Sunday, March 2, 2014

A Dead End on Durham Warp Transposition

A particularly intriguing section in Collingwood (page 278 in the 2002 edition) concerns warp transposition (swapping the positions of tablets so their warp threads completely cross over).  It reads:

The controlling tablets are lifted from their place, passed over one or more tablets to the right or left and then re-inserted in the pack... the earliest example of the technique is a seal tag from Durham Cathedral, dated between 1189 and 1197 (Henshall, 1964)

Henshall, 1964 is 'Five Tablet Woven Seal Tags' in Archaeological Journal, Vol. CXXI.  I finally got my hands on this article last week.  It may blow nobody's mind to learn it details five different tablet woven bands.  They are:
  1. Braid in double-faced plain weave with geometric pattern 1194-1215
    Thora Sharptooth has written about this band.
  2. Braid in double-faced plain weave with chequer pattern 1165-1174
  3. Braid in double-faced diagonal weave with animal patterns 1189-1196
  4. Brocaded band in plain tablet weave 1371
  5. Multicoloured tablet-woven cord 1294
    Teffania has written about this band.
None of these seems to concern warp transposition.  From the dates and from the colours of the warp threads described, it seems Collingwood was referring to the third band.  This band does, in addition to its animal weave section, have a long "tail" whose pattern is described as "broken chevrons".  But again, this is definitely not described as warp transposition.  Each tablet has 2 threads in each colour, and all cards are just turned as a pack for a long distance.

Did Collingwood's imagination run away with him when he was reading this article?  Did he have information beyond what is present in the article?  Right now I don't see any evidence that warp transposition was in use in the medieval period. And I'm kinda sad about it!