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Furniture; Glass and Stained Glass; Metalware; Rugs and Carpets
Introduction to the Collections
The study of decorative art objects is an old practice, but has accelerated during the 20th century, with the founding of decorative arts, related museum studies degree programs, and general public interest in collecting antiques and collectibles. Materials on the decorative arts can be found mainly in the Library’s Art & Architecture Collection. The collection has rich retrospective holdings on furniture, glass and stained glass, metalware, and rugs and carpets. All of the reference resources listed in this guide are located in that department. These reference tools can help in identifying the origins of various objects and serve as useful guides to visual images, history, terminology, and bibliography for further study. While the staff of the Art & Architecture Collection cannot engage in authentication and appraisal, they are able to lead users to appropriate reference sources for attribution and provenance research. Publications related to decorative arts economic production and patronage may also be found in the General Research Division. Separate research guides are available on Jewelry (link) and Pottery (link).
Using the Library’s Catalog
Subject headings are the best general entry point. The Library catalog CATNYP uses the Library of Congress Subject Headings. The broadest subject headings are as follows:
Decoration and Ornament
The following headings are the most direct ones for Furniture, Glass and Stained Glass, Metalware, and Rugs and Carpets:
Furniture, Dutch Colonial
Glass painting and staining
Glassware (may subdivide by country)
Rugs—New York (State)
Keyword searching can be helpful, as long as broad terms are not used. Limited keyword searches to specific words that are as unique as possible to the search topic. The name of a manufacturer, a private collection, or a specific process or style may be useful terms to add to a word search. Advanced word searching can help locate titles published within a specific range of years.
General Reference Resources
A number of general reference tools have been created that cover important aspects of decorative art and design related to furniture, glass, metalwork, and textiles. These resources include dictionaries of terms, directories, encyclopedias, and survey guides. They provide accurate entries that define and explain specific forms of decorative art and their design functions.
Boger, Ada. The Dictionary of Antiques and the Decorative Arts; a book of reference for glass, furniture, ceramics, silver, periods, styles, technical terms, etc. New York: Scribner, 1967.
Alphabetical entries with useful line drawings; one of the oldest, most authoritative dictionaries.
Byars, Mel. The Design Encyclopedia. London: L. King Pub.; New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2004.
Chronicles the important developments that affected 19th and 20th century objects design.
Fleming, John and Hugh Honour. Dictionary of the Decorative Arts. New York: Harper & Row, 1977.
American edition of a European classic reference tool, with emphasis on Western art objects.
Hiesinger, Kathryn B. Antiquespeak: a guide to the styles, techniques, and materials of the decorative arts, from the Renaissance to Art Deco. New York: Abbeville Press, 1997.
Terms for carpets, works in various metals: silver; gold; bronze; and pewter, glass, and furniture by period. Entries identify important movements, artists and designers through the 1930s.
Materials and Techniques in the Decorative Arts: An Illustrated Dictionary. Edited by Lucy Trench. London: John Murray, 2000.
Scholarly yet concise alphabetical entries with pertinent illustrations. Particularly good for explanations of techniques.
Miller, Judith. The Illustrated Dictionary of Antiques & Collectibles. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 2001.
Good visual survey of periods and styles with terse but informative entries.
Aronson, Joseph. The Encyclopedia of Furniture. 3rd ed. New York: Crown Publ., 1965.
2500 alphabetically arranged short entries on world furniture, from antiquity to the early modernist period. Longer essays on major countries, types of furniture and styles. Many black-and-white illustrations. "Glossary of Designers and Craftsmen" in back of volume.
Blakemore, Robbie. G. History of Interior Design & Furniture: From Ancient Egypt to Nineteenth-century Europe. Hoboken, NJ: J. Wiley & Sons, 2006.
Broad survey history with good line drawing illustrations. Excellent coverage of 17th through 19th century styles.
