Concise, critical reviews of books, exhibitions, and projects in all areas and periods of art history and visual studies
March 24, 2004
James S. Crouch A Bibliography of Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy New Delhi: Manohar Publishers and Distributors in association with Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, 2002. 444 pp.; 1 b/w ills. Cloth $68.95 (8173044287)
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Richard Ettinghausen once wrote of the Indian art historian Ananda K. Coomaraswamy (1877–1947): “[t]here are few scholars … whose publications cover a wider range …[:] philosophy, metaphysics, religion, iconography, Indian literature and arts, Islamic art, medieval art, music, geology, and, especially, the place of art in society” (Ars Islamica 9 (1942): 125). With the help of Coomaraswamy himself, Helen Ladd compiled a partial bibliography of his work in that same issue. Roger Lipsey published two volumes of Coomaraswamy’s Selected Papers and a biography in the Bollingen Series (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977) that include a list of Coomaraswamy’s publications compiled by his third wife, Doña Luisa Coomaraswamy. S. Durai Raja Singam privately published his Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy: a bibliographical record being a comprehensive bibliography of all his publications from 1895 to 1981 (2 vols.; Kuala Lumpur, 1981, 1984). Coomaraswamy’s son, Rama P. Coomaraswamy, also edited a thorough chronological list of his work, entitled Ananda K. Coomaraswamy: Bibliography/Index (Tweedmouth, Berwick-upon-Tweed: Prologos Books, 1988), with indispensable sections on translations, book reviews, and surviving unpublished works.

James S. Crouch, who assisted in the latter two projects, has now produced an annotated, updated, and exhaustive bibliographic volume of Coomaraswamy’s printed works for the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts publication program’s Collected Works of A. K. Coomaraswamy, of which this is the fourteenth volume. Crouch has followed rigorous bibliographic procedures “formulated by David Gallop” (10), verified all references from original sources, and made his annotations “purely descriptive and informative” while “designed to give a detailed and fairly complete account of the entire substance and scope of Coomaraswamy’s oeuvre” (9).

Crouch divides his bibliography into five sections: books and pamphlets (95 entries, both those published by Coomaraswamy and those compiled later by others); contributions by him to books and pamphlets (96 entries); contributions to periodicals, newspapers, annual reports, and the like (909 entries); miscellaneous (3 entries); and an appendix with a “selected list” of secondary material on Coomaraswamy (216 entries). Overall, Crouch provides full content lists for books; summaries of content for articles; references to reviews and reprintings; cross-listings to compilations; and a comprehensive index.

This division at times helps and at other times confuses a sense of Coomaraswamy’s development and chronology. The degree of annotation for each entry, however, makes using this bibliography a pleasure compared to previous lists. These annotations are informative—rather than purely descriptive—with a wry sense of what Coomaraswamy thought or accomplished, as demonstrated throughout by selected quotations and comments on Coomaraswamy’s notes. Of the anonymous note on “Ancient Iron Beams in Ancient India” from The Builder 103 (1912), included in my volume of Coomaraswamy’s Essays in Architectural Theory (New Delhi: Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, 1995), for example, Crouch comments that “this article contains numerous inapt or uncharacteristic terms and usages as well as wrong or uncouth transliterations of Indian words …, it can hardly have been written by AKC” (102–3). (He may well be correct, but the attribution was made by Rama P. Coomaraswamy in his 1988 bibliography and index, based on Dona Louisa Coomaraswamy’s files and notes.)

Meyer Shapiro once commented of Coomaraswamy that he was a “royalist” committed to the Philosophia Perennis. He also was a geologist, first of rocks and then of texts, looking for the fabric of the world. Crouch’s bibliography and the Indira Gandhi National Centre’s publication project finally make clear the detail and texture of his work. Were he still alive today, Coomaraswamy could have taken on the rocks—and demons—of Mars.

Michael W. Meister
W. Norman Brown Professor, History of Art Department, University of Pennsylvania

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