A private library can be many things, from a storehouse of information to a tell-tale record of its owner's passions. In the case of art books, the library is itself a rare and valuable gathering of art objects. The modern publishing industry is doing its best to provide art lovers with an ever-expanding list of new titles to add to their groaning shelves. Herewith, a selection of recent reference books, focusing on the decorative arts. Most of these publications are available in the Artnet.com Bookstore; the prices given here reflect the Artnet.com discount.
Daum: Masters of French Decorative Glass by Clotilde Bacris (Rizzoli International, New York, $80.75). The celebrated Daum glass manufactory, established in Nancy in 1972 by Auguste and Antonin Daum, became a force in both the Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods and is still operating today. With 238 illustrations and a comprehensive written, this new survey ranges through the French company's output from 1890 to 1990, from vases and lamps to contemporary sculptural works. Daum is also known for its objets d'art, things like inkwells decorated with frogs and a snake-handled vase. Daum boasts designs by Salvador Dalí and Philippe Starck.
If American glass is more to your taste, Tiffany: A Quest for Beauty by Jacob Baal-Teshuva (Taschen, $34) has 400 illustrations charting the revolutionary stained glass of the Queens native, Louis Comfort Tiffany.
The Style Sourcebook by Judith Miller (Stewart, Tabori and Chang, New York, $36). Whether professionals or simple aficionados, design mavens need a sourcebook of materials. This richly illustrated guide by the best-selling author of the comprehensive Miller's International Antiques Price Guide has 2,300 samples of fabrics, paints, wallpaper, tiles and flooring. It's fascinating just to skim through the chronologically organized compendium with brief introductions for every medium and era. The examples are extensive, ranging from popular floral brocades and 19th-century marquetry to beautiful pictorial wallpaper. The book is very practically arranged -- next to every picture is listed the price range, pattern name, available colors, suitability for uses, and most importantly, where to get it. There's also a handy glossary of terms and a list of supplier addresses. It's indispensable for the amount of information it provides in a concise manner.
A more recent addition to the Judith Miller bibliography is her guide, A Closer Look at Antiques (Bullfinch Press, $31.50). It contains more than 900 illustrations with advice on how to identify and value a wide range of collectibles.
Mallett Millennium: Fine Antique Furniture and Works of Art by Lanto Synge (Antique Collector's Club, England, $85.02). Over 400 examples of furniture and decorative art from the archives of the respected Mallet of New Bond Street, London. The book is organized chronologically, starting with the 17th century and ending with the late 19th century. Historical and stylistic descriptions are spiced up with tales of provenance and historical anecdotes from the Mallet legacy. Chapters feature sections on clocks, bedrooms, sculpture, textiles and great objects interspersed with the timeline of great furniture. Mallett has been in business since 1865, offering fine furniture to customers as particular as Queen Mary. There's a short chapter on royal visitors and the book is dedicated to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth with her gracious permission.
Furniture: From Rococo to Art Deco (Taschen, $33.99). This reference book, published in collaboration with Sotheby's and based on the Grande Enciclopedia dell'Antiquariato, covers the history of furniture and interior design through an astonishing 1,300 color illustrations. It highlights the variety of changes that occurred in furniture styles in Europe, primarily in France, Italy and England. A multitude of brief essays cover a wide range of topics and explore almost every facet of furniture design. Great craftsmen like André Charles Boulle, Adam Weisweiler and Thomas Chippendale are covered with biographical inserts along with lesser-known designers. The authors of the essays are Adriana Boidi Sassone, Elisabetta Cozzi, Andrea Disertori, Massimo Griffo, Andreina Griseri, Anna M. Necchi Disertori, Alessandra Ponte, Gianni Carlo Sciolla and Ornella Selvafolta.
Great Masters of European Painting by Monique de Beaucorps, Raoul Ergmann, translation by Willard Wood (Harry N. Abrams, New York, $48.75). Nothing sets off the decorative arts like a few masterpieces. This new survey history of European art starts in the 12th century with the San Clemente Master and ends in 1930 with the Spanish expressionist Antonio Saura, and in between takes up artists like Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Johannes Vermeer, El Greco and Francisco de Goya. The 266 color plates chart the history European painting through important and significant works accompanied by discussions on the life of the artist and the place of the work in the appropriate context of movement, time and place. It's a good bargain for some of the greatest achievements in Western art.