The classic Kashmir shawl was the exquisite product of consummate skill and artistry applied to one of the world's most delicate fibres.
It was an object of desire for Mughal emperors and Sikh maharajas, Iranian nobles, French empresses, Russian and British aristocrats and eventually for the prosperous 19th-century bourgeoisie on both sides of the Atlantic.
It has left a permanent imprint on the aesthetic sensibility of the modern world in the so called paisley, derived from a motif developed in the ateliers of Kashmir's shawl designers.
This authoritative study introduces the Kashmir shawl as a cultural artefact with a known history spanning four centuries, and a geographical reference from Tibet to the United States.
The authors' original research lays many persistent myths to rest.
Monisha Ahmed provides the first authentic account, based on years in the field, of the production of the raw material, pashm or "cashmere".
Janet Rizvi shows how the manufacturing technique of the shawl is rooted in skills indigenous to Kashmir's villages, and invites the reader's sympathy with the weavers, the poorest and most exploited section of Kashmiri society, whose skilled fingers created these dazzling textiles.
Separate chapters deal with technique and design, the nature and use of the shawl in Mughal India, and the industry in the 19th century.
Shawls were traded to Iran and the Ottoman Empire long before they were discovered by Western trendsetters.
Finally, Rizvi documents the recent revival in Kashmir of ancient near-moribund skills.
Lavishly illustrated and accessibly written, this book has much to offer textile scholars, and those interested in the history of Kashmir, or of India's material culture or its pre-modern trade.
It will also delight anyone who has ever owned or admired a shawl from Kashmir.
This updated edition documents a decade's developments in the pashmina and cashmere industries.
An important new feature is a chart tabulating the evolution of shawl design according to period.