1902 Encyclopedia > Carpet


CARPET is the name applied in modern times to a woven or felted fabric, made generally of wool, which is used for covering the floors of chambers or for spread-ing on the ground. The term is probably connected with the Latin tapetes, whence also conies the word tapestry, which, though now distinctively applied to hang-ings, was in early times not clearly distinguished from carpeting. Carpets and rugs were originally employed by Oriental nations for sitting, reclining, or devotionally kneeling upon ; and when first introduced among Western communities they were also used as covers for tables and couches, or for laying before altars or chairs of state as pedalia or foot cloths. The processes for making tapestry hangings and carpets being the same, and the distinction of their application being vague, it was chiefly by the nature of the design that any line was, in mediaeval times, drawn between the two classes.

The mention of carpets dates from a very remote period of antiquity. In Egypt they were first applied to re-ligious purposes by the priests of Heliopolis, and were used to garnish the palaces of the Pharaohs. It was also a custom of antiquity to place them under the couches of guests at banquets. Regarding a carpet rug, which he considers to be of ancient Egyptian manufacture, Sir J. Gardner Wilkinson says,—" This rug is made like many cloths of the present day, with woollen threads, on linen-strings. In the centre is the figure of a boy in white, with a goose above, the hieroglyphic of ' a child,' upon a green ground, around which is a border composed of red and blue lines," etc. (Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians, vol. iii. pp. 141-2). The carpets of the Homeric age were generally white or plain cloths; but they were also sometimes produced with various colours and embroidered designs. At the supper of Iphicrates, purple carpets were spread on the floor; and at the magni-ficent banquet of Ptolemy Philadelphus (an account of which is given by Callixenus of Rhodes) we learn that underneath 200 golden couches " were strewed purple carpets of the finest wool, with the carpet pattern on both sides ; and there were handsomely embroidered rugs, very beautifully elaborated with figures. Besides this," he adds," thin Persian cloths covered all the centre space where the guests walked, having most accurate representations of animals embroidered on them" (Athenaeus, v. 26). The Babylonians, who were very skilful in weaving cloths of divers colours (Pliny, viii. 48), delineated upon their carpets entire groups of human figures, together with such fabulous animals as the dragon, the sphynx, and the griffin. These were numbered among the luxuries of Elagabalus. On the tomb of Cyrus was spread a purple Babylonian carpet, and another covered the bed whereon his body was placed (Arrian, vi. 29). These carpets were exported in considerable quantities to Greece and Rome, where they were highly esteemed. The pre-eminence of the ancient Babylonian carpet weavers does not appear ever to have been lost by their successors, and at the present time the carpets of Persia are as much prized and as eagerly sought by European nations as they were when ancient Babylon was in its glory. Oriental carpets were first introduced into Spain by the Moors ; and at a later date the Venetians imported them into Italy, and supplied Western Europe with this luxurious manufacture. We have frequent mention of them during the Middle Ages, and their costliness and magnificence are celebrated in the illuminated pages of fabliaux and romances. They were spread in the presence-chambers of royalty, before the high altars of chapels and cathedrals, in the bowers of "ladyes faire," and on the summer grass. Many articles of furniture were also covered with them — beds, couches, tables, and regal faldistories; but here it becomes difficult to distinguish between carpet and tapestry, both being used promiscuously. Tapestry of Baldekine or Baldachine (from Baldak, an ancient name of Baghdad) was a carpet inwrought with gold and silver threads. Such carpets were carried on poles, and uplifted as a canopy over the host, and over great personages in proces-sion. The troubadours had carpets of gold embroidery which they laid upon the grass beneath them. Hearth-rugs and throne carpets, gorgeously emblazoned with heraldic centre-pieces, were the handiwork of high-born dames during the romance period. To some of them were attached fringes, but these were more usually composed of the fag-ends of the warp, like those of Persia, India, and Turkey. A black velvet carpet, " fringed with silver and gold, and lined with taffeta," is enumerated in the inventory of Archbishop Parker's household furniture in 1577. Rushes were strewn on the floor of Queen Mary's presence-chamber, and that of Elizabeth had the additional covering of a Turkey carpet. Long prior to this, however, Eastern carpets had been introduced. In the reign of Edward VI. we read that before communion-tables were placed— " Carpeta full gay, That wrought were in the Orient."

