The top five books for those who take period furniture seriously

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.

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4 thoughts on “The top five books for those who take period furniture seriously

  1. This is a great list of books. In fact I have those listed except for one – book #3. And, I ordered that book after I read your entry on the oxbow chest. Thanks Chuck. I’m spending money after reading your blog; as if I don’t have enough reasons to spend more than a few dollars already.

    I would add that your list is great for period (Queen Anne and Chippendale) furniture. If you move to Federal pieces I would add American Furniture the Federal Period by Charles Montgomery and The Furniture Masterworks of John and Thomas Seymour by Robert D. Mussey Jr.

    In addition, some of these books are rather expensive. I picked up the Master Craftsman book a long time back and it’s now worth considerably more. So these books aren’t necessarily only an expediture, there is a potential for profit other than information learned.

    Chuck thanks for the Father’s Day mention. This year was exceedingly hard.

    Keep Blogging.

  2. Glen,

    It was a hard choice between the Downs book and the Montgomery book for the list. Federal furniture is still “period” furniture and Charlie Montgomery’s book is amazing. Another book I’d add is also from Winterthur, Benno Foreman’s book “American Seating Furniture: 1630 – 1730”. The scholarship in the three Winterthur books is second to none.

    While I have been out of the antiquarian book business for quite some time, I may just toss a list here on the blog of some books for sale that are worthy of owning.

    Some books gain in value but most never achieve a price level much higher than their orginal issue price. Books like “The Work of Many Hands” are few and far between. Even the first editions of both the Downs and Montgomery books have dramatically dropped in price because of the Schiffer reprint. This is in spite of the fact that the quality of the photographs is higher in the first edition.

    To kick off the list of books for sale, I have a first edition of Montgomery’s “American Furniture: The Federal Period” that is in near fine condition (that’s just a little less than straight from the publisher) in a chipped dust wrapper. It is autographed by Charles Montgomery. The price is $375.00 plus shipping. I’ll see what other books I can scrounge up and we’ll get a list on the web soon.

  3. […] woodworking world about period furniture and inevitably the Winterthur Museum in Delaware comes up. Chuck Bender just mentioned the museum in his top 5 books about people who love period furniture in his excellent […]

  4. […] You may also find lists of books scattered throughout the rest of the internet. For example, I recently found a list of the top five books for those who take period furniture seriously. […]

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