Oriental Carpets. How they are made and conveyed to Europe. With a Narrative of a Journey to the East in Search of Them - Herbert Coxon 1884 - T. Fisher Unwin, London - First Edition A scarce nice copy of the earliest book in English written on rugs. Coxon was an intrepid traveller who established a direct importation route to England from the Middle East, in order to reduce the influence of the middlemen, who as Coxon describes in his dealings with them ‘I never came across one that I felt satisfied was thoroughly honest and fair. The whole of them were…downright rogues’.

Illustrated with one colour and ten tinted lithographic plates, together with a large foldout map in red and black. The wonderful frontispiece is titled ‘
Carpet dealing direct with natives. The Author bargaining over a prayer carpet in Dghestan. Temperature 125 degrees.’
  ‘A narrative of a journey to the Caspian region, undertaken with the object of gaining personal knowledge in the manufacture of Eastern fabrics, more especially having regard to the carpet industry. The drawings are the production of a local artist - Mr. W. F. Smiles - from photographs purchased of an enterprising French artist, resident in Tiflis, and from information, sketches, and ideas with which I have been able to supply him. The map attached to the volume has no pretence whatever to geographical research, and is only intended as a guide to more readily follow the carpet manufacturing districts referred to in the narrative.’ [preface].

Keith Rocklin in
The History of Rug Books:1877-1970 says that ‘although most authors of rug books willingly promoted and adopted uncorroborated ideas and labels learned from rug dealers, most still warned their readers to be suspicious in their dealings with rug merchants. Herbert Coxon took this further than most. He was a British rug importer who wrote the earliest book on rugs.

He was an intrepid traveller who established a direct importation route to England from the Middle East, determined to eliminate the middleman. As he says, only two years before his voyage, he could not have travelled as freely as he did without being enslaved by Turkmen tribes. The Russians had just decisively defeated and subjugated them. He had no trust in or sympathy for dealers he encountered. “
In all my dealings with them I never came across one that I felt satisfied was thoroughly honest and fair. The whole of them were…downright rogues.” He also adds: “Great tact and ingenuity are needed to get the better of them in business. Plain, straightforward dealing seems an impossibility to them.”

Coxon goes on to recount his exasperation with their long drawn out methods of dealing, their pretense of wounded pride when a lower offer is made, and finally their acceptance of his final offer only as a “gift” that will lay the groundwork for fairer dealings in the future. The author always had his guard up – so much so that he eschewed the services of interpreters because “
Those who have good linguistic capacity are generally such cheats that it is impossible to use them as mediums without exposing one’s self to the annoyance of having to counteract and prevent an unlimited fleecing.”

Despite Coxon’s shortcomings adapting to a different culture, he can offer some substance in helping us understand how rugs were then made. He observes at one point that while most of the nomads wove rugs, there were other weavers who offered their services from village to village and spread the same designs’.

(book size 22x14.3cm), pp. [16] 75 [1] folding map [3 (publisher’s ads)] [1 (advert for James Coxon & Co)]. In publisher’s blue-green cloth, spine lettered in gilt, front board lettered in black and with gilt blocked illustration of two camels, rear board copying lettering and illustrations and lettering of front board in blank. New endpapers, rebacked retaining original cloth spine.
  Condition: Internally near fine, light foxing to first and last few pages, new endpapers, boards very food, rebacked retaining original cloth spine, new endpapers.   Ref: 109965   Price: HK$ 5,500