Chequered matting appears to have been very generally used about the 15th century. In Lydgate's metrical life of St Edmund (MS. Harl, No. 2278), is a representation of the room wherein that saint was born, the floor is covered with chequered matting, and a fringed hearth-rug of Gothic design is before the fire-place. Carpets composed entirely of leather strips interlaced together may be seen in our antiquarian museums.

In the reign of Henry IV. the carpet manufacture appears to have been introduced from Persia into France, Colbert, the minister of Louis XIV., established the manu-factory at Beauvais in 1664, which is now in the hands of the French Government, and produces very artistic speci-mens. A variety of these, " in Turkish, Peruvian, and Chinese styles," was exhibited at London in 1851. The national manufactory of Gobelins, which likewise sent its beautiful carpets and tapestry to the Great Exhibition, was established shortly after that of Beauvais. It was purchased in 1677 by Colbert from the Gobelin family, whose progenitors, two centuries earlier (Gilles and Jehan Gobelin), brought their art, as was supposed, from Flanders. An attempt was made, in the time of Henry VIII., by William Sheldon, to start this manufacture in England; and under the patronage of James I. it was more successfully established, with the superintendence of Sir Francis Crane, at Mortlake in Surrey, where both carpets and tapestry were produced. Toward this object the sum of ¿2676 sterling was contributed by its royal patron, and French weavers were brought over to assist. But it does not appear that anything considerable was effected, until after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, when artizans of every trade fled to England, and among them tapestry and carpet weavers, who settled in various parts. About the year 1750, Mr Moore was awarded a premium by the Society of Arts for the best imitation Turkey carpets; and Parisot conducted an establishment for their manufac-ture at Paddington, under the patronage of the duke of Cumberland. Subsequently carpets were wrought on the same principle at Axminster, in Devonshire, whence the name ; and afterwards at Wilton, where the manufacture is still continued. The Board of Trustees for the Encourage-ment of Arts and Manufactures in Scotland offered prizes for the best Persian and Turkey carpets, which were carried off by Gregory, Thomsons, & Co. of Kilmarnock, and Whytock & Co. of Edinburgh. About ninety years pre-viously they had been made in the vicinity of Holyrood Palace.

Carpets, as manufactured at the present day, range themselves under two classes. The first and ancient class being such as are made by knotting into the warp, tuft after tuft, the materials of the pattern , and the second con o sisting of those in which the pattern is woven up in the loom. To the first class belong Oriental carpets generally, as well as such as are woven at many places throughout Europe under the name of Turkish carpets. Persia is now, as it has been from the most remote times, the recognized source of what is most truly artistic, durable, and valuable in this manufacture ; and after the products of that country, those of various parts of India and Turkey are most esteemed.

Persian Carpets.—The carpet weaving of Persia is similar in its process to the tapestry manufacture of Gobelins, Beauvais, or Aubusson. The tapestry, as is well known, consists of tufts of wool (French moquettes) or other fibre sewed on the strings of the warp, by means of small shuttle needles. The Persian carpet is formed by knotting into the warp tuft after tuft of woollen yarn, over each row of which a woof shot is passed, the fingers being here employed instead of the shuttle-needles, as the fabric is of a coarser description. In both methods the principle is the same. Both are formed in looms of very simple construction, the warp threads are arranged in parallel order, whether upright or horizontal, and the fabric and pattern are produced by coloured threads, hand-wrought upon the warp.

In Persia there are entire tribes and families whose only occupation is that of carpet weaving. These dispose of their productions at the bazaars to native merchants, who remove them to Smyrna or Constantinople, where they meet with European purchasers. The finest carpets both as to design and texture come from Kerman, Feraghan, and Kurdistan. The Kerman products resemble in appearance the finest velvet pile carpets, but with the nap cut much shorter. The carpets of Feraghan are in external appearance somewhat like Brussels carpets, while those cf Kurdistan have their pattern on both sides and are woven quite smooth. The trade in real Persian carpets was formerly I limited, owing to their small size, as they were seldom | larger than hearth-rugs, long and narrow in shape; but with the extension of the European demand larger carpets are now made, and they are woven in pieces with separate borders, so that they can be sewed together. The introduction of aniline dyes into Persian designs is likely, it is feared, to be detrimental to the mellow effect of native colours. Very many of the imported carpets are considerably tarnished by exposure in bazaars, if they have not indeed been already used. To render these more saleable they are cleaned by cropping the surface, which in some cases is shaved quite close to the knot; hence a proportion of those brought to England have not their original richness and depth of pile. Carpets of silk were at one period extensively made in the country, but this manufacture has been entirely abandoned for more than a century. Felted carpets or nurmiids are also very largely made in Persia, but do not constitute an export commodity. Very beautiful patterns are produced in this felt carpeting, by means of coloured tufts of worsted inlaid or inserted during the process of manufacture, producing a regular pattern when finished.

