The Center for Social Research on Old Textiles [CSROT] is a research project founded in 1986 in France whose purpose is to contribute to the critical study of the history of textiles, especially by means of research concerning its bibliographic history.
Its purpose is twofold:
- More generally, to contribute to a more critical understanding of the history of textiles, and of early craft production in general, by situating them within the broad context of social, economic and cultural history, and the history of creativity.
The forerunner of the CSROT textile library began in the early 1960s in New York as a working library centered on reference books on oriental rugs, and for many years was on loan to the Asia House Gallery, New York, under the care of its first director, Gordon Bailey Washburn, from the mid-1960s to the early 1980s. In the beginning of the 1980s it was revived in France, and substantially re-oriented, so to speak, towards the more-general history of textiles concerning all historic aspects of textiles, especially woven textiles, and has since been actively growing.
Its bibliographic publication, the Bibliographica Textilia Historiae, the first and only annotated general bibliography attempting to document all facets of the world history of textiles, contained over 5,000 titles —printed books and pamphlets, serials, articles and offprints, dissertations, royal decrees and laws— published in all languages, but mostly European, since the late fifteenth century to date, treating all aspects of the history of handwoven textiles, including woven and printed textiles, embroidery, lace, tapestry, dyeing, carpets, weaving and fiber technology, pattern books, and costume, among many other subjects.
This Bibliographica Textilia Historiae was published in the late 1990s and has been since enlarged to contain over 9,000 records with over 25,000 individual entries of authors, articles, reviews and books, of which over 500 titles are pre-1800. This enlarged database has now been catalogued with a full indexing program and is now available on this website as an free open-access database fully-searchable by multple keywords and criteria. For more information and to access this database, click here.
Although our library, database and archives may be considered "small" by major library standards, we believe it is the most extensively-catalogued libraries on the history of textiles in the world, and is probably the largest "private" library on the subject. While only part of the physical library is available at this time ―mostly of the books are warehoused― it is hoped that the entire library will be on the shelves and accessible for researchers in the not-too-distant future. In the meantime, it may be possible provide access to certain materials by appointment as well as to provide digital images of selected book pages.
We have also recently published a complete facsimile reprint of Francisque- Michel's Recherches sur le Commerce, la Fabrication et l'Usage des Étoffes de Soie, d'Or et d'Argent et Autres Tissus Précieux en Occident, Principalement en France Pendant le Moyen Âge (originally published in 2 volumes in Paris 1852-1854).
In addition to its library, publications and archives CSROT also maintains a collection of historic textiles, including woven and printed textiles, embroideries, and bark cloth (tapa) from Europe, Asia, Oceania & Africa from late antiquity (Coptic Egypt) through the 20th century, with a special collection of headdresses from Africa and Oceania (currently almost a total of 600 works). This collection continues to acquire works and make them available on loan to exhibitions, as well as contribute to the scholarly study of certain aspects of these textile works. The collections will be presented on this website as a free open-access visual database. Eventually it is our intention that all these collections will be gifted away.
As we are now preparing all this material CSROT is currently seeking some type of "association" with a decorative arts museum or a similar type of institution, or perhaps a library, in Europe, to house the CSROT Textile Library on a long-term loan basis and perhaps as an eventual gift, and to make the library available to researchers.
In addition to this physical library, the purpose of this association would be to collaborate to develop the major world documentation center on the history of textiles, covering both the old and antiquarian textile literature as well as new and forthcoming books. The work of this center could, for example, publish a (online) bibliographic journal, issued yearly or semi-annually, and could possibly be self-supporting. The possibilities for a collaboration are quite open, and we welcome all inquiries leading to a collaboration based on our mutual interests.
We are also interested in hearing from individual textile bibliographers and researchers who could work with us to do catalogueing both for our bibliography as well as our textile collections.
For a (growing) list of links to online textile bibliographies and libraries, see the "The CSROT Textile Research Center" section on the Links page