Boger, Louise Ade. The Complete Guide to Furniture Styles. New York: Charles Scribner's, 1959.
Broad survey history organized by historical period with subdivisions for geographic coverage and specific styles: e.g. Louis XIV, Empire, French Provincial, Chippendale, American Colonial, and Federal. Text followed by black and white plates of over 500 objects, bibliography on pp. 423-429.
Edwards, Clive. Encyclopedia of Furniture Materials, Trades, and Techniques. Brookfield, VT: Ashgate Pub., 2000.
Scholarly essay style entries with good cross-references to related terms, including useful black and white illustrations and some bibliographic citations.
Fiell, Charlotte and Peter Fiell. 1000 Chairs. Köln; New York: Taschen, 1997.
A clear-cut visual survey history, with concise text, that covers the history of chair design in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Lockwood, Luke Vincent. The Furniture Collectors’ Glossary. New York: Da Capo Press, 1967.
Alphabetical list of terms for forms, functions, decoration, major figures and styles. Line drawing illustrations.
Piña, Leslie. Furniture in History, 3000 B.C.- 2000 A.D. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2003.
A survey which effectively highlights the highlights of historical periods, with emphasis on hand crafting versus industrial design.
World Furniture: An Illustrated History. Edited by Helena Hayward. New York: McGraw Hill, 1965.
Profusely illustrated, much of it in color, this historical survey is arranged by time period, then subdivided by country or geographical region. Provides quick visual overview of national styles and their development, broadly treating works in terms of their historical evolution.
Edwards, Ralph. The Shorter Dictionary of English Furniture: From the Middle Ages to the Late Georgian Period. London: Country Life, Ltd, 1964.
A revised version of one part of an earlier work, The Dictionary of English Furniture. Covers late 15th century up to 1820. Many black and white illustrations. Essays of varying length on types of furniture, specific objects and styles. Section on cabinet-makers, craftsmen, decorative artists at end of the volume.
Pictorial Dictionary of 19th century British Furniture Design. Woodbridge: Antique Collectors' Club, 1977.
Begins with key dates in 19th century English furniture history; contemporary sources quoted in the Dictionary; essays on designers and design books; pictorial dictionary by type of furniture, primarily illustrated with line drawings and engravings.
Kay, Myrna. Fake, Fraud or Genuine? Identifying Authentic American Furniture. Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1987.
Sourcebook of identification techniques, problems in construction, inspection processes and various clues to spotting fraudulently identified pieces. Covers 17th -19th century furniture. Chapter on "Technology as Evidence". Many photographs, often of test cases and their details.
Bjerkoe, Ethel Hall. The Cabinetmakers of America. Garden City: Doubleday, 1957.
Introductory essay on "Cabinetmaking as it developed in America". Brief biographical sketches of cabinetmakers. Bibliography, pp. 249-252.
Butler, Joseph T. Field Guide to American Antique Furniture. New York: Facts on File, 1985.
Using a "Systematic visual approach," traces the history of American furniture from 17th through early 20th century. 1700 illustrations -- line drawings arranged in chronological sequence by type of furniture, e.g. daybeds, sofas, chests, desks. Forms divided by style, then geographic origin.
Iverson, Marion Day. The American Chair 1630-1890. New York: Hastings House, 1957.
Illustrated essays on chairs by historic period, with sections on styles, e.g. Windsor, Queen Anne, Hepplewhite, Turned Chairs. Appendix on museums and historic houses with significant holdings.
Sack, Albert. The New Fine Points of Furniture: Early American. New York: Crown Publishers, 1993.
Uses illustrated examples to show the reader good, superior and finest quality furniture pieces. Explains details about construction and ornamental features.
Semowich, Charles J. American Furniture Craftsmen Working Prior to 1920: An Annotated Bibliography. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1984.
Allows access to useful biographical information in more obscure sources. Alphabetical lists by craftsmen's names of works about individuals; works about groups of craftsmen; general works; trade catalogs; craftsman-biographical index referring to numbered citations in first section; author-title index; subject index.