Turkey Carpets.—The greater part of the real Turkey carpets imported into England are manufactured at Ushak or Ouchak, in the province of Aidin, about six days' jouAey from Smyrna, and rugs are principally made at Kulah, an adjacent village. In the provinces of Khodavendikiar, Adana, and Nish numerous households are employed in their production, as also in the districts of Bozrah, the city of Aleppo, and the villages of Trebizond. Here and there, throughout Caramania, such carpets are also made. The Turcomans of Tripoli, the women of Candia, and the peasantry of Tunis and Algiers are likewise engaged in the fabrication of a similar kind of carpet. In none of these places, however, does any large manufactory exist; the carpets are the work of families and households. These carpets are woven in one piece, and there is this notable peculiarity in their manufacture, that the same pattern is never again exactly reproduced; no two carpets are quite alike. The patterns are very remarkable, being rude and simple in design, and coining down from a very remote period. The colours are rich and harmonious, red or green being the usual ground colours with blues, yellows, and black, but very rarely is any white permitted to appear. The design is usually made up of a large central more or less diamonded pattern with smaller diamonds filling up the corners and sides, the whole surrounded with a border of lines of the different colours. No representation of any living form, nearer than what might be taken as the rude outline of leaves, is introduced into the designs. The peculiarities of the patterns have been accounted for on the theory that the Turkey carpet represents inlaid jewelled work, which accords with the Oriental delight in jewels and works in precious stones.

Indian Carpets.—The manufacture of carpets, which have a very wide range of texture, quality, aud material, is widely distributed throughout the East Indies. The weaving is carried on entirely by natives, who combine this as a domestic industry with agricultural labour accord-ing to the season. It has also been very widely adopted as a proper and profitable species of prison labour. The chief centres of the manufacture of woollen carpets, both for native use and export, are Mirzapore and Benares in the north-west provinces, and Masulipatam in the Madras Presidency, from which latter place the carpets most highly prized in Great Britain are imported.

At Benares and Moorshedabad are produced velvet carpets with gold embroidery. A very elaborate carpet, sent from Kashmir to the Exhibition of 1851 by Maharajah Goolab Singh, was composed entirely of silk, with a pile nearly an inch thick, in every square foot of which, we are informed, there were at least 10,000 ties or knots. Orna-mental hookah carpets and rugs with a silken pile are made in Mooltan, Amritsar, Peshawar, and Kashmir, those of Mooltan being the most famous. Woollen rugs are made-very cheaply throughout Bengal and are in great demand ;. but for texture, workmanship, and colouring the rugs of Ellore, Tanjore. and Mysore are unsurpassed. Cotton carpets or Suttringees are a cheap substitute for woollen fabrics in almost universal use throughout India. They are woven in stripes of either blue and white or red and white,—the principal centres of the manufacture being Agra, Bareilly, Patna, Birbhum, and Bardwan. The price of these articles is generally determined by their weight, but those of Agra are accounted the best. There-is considerable variety in the designs of Indian carpets, but it is allowed they exhibit perfection of harmonious colour-ing. The prevailing colour is a full deep red, broken with leaves, &c, of an orange hue, and interspersed with soft-toned blues or greens. A creamy white is also introduced with excellent effect; but of late years the introduction of bleached whites has robbed the patterns of that mellow subdued effect which constituted one of their leading. -charms.

