15 Volumes of Natural Dye Books Discovered

by - Monday, March 08, 2010

A dusty cupboard in Kolkata belonging to the Botanical Survey of India recently yielded two historic discoveries: an 18-volume omnibus on Indian textiles by Forbes Watson and a 15-volume set on natural dyes by Thomas Wardle (pictured above). The 15 volume set made an immediate sensation in the natural dye world. Dominique Cardon (France), Brenda King (UK) and Jenny Balfour Paul (UK) all pressed to have the international symposium on natural dyes moved from Paris to Kolkata to celebrate and investigate the discovery. The NGO SUTRA and Amrita Mukerji were instrumental in hosting the conference.

The book contains dye samples and recipes. Reports are that, although the paper is now quite aged and brittle, the swatches are bright and vibrant. Thomas Wardle has been the subject of recent exhibitions. Previously he may have been best known for his collaboration with William Morris. Both Morris and Wardle wanted to document natural dye knowledge and, in the face of the growing market for synthetic colours, promote the use of natural dyes. Wardle travelled to India and made collections of Indian textiles, many of which were recently exhibited at the Whitworth Gallery.

Jenny Balfour-Paul sent us this link to coverage of the event, as well as an update on some efforts to revive indigo growing in Bengal. Readers will remember Jenny from her recent work with Yo Yo Ma's Silk Road Project. We'd like to mention that to get to Kolkata for the Sutra conference Jenny - in a spirit of adventure - declined to fly and instead booked passage on a freighter.

For full coverage here is a link to the Times of India.

Comments are welcome.

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  1. Fascinating! Do you know if these volumes have been reproduced, or even digitised?


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