Glass and Stained Glass
Brady, Darlene and William Serban. Stained Glass: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale, 1980.
Bibliographical entries on general reference sources; dissertations and theses; periodicals; library collections; archives and museums; events and resources. Several useful indexes for authors, titles and subjects.
Florence, Gene. The Collector’s Encyclopedia of Depression Glass. 9th ed. Paducah: Collector Books, 1990.
Highly illustrated guide to all physical, historical and technical aspects of this extremely popular glassware. Contains many identifying measurements and information on glass craftspeople and firms.
Guide to Trade Catalogs from the Corning Museum of Glass. New York: Clearwater, 1987.
These trade catalogs serve as important guides to identifying the production of various types of U.S. and foreign glassware: bottles and druggists' glass; cut glass; flat glass; laboratory ware; lighting glassware and lamps; and tableware. Indexes for companies, geographical locations, chronology and subjects.
Hartmann, Carolus. Glasmarken Lexikon 1600-1945. Stuttgart: Arnoldsche, 1997.
Covers Europe and North America with over 11,000 hallmarks, signatures and firm marks. Includes known artists and short entries describing practices.
Jones, Robert. Biographical Index of Historic American Stained Glass Makers. Raytown, MO: Stained Glass Association of America, 2002.
The entries cover artists from the colonial era to the mid-20th century.
McKearin, Helen and George. Two Hundred Years of American Blown Glass. Garden City: Doubleday & Co., 1950.
Large survey history of American glass production, with background on glassmaking in various periods, table and other fine wares, blown and mold glass, nineteenth century bottles and window glasshouses. With many color and black and white photographs, and selected bibliography, pp. 361-366.
Newman, Harold. An Illustrated Dictionary of Glass. London: Thames and Hudson, 1977.
Contains 2442 entries for terms about "wares, materials, processes, forms and decorative styles, and entries on principal glass-makers, decorators, and designers, from antiquity to the present." Introductory essay on the history of glassmaking.
Pullin, Anne Geffken. Glass Signatures, Trademarks and Trade Names from the Seventeenth to the Twentieth Century. Radnor, PA: Wallace-Homestead, 1986.
Technical entry on “How to Look at Glass” is invaluable. Indexes major signatures, trademarks and trade names. Has glossary of selected foreign terms and a section on benchmark dates.
Raguin, Virginia. Stained Glass: From its Origins to the Present. New York: H.N. Abrams, 2003.
A substantial historical overview of glass painting and staining, with excellent bibliography.
Sourcebook 2001/[Stained Glass Association of America]. Hartland, MI: Stained Glass Association of America, 2001.
Describes stained glass practices, standards, professional studios, and association members.
Vose, Ruth Hurst. Glass: The Connoisseur Illustrated Guide. London: The Connoisseur, 1975.
Organized into sections on techniques, blowing and molding, colored and clear glass, decorative practices and later techniques, with many illustrative line drawings and selected color photographs.
Who’s Who in Contemporary Glass Art: A Comprehensive World Guide to Glass Artists; Craftsmen; Designers. Munich: Joachim Waldrich Verlag, 1993.
Arranged by alphabetical biographical entries. Includes Native Country index and a Residence index.
International Hallmarks on Silver. Paris: Tardy, 1985.
Technical information in introduction. Material gathered on European common certification process for silver. Hallmarks reproduced in sections by country. Index to places mentioned. Analytical index of hallmarks listed in this book. Covers selected countries in Europe, Africa and Asia.
Rosenberg, Marc. Der Goldschmeide Merkzeichen. Frankfurt am Main: H. Keller, 1890. 4 vol.
Lists 20,000 gold and silver makers in Europe, chiefly German. Listed by city or province. Register/index of monograms reproduced.
Perry, Evan. Collecting Antique Metalware. Garden City: Doubleday & Co, 1974.
