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Silk, the Thread that Tied the World (Hardback)

Transport Photographic Books Colour Books

By Anthony Burton
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 192
Illustrations: 70 colour & black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526780928
Published: 30th November 2021


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RRP £25.00

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Over a thousand years ago the Chinese discovered that the slender filaments that formed the cocoon of the silk moth, could be woven into beautiful shimmering fabrics.

For centuries they were able to keep the process a secret, but eventually started to trade the valuable cloth with the west, along the silk road.

Silk was a luxury item that bestowed prestige, so it was inevitable that the wealthy wanted there silks to be as elaborate as possible, beautiful designs were produced in the Islamic world and gradually a European industry developed.

In the 19th century mechanisation of the time consuming hand weaving process, had resulted in products being produced using the Jacquard loom, which used punched cards to create a pattern.

Silk remains the most beautiful woven material in the world, moving from its origins in ancient China to help transform the whole world.

This is a great historical book which I felt was very well written and amazingly kept me hooked on the history of silk.

NetGalley, Aisha Bari

An informative read about the silk: the material, the silk trade and its influence on the world.

It gives a detailed description of the technicalities of the manufacturing process, how looms developed through many years, what silk manufacturing workshops looked like.

NetGalley, Anita Salát

Anthony Burton has written a highly comprehensive history of silk and it’s development and progress around the world over several centuries. The first part of the book contextualises “silk”within the Silk Road and the routes of commerce and communication. Peter Frankopan’s history of the Silk Roads would be an ideal follow up for a greater depth exploration of these early “super highways”. But it is when Anthony Burton starts to focus in depth on the manufacturing and expansion of the silk trade from China to Iran and then into mainland Europe and finally England and America that the book really begins to intrigue and fascinate. The attention to detail regarding the creative and construction process and the I’ve towards of more and more automation is fascinating. Our world of disposable clothing and fabrics is a sharp contrast to the value and pride given to silk over many centuries . If you work in the textile trade , have a fascination towards fashion and design or simply enjoy understanding more about the evolution of a beautiful commodity then this book will be worth exploring.

NetGalley, Stephen Richard

Anthony Burton’s scholarly book tells the history of silk from its discovery, through to its cultivation and spread throughout the would via the legendary “Silk Road”, its heyday in the 17th and 18th centuries and its future as the “Queen of fabrics”. Fully illustrated with vintage drawings, maps and modern colour photographs, this book is immensely readable.
Burton digs deep into the techniques of silk weaving which gets quite technical at times; meticulous research has gone into this book, but a glossary of terminology is included for the uninitiated. He also explores the invention of paper and other innovations, including gunpowder, that became staples of trade along the silk routes. It was also a pipeline for emergent religion such as Zoroastrianism and Buddhism.
The story of silk is well known, but its future less so as big clothes stores stop selling it due to the destructive means of its manufacture. One day it may go the way of fur and fall entirely out of favour, but there’s no denying the allure and richness of its history. I love any book about the history of silk and the period of history when it was first discovered, and this book didn’t disappoint. Pen & Sword titles are consistently excellent and Anthony Burton’s book was a joy to read.

NetGalley, Wyn Lewis
 Anthony Burton

About Anthony Burton

Anthony Burton is a professional author, who has been writing about the history of technology, including the textile industries for the past forty years.

He wrote and presented the B B C-T V series The Rise of King Cotton and also wrote the accompanying  book.

Recently he has been the advisor to Discovery Channels programmes Industrial Revolutions and Industrial Revolutions Europe, which included visiting silk mills and museums in Britain and Lyon in France.

He is a founder member and former chair of the Stroud Water Textile Trust, that preserves and demonstrates machinery of the West of England woollen industry.

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