These are brief reviews of books recently sent to us. We have included ordering information for publishers that accept mail, phone, or on-line orders. For other publishers, your local bookstore or mail-order house is the place to look.
Canadian Folk Art to 1950 by John A. Fleming and Michael J. Rowan (Canadian Museum of Civilization and The University of Alberta Press, 2012, 557 pp., softbound, CAD$45 plus S/H from University of Alberta Press, [www.uap.ualberta.ca] or  492-5820; distributed in the U.S. by Wayne State University Press, [www.wsupress.wayne.edu] or  978-7323).
John A. Fleming and Michael J. Rowan have attempted “to answer three questions: why is traditional folk art worth pursuing and collecting? why do we respond to such objects with enthusiasm and pleasure? and, does folk art have a necessary and enduring value?”
Over 425 folk art objects—game boards, trade signs, boxes, rugs, tables, sculptures, paintings, chests, weathervanes, quilts, and more—are pictured in large color images and described. The items are grouped not by subject, theme, or medium but by 17 different “affinities” that represent “some aspect of humanity’s physical and social being.” Among these groupings are “Portraits of the People,” “Settlement Lands,” “Narrative Pieces,” “Myth and Symbol,” and “Local Heroes.”
Humor, whimsy, beauty, and imagination abound in the book’s pages. A circa 1860 tripod table from Ontario has legs in the shape of knee-high boots. A little dog begs for attention in an 1856 painting of a soldier and his horse. A late 19th-century stirring paddle for mixing dyes terminates in a realistically carved hand. Squirrel heads peek out from forged and welded iron candlesticks shaped as tree trunks. The photographs by James A. Chambers beautifully capture color and details.
This immense project, six years in the making, was supported by numerous collectors, dealers, auctioneers, curators, historians, and museum staff. The objects chosen for inclusion came from various museums and private collections. (It would have been a nice touch to know which pieces can be seen in public collections.) Folk art enthusiasts will no doubt respond to this book with the “enthusiasm and pleasure” that the authors mention in the preface.
In Death Lamented: The Tradition of Anglo-American Mourning Jewelry by Sarah Nehama (Massachusetts Historical Society, distributed by the University of Virginia Press, 2012, 128 pp., softbound, $35 plus S/H from the University of Virginia Press, [www.upress.virginia.edu] or  831-3406).
Designer and jeweler Sarah Nehama, a collector of mourning jewelry, writes that mourning jewelry is “mostly an unknown” and that there are “misconceptions about its true purpose.” After cataloging the collection of mourning jewelry at the Massachusetts Historical Society, Nehama proposed curating an exhibition of the same. (The exhibit opened in September 2012 and closed in January 2013.) This catalog, which seeks to place mourning jewelry within its historical and cultural context, begins with the 17th century when memento mori and poesy rings first appeared and continues through the early 1900’s when mourning customs began to change significantly.
Nehama explains not only the social mourning customs but also the designs and use of mourning jewelry. Examples include pieces from her own collection and that of the historical society, and each example includes a description and brief history. Many of the people “lamented” with these unusual jewels were historically prominent. In other cases the information given on the piece was enough for Nehama to conduct research on the Internet. Many wonderful objects are illustrated here in photos that show fine detail. Works include rings, miniature portraits, bracelets, pendants/brooches, and hairwork pieces. Other items, such as photographs, broadsides, portraits, and trade cards, are illustrated to further the reader’s understanding of the subject.
Maryland’s Civil War Photographs: The Sesquicentennial Collection by Ross J. Kelbaugh (Maryland Historical Society, distributed by Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012, 307 pp., softbound, $30 plus S/H from Johns Hopkins University Press, [www.press.jhu.edu] or  537-5487).
