Bibliography – Introduction

Bibliography | Abbreviations | Libraries and Archives

Publications on Massachusetts Furniture, 1630-2012

Compiled by Gerald W.R. Ward

Nearly every publication on American furniture, especially those on early American furniture, mentions objects from Massachusetts, by virtue of the age of the state and its importance in the world of furniture since the seventeenth century.  The following list is thus of necessity selective.

It includes books and articles that offer insights on furniture made within the boundaries of what is now the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; it does not include titles on furniture made in Maine and New Hampshire when those states were included in Massachusetts.  The focus is on published books, exhibition catalogues, and journal articles; it does not, with a few exceptions, include articles from newsprint publications (e.g., Maine Antique Digest, Antiques and the Arts Weekly); brief notes in bulletins and newsletters or antique show catalogues; auction catalogues; book reviews; “living with antiques” types of articles; dealer and gallery brochures; and other small, ephemeral notices that would extend this list beyond any sort of usefulness.  Since 1993, those types of materials have been incorporated into the annual bibliographies compiled by this writer for American Furniture, to which the reader is referred.

Although the emphasis here is almost exclusively on furniture qua furniture, a few titles that deal with interior decoration, textiles, architecture, and related topics are also included.  Similarly, although Massachusetts furniture needs to be studied in larger national and international stylistic, technological, and social contexts, of necessity only a few titles related to furniture from elsewhere are included.  The pictorial anthologies listed here (under Elizabeth White and Edward Joy) of English designs compiled by the Antique Collectors’ Club, for example, are just one reminder of the importance of the English design tradition on American furniture in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Those works are also good guides to the English pattern and design books that were so important in the stylistic evolution of Massachusetts furniture.

Although this bibliography contains only secondary sources, advances in our understanding of Massachusetts furniture are derived from fresh, original research in primary sources.  For that reason, a list of the principal repositories containing especially relevant manuscripts, public records, and rare books is provided below.  Deed, probate, and court records for Massachusetts counties housed in each county are not listed separately.  The reader should also bear in mind that important material can be found in many other libraries and archives in addition to those listed here.

Compiling a bibliography such as this in the digital age seems to be something of a quaint exercise, redolent of the twentieth century when scholarship on paper was of necessity the best and only source.  Yet we hope that twenty-first-century readers nevertheless will find it useful.  Modern readers need not be reminded that many of these works, as well as a wide variety of additional sources, vetted and unvetted, are available online in one form or another.  In addition, many museums have placed their collection database online, usually with images, and many more institutions will follow, facilitating research in ways unfathomable even a few years ago.