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Tartan Ferret
Test

Clans Originaux

The Great Irish Tartan Mystery!

Floating around the tartan world for many decades have been references to a volume called Clans Originaux. 'Published' in Paris in 1880 by J. Claude Fres. & Cie.

Brodie Red woven sample in the 1880 Clans Originaux

The references have always been very tantalising to researchers, all the more so because only one copy of this 'publication' seemed to have survived - owned by Pendleton Woolen Mills of Portland, Oregon.

Clans Originaux was particularly intriguing because it was frequently quoted as the source of a clutch of Irish family tartans. The late Bill Johnston of TECA- the Tartan Educational & Cultural Association, our sister organisation in the US - had reportedly transcribed some of these tartans in 1977 on a visit to Pendleton Woolen Mill. Since the Originaux source was so often quoted, it was assumed that he had found the tartans there, but no research notes have ever come to light.

Over the years, many enquiries about these 'Irish tartans'  seem to have been made to Pendleton who understandably, didn't have the time or resources to answer such queries. So the focus of attention remained on the mysterious Clans Originaux. In an attempt to locate another copy of the publication, we at the Scottish Tartans Authority initiated a search of the British Library, the Bibliotheque in Paris, the national library in Dublin and the Library of Congress in the USA. Amazingly each drew a blank!

Despite Pendleton's reported reluctance to become involved in correspondence on the matter we contacted the Pendleton President C.M.Bishop III who very kindly responded by passing the query on to one of his staff. From then on and as time allowed MH (we keep the name quiet so that they don't get pestered!) passed graphics to us which began to slowly unravel the conundrum.

MacBeth woven sample in the 1880 Clans Originaux

First and foremost, the Contents pages displayed a singular lack of any of the Irish tartans whose provenance had for so many years been vested in Clans Originaux. We then turned our attention to a companion volume called Scotch Tartans also published by J Claude in 1880 - no Irish tartans there either. One blinding flash of clarity appeared during this process in the course of a discussion with colleague Blair Urquhart of The House of Tartan: Clans Originaux was not a publication in the conventional sense of the word but was merely a book of tartan samples - what we call a swatch book. This explained the nil return from four national libraries . . . how could we have been so stupid????

Finally, MH very kindly put together two photographic CDs of the contents of both volumes which proved the point conclusively. See those very woven samples in our Graphics Library.

The cover of Clans Originaux

 

 

 

 

Page 1 of the Contents pages

 

 

 

 

Page 2 of the Contents pages





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