In my best David Letterman voice…
#5 – Furniture Treasury by Wallace Nutting, 3 volumes
If you can find it go for any edition between the 1928 and 1948 printings. The pictures are far better in quality. This book is jammed so full of furniture you can’t help but start to see subtle differences. Some of the research has been proven wrong but much of it still stands as the basis for many scholarly books today.
#4 – American Antiques from The Israel Sack Collection in ten volumes
Just the fact that it is ten volumes makes this an indispenible reference. Add to that the fact that the Sacks and Joe Hennage compiled this collection from brochures and archives from one of America’s greatest antique dealers simply adds to the necessity to own the enitire collection.
#3 – New England Furniture, The Colonial Era by Brock Jobe and Myrna Kaye
This was one of the first books to show period pieces from all angles. You get to see different forms and pieces from all over New England that are only a part of the collection of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (SPNEA). The authors pull out drawers and show you the inside of pieces, backs of pieces and they even roll the pieces over and show you the bottoms. It’s an amazing work.
#2 – American Furniture in The Metropolitan Museum of Art – Late Colonial Period:The Queen and and Chippendale Styles by Morrison Heckscher
Without a doubt the collection in the Met is one of the greatest collections of American furniture on display. Mr. Heckscher gets you up close and personal with a huge slice of the collection with detailed, scholarly descriptions of the pieces. Kari Hultman recently did a blog post on Desert Island Tools and in that same spirit i would put Mr. Heckscher’s book in the category of “must have” books.
And the #1 book for those who take period furniture seriously is – American Furniture:Queen Anne and Chippendale Periods in the Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum by Joseph Downs
This book chronicles some of the greatest pieces on display in the most unbelievable museum of American Decorative Arts in the country. Mr. du Post put together a vast collection of furniture, architecture and accessories which is truly incredible. If you have the ability to journey to the museum, and you like period furniture, you will undoubtedly make a repeat trip because there is no way you can take in the whole collection in only one visit. The scholarship in the book stands as the benchmark for books being written today.
This is, of course, only a tiny selection of the books one truly “needs” to get a complete education on period furniture. So many others ought to be on the list from The Fine Points of Furniture by Albert Sack to The Mastercraftsmen of Newport by Michael Moses to the entire American Furniture series by Luke Beckerdite at the Chipstone Foundation but I was asked to name five. I’m sure others will have a different “top five”. If you’re one who would have something else on the list, please comment. I’m always interested in seeing if there happens to be a book out there I don’t know about.