Giftbooks range from Baccarat to cat collectibles


December 13, 1992|By Lita Solis-Cohen

The selection of books for antiquers and collectors this holiday season is thinner than in years past, much like the selection of antiques on the market. Publishers generally cut back on the number of new books, or decided the recession was reason enough to reissue out-of-print classics.

Among new works, the season's meatiest offerings are catalogs of museums' collections and special exhibitions. "American Furniture with Related Decorative Arts 1660-1830: The Milwaukee Art Museum and the Layton Art Collection," Gerald W. R. Ward, editor (Hudson Hills Press, $85), is an indispensable tool for attribution, authentication and interpretation of American furniture. It includes essays by leading scholars reporting the latest research on the development of styles, regional differences, shop practices and wood identification techniques.

As Bill and Hillary Clinton get ready to settle into their new home, they should be reading "Art in the White House: A Nation's Pride" by William Kloss (Abrams in association with the White House Historical Association, $49.50), a celebratory tour of the paintings, sculpture and drawings in the White House (rivaling many museum collections) guided by experts in each field. The fine color photographs make the collection more accessible than it is to most White House visitors.

"Textiles in the Art Institute of Chicago" by Christa C. Mayer Thurman (Abrams, $35), is an illustrated overview of textile art spanning 15 centuries, using splendid examples in the Art Institute's comprehensive collection and ending with chapters on modern European and American yardage and contemporary textile art objects by Lenore Tawney and Claire Zeisler.

Several lavishly illustrated books focus on houses chock-full of antiques. "Classic America, the Federal Style and Beyond" (Rizzoli, $75) by Wendell Garrett, for years the editor and publisher of the Magazine Antiques and now a senior vice president of Sotheby's auction house in New York, is short on text but filled with stunning photographs, about 70 percent of which were published previously in the Magazine Antiques. This celebration of a style illustrates the interiors and exteriors of little-known houses, some open to the public, others privately owned (unfortunately the reader is never told which is which or how to find them). It tantalizes with glimpses of the Ebenezer Alden House in Union, Maine, the palatial Edgewater House in Barrytown, N.Y., the King Caesar House overlooking Duxbury Bay in Massachusetts, and Southern plantations.

A more anecdotal, scholarly and informative book is the tightly woven narrative history "Of Houses and Time," by William Seale, produced in association with the National Trust for Historic Preservation (Abrams, $45). Mr. Seale explores 17 different houses throughout the country, all National Trust properties, dating from the 18th century to our own time. The annotated bibliography and list of the houses with hours and phone numbers encourage armchair travelers to get on the road.

New England guide

Shoppers should have "Sloan's Green Guide to Antiquing in New England," edited by Susan Sloan (the Antique Press, $15.95), a handy pocket directory to 2,000 antiques shops and 375 antiquarian bookstores in six New England states with maps and directions, cross-indexed by specialties. It includes a calendar of shows and markets.

Twentieth-century costume jewelry is flaunted in "Jewels of Fantasy," edited by Deana Farneti Cera (Abrams, $85), a translation from the Italian, picturing in color more than 600 pieces ranging from Wiener Werkstatte black and white dress trimmings (Vienna, 1900) to American Ted Muehling's gold-washed pod earrings (1990). Short histories of the manufacturers and pictures of marks found on baubles and bangles provide information the collector needs. Also of interest for those who like jewelry and movies: "Hollywood Jewels" by Penny Proddow, Debra Healy and Marion Fasel (Abrams $49.50).

Many collectors hunt for books that illustrate and help identify what they have or what they want, and there are a number of good books this holiday season that fill the bill.

"The Rocker, an American Design Tradition" by Bernice Steinbaum (Rizzoli, $40) is not an erudite history of an American icon but a picture story with 180 photographs, starting with early Windsor rockers on "skates," and moving on to chaste Shaker designs, quaint black-painted and gilded Boston rockers, fanciful wicker ones, machine-made Mission chairs, and designs by 20th-century masters including Charles Eames, George Nakashima and Isamu Noguchi. Contemporary craftsman Marco Pasanella designed the inventive sideways rocker on the cover.

"Rookwood: The Glorious Gamble" by Anita Ellis (Rizzoli, $40) demonstrates with fine essays and plentiful photos the quality and extraordinary range of production at the Rookwood Pottery's Cincinnati factory from the 1880s to the 1930s.

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