In scanning my library of books on old furniture and period decoration, some of them huge volumes, I have often wondered why no one had ever published a small book of ready reference on the historic furniture styles. Such a volume, I realized, would be necessarily incomplete, its treatment perhaps fragmentary and superficial, and it would possess other obvious defects when viewed either as a standard work of reference or as a readable treatise. It would be necessary, of course, to omit many interesting and important details, and the average author is loath to do this.
But it seemed to me that the unavoidable shortcomings of such a book would be justified by its practical usefulness. A concise, abbreviated survey of the decorative periods would often be most helpful, particularly for those who have not the time or the inclination to study the large books. Something like a concordance of the period styles was what I had in mind. I had reason to believe that there was a need for something in the way of a printed guide which would most effectively assist the average person in answering those universally puzzling questions of how to identify any period style or place any piece of furniture, and by what specific means to distinguish one style from another.
I have consequently set aside my principles of scientific accuracy and completeness for the time being, and have made the attempt to produce such a brief survey, vade ?necum, manual, syllabus, or whatever you may choose to call it. I have presumed to add another volume to an already extensive literature on the furniture styles because I believed that this particular kind of volume would meet a genuine and particular need.
Such condensation of a big subject must inevitably result in sins of omission, if not of commission. I am fully aware of the defects inherent in this sort of treatment; I know just what the critics and reviewers will say; and I am moved to forestall their criticism by certain admissions and disclaimers, and to inform the purchaser of this volume exactly what he is getting for his money.
In the first place, there is nothing new in this book. It does not pretend to be the result of original research. There is not a fact or a conclusion in
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