Carpets made in this hand or needle-work style to which we have hitherto been alluding have long been made at various places throughout Europe, and the manufacture is still continued. The most celebrated and artistic textures of this class are the Aubusson, Savonnerie, and Beauvais carpets of France, and the similar products of Manufacture Royale de Tapis of Tournai in Belgium. The manufacture of what are called Turkey carpets is also wide spread, and the common Axminster rugs of England are made on the same principle. But the characteristic carpet weaving of Europe is entirely the product of machine or loom work, and of such there are several distinct varieties. Of these the first is the

Kidderminster, or Scotch Carpet.—This is called also the ingrain carpet, and is made in many parts of Scotland and the north of England, and in the United States of America. It consists of worsted warp traversed by woollen weft, and is woven in pieces about a yard wide. It is composed of two distinct webs interlaced together at one operation and is therefore a double or two-ply carpet, similar on its two sides. In this article only two colours can with propriety be introduced, as otherwise it has a striped or mixed appearance. A pure or plain colour can only be obtained where the weft traverses the warp of the same colour. Suppose a crimson figure on a maroon ground; the one web is maroon, the other is crimson, and the pattern is produced by these intersecting each other at fixed points ; what is crimson on one side being maroon on the other and vice versa. One beam contains the warp of both plies, ar-ranged in two tiers, which is passed through the mails or metallic eyes of the harness—two threads through each eye— and thence through the reed. The harness draws up certain warp threads, to admit of the passage of the shuttle with the weft, the pattern depending upon the warp threads which are so drawn up. This was formerly effected by means of a revolving barrel, whose surface was studded with pins, which by rotation acted upon the warp threads. These studs being arranged so as to produce one pattern, a separate barrel or a new arrangement of the studs was requisite for every other pattern. But this machine is now superseded by the more efficient Jacquard apparatus, which produces the pattern by means of an endless chain of per-forated cards working against parallel rows of needles. The successful introduction of the power-loom for the use of the carpet weaver, which was accomplished by Dr Erastus B. Bigelow in America and Mr William Wood in England, has had a marked influence in cheapening carpets and extending the limits of the industry. An improvement upon the Kidderminster carpet is the triple or three-ply fabric, the invention of Mr Thomas Morton of Kilmarnock. This is composed of three distinct webs, which, by interchanging their threads, produce the pattern on both sides, permitting at the same time much greater variety of colour, with a corresponding increase of thick-ness and durability in the texture.

Figured Venetian carpeting is of similar description; but in it the woof is completely covered by a heavy body of warp. Dutch carpeting is much inferior in quality, and was originally made of cow-hair, but now of the coarsest wooL Neither fabric has great capabilities of design; simple diced patterns are wrought in the Venetian, stripes and chequers in the Dutch.

Brussels Carpet is a very superior texture composed of worsted and linen, and has a rich corded appearance. The figures are raised entirely from the warp, by inserting a series of wires between the linen foundation and the superficial yarn. These wires are afterwards withdrawn, leaving a looped surface. In this manufacture there is a great waste of material, and the colours are usually limited to five, although in carpets of the best quality six colours are introduced. Each colour has its continuous layer of thread, running from end to end of the web, which rises to the surface at intervals indicated by the design, and then sinks into the body of the fabric. Thus, in a five-colour Brussels there are five layers or covers, only one of which is visible at any given point; and owing to the irregularity of their ascent to the surface, the colours cannot be placed upon one beam, but each thread is wound on a separate bobbin, with a weight attached to give a proper tension. These bobbins are arranged in five frames jutting out behind the loom—260 bobbins in each frame for the ordinary width. Additional frames are requisite for additional eolours introduced ; but where more than five are engaged the pattern is rather indistinct. The threads of all the bobbins are then drawn through the harness, heddles, and reed, to unite with the linen yarn in the compound fabric, the Jacquard machine being employed to produce the pattern. The manufacture of Brussels carpets was first introduced into Wilton upwards of a century ago, from Tournai in Belgium. Kidderminster is now the chief seat of this manufacture ; but it is also ex-tensively prosecuted in many other localities

Moquette or Wilton Carpets are woven in the same manner as Brussels carpets, differing only in this, that the loops are cut open into an elastic velvet pile. To effect this the wires are not circular as in the Brussels fabric but flat, and furnished with a knife edge at the upper extremity, the sharp point of which, drawn across the yarn, cuts the pile These carpets, which have a rich soft appearance, besides being manufactured in many parts of England and Scotland, are also made in France.