Guidebook to forms and functions of various metalware, fake and reproductions, care and conservation.
Newman, Harold. An Illustrated Dictionary of Silverware. London: Thames and Hudson, 1987.
Contains 2,373 entries on British and North American silver. Techniques, styles, leading designers and makers from ca. 1500 to the present; emphasis on 17th - 19th centuries, alphabetical arrangement, well illustrated.
Silver and Pewter
Brett, Vanessa. Phaidon Guide to Pewter. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1982.
Guidebook with essays on history and production processes. Lists types of pewter by country - Western Europe and U.S. Chapters on 19th century style: art nouveau to contemporary. Glossary register of pewter marks, pp. 230-245.
Ensko, Stephen & Dorothy. American Silversmiths and Their Marks. Boston: David R. Godine, 1988.
The authors have devised a final, revised edition of the classic 1915 work by Robert Ensko and three subsequent books by Stephen. Gives names and marks of early American silversmiths from 1650-1850; list of silver objects with found marks, unidentified marks; locations of silversmiths' shops with maps provided; facsimile pages from four previous Ensko books; illustrations of various silver forms, e.g. cups, bowls, tankards, tea sets, flatware.
Fallon, John P. Marks of London Goldsmiths and Silversmiths 1837-1914. London: Barrie & Jenkins: 1992.
An invaluable resource for identifying hallmarks from this time period. Provides hallmark drawings and history of the firms involved.
Jackson’s Silver & Gold Marks of England, Scotland and Ireland. Edited by Ian Pickford. Woodbridge: Antique Collectors' Club, 1989 (1905).
Revised and enlarged edition of Sir Charles Jackson's classic work English Goldsmiths and their Marks. Describes London plate, marks and names, lists provincial goldsmiths by region, has sections on Wales, Scotland & Ireland. Reproduces marks by date with photographs of details.
Kovel, Ralph & Terry. Kovel’s American Silver Marks. New York: Crown Publishers, 1989.
Covers two periods 1640 -1850, andl 1850-1980. Alphabetical listing including initials with names/firms listed when known, including dates and hallmarks reproduced when identified. Useful bibliography, pp. 418-421.
Okie, Howard Pitcher. Old Silver and Old Sheffield Plate. New York: Doubleday, 1928.
Covers silversmiths in Great Britain and Ireland, reproducing about 13,000 hallmarks in facsimile. American tables of date letters and other marks. Hallmarks and date letters for Paris Guild of Silversmiths. Continental European hallmarks are listed. A history of Old Sheffield plate is provided, with a description of the method of its production, and key names and hallmarks.
Rainwater, Dorthy T. American Silver Manufacturers. Hanover: Everybodys Press, 1966.
Compiled to identify silversmiths who were manufacturers. Covers 1842 - 1920. Useful because no official guild halls with records were established for the U.S. Makes references to 1896-1915 Jewelers’ Circular publications. Trade-marks of the jewelry and kindred trades. Alphabetical name listing, with cross-references, short description of individual or firm and hallmark reproduced when available. Glossary, pp. 207 - 213, bibliography, pp. 215-223.
Rainwater, Dorothy T. and H. Ivan. American Silverplate. Nashville: Thomas Nelson; Hanover: Everybodys Press, 1968.
Essays on historical background, manufacturing, productions processes, styles and types of silver by function, many drawings and photographs.
Stern, Jewel. Modernism in American Silver: 20th-century Design. Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art; New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005.
Major exhibition of influential silver work with excellent bibliography and index.
Wyler, Seymour B. The Book of Old Silver. New York: Crown Publishers, 1937, (1971).
Essays on historical aspects of old silver, e.g. laws, frauds, collection and care, types of silver items, Sheffield plate. American and European countries' hallmarks. Index to marks.
Rugs and Carpets
Allane, Lee. Oriental Rugs: A Buyer’s Guide. London: Thames and Hudson, 1988.
