Extremely Old Art History Books: The Documents of William Henry Holmes Part One

Found this in the public domain section of Amazon Kindle.

Between creating paintings and studying Native American culture, William Henry Holmes kept himself busy.  Now, I do not know if I can accurately call these books, but they do fit in the class of extremely old.  By the way, check out the full title of this document:

A Study of the Textile Art in its Relation to the Development of Form and Ornament

Sixth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution 1884-1885

Government Printing Office, Washington, 1888

By William Henry Holmes (1846-1933)

Download on Kindle

This government document gives us a staggering list of American (North and South) Tribes.  Holmes’ detail will leave the reader amazed.  He leaves nothing behind when writing about material, object uses, how they made them, patterns, designs, what the designs meant (Such as the awesome Peruvian Goblins or Gobelins), color, and the historical context and rituals behind each textile art found in each tribe.

A list of the American Tribes Holmes documents:

Alaskan Indians


Peruvian (He mentions Ancon many times)




Penn Wampum



On the downside, his writing veers from dry to showing this infectious enthusiasm about the American textile arts.  Plus, one has to deal with the casual use of the pejorative terms such as savage and primitive.  Not to mention the part where he claims that European studios “modified” the original Haidah Indian designs.  However, I do recognize that Holmes loves the textile arts the American Tribes produced.  Also, while at the end of the document, he does goes all over the place, comparing American textiles to Japanese, Polynesians and Egyptian textiles.  So far, I recommend checking these writings out.

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