standard reference work for these textiles. In a postscript, he sharply criticized Lamm’s chapter on the Indian cotton fragments. The relationship between the two scholars must have become quite acerbic, as is evident from an open letter published by Lamm that same year [20]. Pfister also mentioned in his introduction that he himself had not been able to inspect the Newberry Collection, due to ‘circumstances beyond our control’ (Pfister 1938: 10).

In 1936 Muriel Claydon, then at the Victoria and Albert Museum, wanted to start research on the printed textiles, and Newberry very generously allowed her to take away one large volume. Subsequently, her work was delayed by illness. In the winter of 1940/1, the south-east of England became heavily affected by German bombing raids. The Newberrys’ home barely missed being hit, although a nearby explosion caused some broken glass. Percy Newberry started to think seriously about an eventual home for the entire collection, and he approached Muriel Claydon to ask for the folio to be returned. Her response was one of embarrassment: she had forgotten about the textiles, and they were no longer in the Museum. She suggested that they had probably been packed away into safe storage, and were somewhere in the West Country. The textiles did not turn up until further correspondence with others at the Victoria and Albert Museum, after the end of the war.

Similarly, the embroideries with which Nancy Britton had worked had also been placed in storage by her, although in this case their precise whereabouts was known. It was because of these missing textiles that the transactions with the Ashmolean Museum were drawn out until 1946, although Newberry’s initial offer dated to early in 1941. On 3 March 1941 he had written in response to a letter from E. T. Leeds:

Many thanks for your letter telling me that the Visitors have agreed to accept my collection of textiles and printed fabrics from Egypt. I am very glad that the collection will have a permanent home and will be available for students...

It took five more years for the entire collection to be transferred to the Ashmolean Museum. At first all the textiles were put into the care of the Department of Antiquities. Despite these initial difficulties, it now seems most appropriate that the Newberry Collection ended up in Oxford. The Griffith Institute had become a major archive for Egyptology, as it not only had much of the Griffith, Petrie, and Gardiner material, but also Howard Carter’s, for the transfer of which Newberry was to some degree responsible, as he negotiated between Carter’s niece and E. T. Leeds.

Newberry himself died on 7 August 1949. His wife gave his correspondence to the Griffith Institute; his library was first moved (temporarily) to the Egyptology Department at the British Museum. The British Library had first choice to select books wanted, in order to replace any war losses. The British Museum’s Department of Egyptology, at the time under Edwards’s curatorship, then had the opportunity to choose from the remainder. To quote Eiddon Edwards again:

My old Department had the first pick from the residue followed by University College and Cambridge. With Mrs. Newberry’s permission I offered the botanical books to Kew and the Director, Sir George Taylor, made his selection. I sold the remainder for about £400 and the money was spent on buying an electric typewriter to be used chiefly for writing labels for objects in the galleries.

Essie Newberry died in February 1953. Her own collection of textiles, primarily Greek Island and Turkish embroideries, was given to the Whitworth Gallery at the University of Manchester. Following her death, the Embroiderers’ Guild’s journal Embroidery published three reminiscences of her (Rolleston, Welsh, and Purves 1953).


[1] The note is kept with Newberry's correspondence in the archive of the Griffith Institute, Oxford. The letters from Leeds, and copies of some of Newberry's responses, are filed under 28/61-71 and 49/13-15. The print blocks mentioned by Leeds were presumed lost until October 1995 when Dr Helen Whitehouse from the Ashmolean's Department of Antiquities found 12 wooden textile printing blocks in a cupboard in the Egyptian Galleries. These could definitely be identified as part of the Newberry donation.

[2] This information and the details that immediately follow come from an autobiographical outline of dates and travels, now also in the archive of the Griffith Institute. His parents were Henry James Newberry and Caroline Matilda, née Wyatt, and as his place of birth he gives Kingsdown Road, Holloway, London. While Who was Who in Egyptology (Dawson and Uphill 1972: 216) gives Ealing as his place of birth, his passport in the archive states Highbury, a part of London just north of Islington and east of Hampstread. Kingsdown Road is off Holloway Road, which moves from Highbury towards Upper Holloway. There were altogether seven children, but the four older ones died in infancy. The three younger were John Ernest (b. 1862), Catherine Margaret (b. 1865), and Percy Edward himself. John and Percy Newberry kept up a correspondence throughout their long lives; John survived his brother by a year and died in 1950.