General introduction for the beginning or amateur enthusiast. Explains rug names and terms; how Oriental rugs are made; issues to consider when buying a rug. A section of color plates follows, with information on designs and "Rugs of the major Producing Countries", e.g. Persia, Anatolia, Afghan and others.
Curatola, Giovanni. Oriental Carpets. London: Souvenir Press, 1981.
Heavily illustrated survey useful for identifying makes and types of carpets, their colors, patterns and symbology.
Gans-Ruedin, E. The Connoisseur’s Guide to Oriental Carpets. Rutland; Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle. 1971.
Thorough historical survey with sections on the characteristics of carpets, buying and care. Remainder of volume covers classification of carpets by country or region, with sections on various types, illustrations and specific examples.
Murphy, Brian. The Root of Wild Madder: Chasing the History, Mystery, and the Lore of the Persian Carpet. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005.
A colorful account of the Persian carpet’s history and its weavers and sellers.
Neff, Ivan C. and Carol Maggs. Dictionary of Oriental Rugs: With a Monograph on Identification by Weave. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1977.
Technical guide concerned with explaining origins of types of Oriental rugs by their weave patterns.
Rosenstiel, Helene Von. American Rugs and Carpets: From the Seventeenth Century to Modern Times. New York: William Morrow, 1978.
Strong survey history of various types of American floor covering from painted floor, matting, linoleum and oilcloth, to loomed carpets. Pattern chronology, bibliography, pp. 184-187.
Locating Periodical Articles
Periodical indexes that will cover these selected decorative arts may be found in the Library’s Selected Electronic Resources page under the category “Art & Architecture.” The following electronic indexes provide access to key journal articles on the various subjects:
Art Index Retrospective
Indexes articles that may cover decorative arts subjects from 420 international periodicals, yearbooks, and museum publications for the period 1929-1984
Art Full Text
Continues the indexing of Art Index from 1984 to the present, with the occasional full text coverage for some titles.
Indexes and abstracts periodical article, books, dissertations, and exhibition catalogues related to twentieth century design and some decorative arts.
Design and Applied Arts Index
Indexes 450 international design and craft journals with coverage of designers, artists, decorative arts movements, firms, studios and workshops. Coverage from 1973 to present.
Visual Image Databases
Databases of visual images for the decorative arts have been slow to develop but are growing. The decorative arts are often represented by commercial interests, however, so the following resources have been chosen for their usefulness for teaching and presentation purposes.
This organization is a not-for-profit scholarly developer and distributor of electronic digital images for art study, gathered from museums and other cultural institutions. Collections with strong decorative arts holdings in furniture, glass, metalware, and textiles are included. Users can build their own file of study images. Access this database through the Library’s Selected Electronic Resources page.
Digital Library for the Decorative Arts and Material Culture
An important image database from the University of Wisconsin offers an academic collection’s focus.
NYPL Digital Gallery/NYPL Digital Library Collections
The Library’s searchable database of visual materials documenting culture studies and social history from antiquity to the present. Among the over 450,000 images from the Library’s collections are many decorative arts objects, including furniture, glass, metalware, and rugs. Access is through the Library’s homepage at www.nypl.org and through the Selected Electronic Resources page.
Selected Internet Resources
Decorative arts websites are primarily commercial in origin, with a few selective exemptions from academic and museums sources. Major decorative arts firms can have their own websites that may give historical information and archival imagery.
Appraisers Association of America
Art Dealers Association of America
Bard Graduate Center. Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design, and Culture. Education Programs.
Victoria and Albert Museum. Decorative Arts Collections
National Gallery of Art Decorative Arts Collection
Furniture Styles and History
The Furniture History Society
Association for the History of Glass
Rijksmuseum Amsterdam Gold and Silverwork History Collection
The Persian Carpet Gallery
Compiled by Paula A. Baxter, Art & Architecture Collection, 11/07