Tapestry Carpets are manufactured by a very ingenious process which was invented and patented by Mr Richard Whytock of Edinburgh in 1832. In Mr Whytock's in-vention, by a combination of printing and weaving, a pile similar to Brussels carpeting is produced, in which any desired range of colours is available to the designer, while only a single thread is used in the texture instead of the five or six which run through the Brussels texture. In tapestry carpet weaving the ordinary process of printing is reversed; for instead of the fabric being first woven and afterwards printed, the threads are printed before even the warp is formed. One thread, or two treated as one, in some cases miles in length, are coloured, by steps of half an inch, faster than a swift runner would make the distance. When these threads have been all parti-coloured in this manner, they form the elements, as it were, of the intended design or fabric. Singly, they exhibit no regular figure or pattern; but when arranged in their proper order, ready for the weaver's beam, the figure comes into view, much elongated of course, inasmuch as 18 feet of the warp will sometimes be gathered into 4 feet of cloth, in order to secure the due proportions of the intended object. The two combined arts of printing and weaving are simplified by this contrivance. With regard to the weaving—1st, The loom occupies only one-third of the space in length that the Brussels loom requires ; 2d, The latter must have 1300 little beams or bobbins, from which the worsted pile has to be gathered, whereas this loom requires oidy one beam for the whole of the worsted threads; 3d, While the Brussels or Wilton, on a web of 27 inches, requires for the best fabric 2860 threads, only 780 are here requisite—one layer instead of five—to produce as good or a better surface; and Mil, While the number of colours in suc-cession lengthwise, on the Brussels principle, must not exceed six or seven, any desired number can be introduced in a tapestry carpet. Again, as regards the printing, whereas formerly a change of blocks was required for every change of pattern, in this new process the same blocks serve for all patterns—as the pen serves for every form of type. If an object, say a rosebud, recurs a thousand times in the length of a web, at intervals of 4 feet, the block printer must apply his block a thousand times to point the opening bud ; but here the buds are congregated, so that one stroke may dye them all. If it be desired to have a thousand buds in the length of the web, let a thread be wound round a hollow cylinder a thousand times, and a traversing wheel charged with colour be passed across the coil. The thread, when uncoiled, will be found to be marked in a thousand places, exactly where it is wanted to tip the opening bud with red from end to end of the web. Design-paper, whereon the pattern is indicated in small squares, serves as a guide to the printer,—each square being one stroke of the colour-pulley. After the threads are thus streaked across with colour, they are removed from the cylinder or drum, and the dyes are fixed by the action of steam. The threads are then arranged in setting frames, according to the squares of the design-paper, to constitute the warp of the projected web. The Jacquard is thus superseded, and the loom restored to nearly the same simplicity as of old, when

" Between two trees the web was hung."

Not only can the pile of Brussels carpets be readily imitated by the process of Mr Whytock, but a velvet pile can also be produced by simply cutting the loops as practised for Wilton or Moquette carpets.

Like every other improvement, this invention on its first introduction met with considerable opposition, particularly on the part of manufacturers and dealers. During the first fourteen years, the number of looms employed gradually increased from one to fifty-six, the greatest number in operation at Lasswade in 1847. The great success which has attended the manufacture of tapestry carpets was chiefly owing to the energetic manner in which Mr Whytock's brilliant idea was taken up and developed by the eminent firm of Messrs John Crossley & Sons of Halifax. The manufacture was entered on by many other carpet-weavers, and now, as tapestry and velvet pile carpeting, it is one of the most extensive and best established departments of the industry ; and the invention has been the means of bringing articles fit for the use of the most refined and fastidious within the reach of all classes of the community. Rugs, table-covers, velvets, and tapestry-hangings are printed and woven on the same principle.

Patent Axminster Carpets owe their origin to Mr James Templeton of Glasgow, who obtained a patent for his invention in 1839. With a loom as simple as that re-quired for Mr Whytock's patent tapestry, Mr Templeton succeeded in weaving patterns which embrace an unlimited

Preparation of Chenille for Templeton's Carpets.