[3] John Newberry did not find it easy to establish himself professionally as an architect, and he occasionally depended on his younger brother's financial help.

[4] Eiddon Edwards, personal communication in a letter dated 30 April 1992.

[5] The letters from Peet to Newberry are kept as item 36 of the Newberry correspondence. As with all correspondence in the Newberry material, it holds only the letters Peet sent to Newberry, not generally Newberry's response. There are only a few exceptions, where Newberry kept the sketched outline of a letter or a carbon copy. Of these exceptions from the Peet material is the draft of a short note to Peet, dated 16 December 1919, in which he congratulates him on finally receiving the Liverpool chair. He refers to his trust in Peet's abilities and expresses his particular pleasure that he should follow him, Newberry, in the Brunner chair.

[6] It is quite certain that the couple was financially independent by that time. Newberry's wife came from a well-to-do family; her father was a shipowner who had become wealthy by introducing refrigeration into pork transport, first from Ireland and later from Argentina (Eiddon Edwards, personal communication 1992).

[7] At Winkworth Hill, Hascombe, near Godalming.

[8] See above n. 16 for details.

[9] Newberry's autobiographical notes are strictly professional, and he does not record the dates of his marriages, nor does he ever refer to his first wife in his later correspondence. Apparently there were no children from either marriage.

[10] When discovered, the fabric was extremely fragile and was torn apart by heavy flowers of gilded bronze, which had been sewn on to the cloth. Unfortunately, although at first great care and ingenuity went into the preservation, the textile was damaged beyond redemption when it was left out in the open, during the time Carter and his team were locked out of the tomb and laboratory (Reeves 1990: 101).

[11] It is often stated that the survival of textiles from Egyptian sites is due to the arid climate. There must be other factors involved, though, as extreme dryness does not usually help to preserve, but destroys the cell structure of organic material, especially if it is combined with temperature fluctuations. This was pointed out to me by David Armitage, the conservator responsible for the work on the Newberry Collection. Textiles can best survive in an environment of stable humidity and temperature, with the exclusion of light, as does exist in closed-off tomb chambers, Organic materials, such as textiles, wood, or skin, also survive in water-logged conditions, hence the good condition of the Danish bog finds. An additional factor of preservation in those cases is the presence of tannic acid, which has helped to keep the organic material intact. Whatever the conditions, a sudden change of environment causes rapid deterioration.

[12] The Newberry material in the Victoria and Albert Museum is actually an assortment of odds and ends, rather than a coherent collection.

[13] Apart from the textiles in the Victoria and Albert Museum, Newberry also either gave or sold 92 items to the Ceramic Collection, as well as two Persian painted doors and one Persian panel to the Furniture and Woodwork Collection,

[14] For the English reader the most accessible account of these developments is Pevsner (1974).

[15] The Century Guild, founded by Arthur H. Mackmurdo in 1882, the Art Workers Guild (1884), and the Guild and School of Handicraft, created by C. R. Ashbee in 1888, all were associations that were to teach quality of design and craftsmanship, as, it was assumed, had once been produced by the medieval workshop and guild system. All were responding directly to William Morris's example and were strongly influence by John Ruskin.

[16] The accession numbers for the early embroideries are EA1984.32 to EA1984.618 and EA1988.15 to EA1988.74. The second group of embroideries, presumed to be of later date, has recently been accessioned with the numbers EA1993.40 to EA1993.370.

[17] It is dated to 30 May 1929, and has the archive number 4/10. I am gratefyl to Brenda King for bringing this letter to my attention.

[18] See e.g. the extensive and especially friendly correspondence with A.F. Kendrick, first while Kendrick was curator for textiles at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and later after his retirement. The letters are full of references to Newberry's textile collection and its historical value.

[19] Eiddon Edwards, personal letter dated 30 April 1992.

[20] See Lamm (1938); I am grateful to Rina Indictor for bringing the letter to my attention.


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