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The Importance of Art Reference Books: Two Stunning Asian Art Book Collections

Thirteen Books on Chinese Ceramics, chiefly blue and white, from the Estate of Peter L. Rosenberg (Lot 830, Estimate $600-$800)

Thirteen Books on Chinese Ceramics, chiefly blue and white, from the Estate of Peter L. Rosenberg (Lot 830, Estimate $600-$800)

Guest blog post by Richard Kenworthy, PhD, Former Professor at Auburn University

Even in the age of Google and instant gratification, a good library is essential for any serious student or collector of works of art. The internet has yet to catch up to the amount of information, expertise, and images available in printed volumes.

When it comes to Asian works of art, scholarly books allow you to delve into the subject from many different viewpoints throughout history. Older volumes in particular allow you to trace changing attributions and world-wide trade of cultural materials. Asian art books also provide crucial comparisons when you need to date or authenticate a piece that a dealer or auction house is selling; these volumes contain published examples of works of art housed in museums and objects from controlled excavations. In addition, many reference books are works of art in their own right, with beautiful illustrations printed on high quality papers and exquisite binding.

The Asian Works of Art auction at Skinner in Boston this April features a large collection of important and rare books drawn chiefly from two sources: renowned dealer Peter L. Rosenberg of Vallin Galleries, and Anne DeCoursey Clapp, Professor Emerita at Wellesley College.

During his nearly 30-year-long career, Peter L. Rosenberg assembled an enviable working library on the topic of Asian art. Realizing the practical value of books, he focused on the fields in which he specialized: ceramics, furniture, bronzes, jade, and other decorative arts.

Anne DeCoursey Clapp’s library is also the work of a lifetime. As a widely respected and much published authority on Chinese paintings, she specialized in the art of the Ming masters Tang Yin and Wen Zhengming. She acquired her book collection through booksellers in the West and on her trips to Asia, where she purchased many of the seminal works about Chinese painting.

In the aggregate, these collections complement each other perfectly and provide a sweeping view of the varied history and forms of the arts of Asia.

View the auction catalog

Schroeder, Ulrich von, Buddhist Sculptures in Tibet, Hong Kong: Visual Dharma Publications, 2001 (Lot 854, Estimate $800-$1,000)

Portfolio of Chinese Paintings: Yuan to Ching, Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1961 (Lot 880, Estimate $500-$800)

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