variety of colours, and that with wool not printed, but dyed in the yarn. Further, these carpets are pile fabrics, and can be woven of a depth equal to any Oriental pro-duction; while for density, smoothness, and firmness of texture they cannot be surpassed. The manufacture involves two distinct weaving operations,—1st, the prepara-tion of the chenille the strips of which form the weft, and 2d, the carpet-weaving proper. A design for the carpet to be woven is first prepared and accurately laid down in its proper colours on paper ruled into small squares. This design is then cut into small longitudinal strips and given to the chenille weaver to guide him as to the colours he is to use, and attaching these to the side of his web, he proceeds in regular order with length after length till the whole pattern is woven up (a, in wood-cut). The depth or thickness of the pile to be made is regulated by the spaces missed in passing warp threads through the reed. In the breadth of this web there may be ten, a dozen, or more separate chenilles, and consequently there is that number of separate repeats of the pattern available for the weaving which follows. This first web is cut into shreds or strips (b) along its whole length according to the number of separate chenilles it contains, and the loose edges fold together by a peculiarity in the weaving (c), so that a double pile projects upwards from a firmly woven centre or back. The chenille strips now form the weft thread for the second weaving, and being woven into a strong linen or hempen backing in the same order that the strips were cut off from the original pattern, the colours combine as in the pattern, and the elements of the complete design come out as the weaving proceeds. Each length of the chenille strips thus makes up a complete section of the design, and if twelve strips were woven in the breadth of the chenille web, they give the material necessary for twelve repeats. The diffi-culties which opposed the successful issue of his invention Mr Templeton set himself to combat and overcome with unusual perseverance and determination, and his exertions have been rewarded by his products attaining the highest place in public estimation, and by the establishment of a most extensive trade in his carpets. At a much earlier period than most other manufacturers he perceived the high importance of obtaining the co-operation of the best artists and designers to supply him with appropriate and artistic patterns. In 1851 Mr Templeton obtained designs from Mr E. T. Parris, and later he was fortunate enough to secure the aid of such eminent decorative artists as Mr Digby Wyatt and Mr Owen Jones.

Carpeting of felted-wool upon which coloured patterns are printed are in large demand for crumb-cloths, and as a cheap covering for the floors of bed-rooms, &c. A very large trade, chiefly export, is now carried on in carpets made from jute fibre. The chief centre of this trade is Dundee, and there the goods are chiefly woven in plain strips or chequered patterns, imitations of Kidderminster or Scotch carpeting being rarely attempted in this inferior fibre. The printing of jute carpets has been accomplished in a manner very pleasing to the eye, but it is feared that such goods would not satisfactorily meet the rougher test of human feet. Matting of coir (from the husk of the cocoa-nut), Manilla hemp (Musa textilis), and Indian mat-grass (Cyperus textilis), are also in extensive use. Floor-cloths of various kinds come under a separate designation.

From the privately printed lectures of Mr Owen Jones on The True and the False in the Decorative Arts we extract the following on carpet-design :—

"Carpets should be darker in tone and more broken in hue than any portion of a room, both because they present the largest mass of colour, and because they serve as a background to the furniture placed upon them.

"As a general rule, lighter carpets may be used in rooms thinly furnished than the contrary, as we should otherwise have too over-powering a mass of'shade. Turkey carpets are by universal consent adopted for dining-rooms, but not all Turkey carpets (and indeed very few) are fitted for such a purpose. The generality of Turkey carpets consist of a border with the whole middle of the carpet forming one large pattern converging to the centre. All-over pat-terns are much more rare. In the East, Turkey carpets are placed on a raised platform or dais at one end of a saloon, and all round the edge of it are cushions on which the Easterns recline, so that the whole middle of the carpet is perfectly free, and the complete pat-tern is seen at a glance. This is not the ease when they are trans-ferred to our dining-rooms, where the dining table alone cuts off the best half of it. . . . The principle of design in a Turkey carpet is perfect, and our manufacturers would do well, instead of copying them in Axminster, as is their wont, to apply the principles to be learnt from them in producing carpets more in harmony with their requirements.

''I will say no more on the floral style, but to express a regret that the more perfect the manufacturing process in carpets becomes the more do they (the carpets) appear to lend themselves to evil. The modest Kidderminster carpet rarely goes wrong, because it cannot ; it has to deal with but two colours, and consequently much mischief is beyond its reach. The Brussels carpet, which deals with five colours, is more mischievous. The tapestry carpets, where the colours are still more numerous, are vicious in the extreme ; whilst the recent invention of printed carpets, with no bounds to its ambition, has become positively criminal." (A. WH.—J. PA.)

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