In 2006 the Maryland Historical Society mounted an exhibition of rare photographs that documented the state’s role in the Civil War. This book includes most of those photos, plus additional images that could not be included in the exhibit and many others that were discovered after 2006. More than 400 photographs are reproduced; the captions identify locations, buildings, and people, when known; and the text provides historical background and a context for the images. A directory at the back of the book lists all the photographers known to have been active in Maryland between 1860 and 1866. Also included are an index, an annotated guide to resources for further research, and the list of buildings included in Stiltz & Co.’s 1864 album of churches and public buildings in Baltimore.
As the author points out, “Maryland’s location as the seat of the war early on and her politically divided citizens created unique opportunities for photographers that were unmatched in most of the country.” This book has much to offer readers who are interested in photographs of the Civil War and those who want to know more about Maryland’s role in that conflict.
Rare and Unusual Black Forest Clocks by Justin J. Miller (Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2012, 304 pp., hardbound, $89.99 from Schiffer Publishing, [www.schiffer books.com] or  593-1777).
This well-researched book fills a gap in books in English about Black Forest clocks. Collector and expert Justin Miller spent eight years researching and translating German books on the subject. There are over 700 photographs featuring these fascinating clocks, from cuckoo clocks to examples with automata and musical features, and more. Details are shown and described.
Miller writes about 200 years of Black Forest clockmaking from 1700 to 1900 and explains how the clocks work. Reprinted in the appendices are catalogs and a price list from Johann Baptist Beha & Söhne, original drawings (many of them by Lorenz Beha), sample sheets from carvers and casemakers Gebrüder Lehnis and Schwarz & Söhne, a circa 1890 price list and catalog from Emilian Wehrle & Cie., and selected pages from a Gordian Hettich Sohn catalog. Endnotes and an index follow a personal note from Justin Miller promising an updated version of the book and directing readers to his Web site for further research and learning.
Extraordinary British Transferware: 1780-1840 by Rosemary Halliday and Richard Halliday (Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2012, 320 pp., hardbound, $59.99 from Schiffer Publishing, [www.schifferbooks.com] or  593-1777).
Three criteria were used by the authors in choosing the truly extraordinary British transferware featured in this book. A piece must be: (1) uncommon, either in terms of pattern, shape, manufacturer, use, or size or a combination of these factors; (2) interesting, either in terms of the history of its use, for whom it was made, why it was made, or a combination of these; (3) thought-provoking, because the item’s use remains a mystery and publishing it in this book might lead to an answer.
The featured transferwares are grouped in broad categories: food preparation and storage; dinnerware; tea ware; toilet and medical ware; children’s ware, miniatures, and toy ware; and commemorative and special-order pieces. These generalizations only loosely describe what is featured by two longtime experts in the field, Rosemary and Richard Halliday, mother and son, who deal worldwide to collectors and on the Web at (www.bluetransferware.com).
The 1200 images range from common forms, such as mugs, soup dishes, pitchers, cups, and saucers with unusual imagery, to unusual items, such as suckling pots, toothbrush boxes, soap and sponge boxes, a dog dish, and a leech jar. There is much to amuse and delight.
Each item is illustrated in multiple views, and for those who enjoy studying transferware patterns, there are many detail images to peruse. Paragraph captions give basic information, such as size, marks, date, and the pattern or image name. If the pattern source is known, it is given with a printed example. The brief explanation of what the piece was used for in everyday life or the story behind the pattern or image makes these extraordinary pieces come to life. An index helps the reader find types, people, or patterns, and a recommended reading list directs one to further study.
Coin World’s Making the Grade: Comprehensive Grading Guide for U.S. Coins by Beth Deisher (Amos Hobby Publishing, 2012, 304 pp., softbound, $39.99 retail, or $29.99 plus S/H from Amos Hobby Publishing,  572-6885, or from Coin World [www.coinworld.com]).
This third edition covers 80-plus series of coins, 30 more than were in the second edition, from the 18th/early 19th century through the 21st century. The introduction, “Grading Matters,” discusses the basics and importance of grading coins. “Grading, although seemingly scientific, is subjective. There is an art to grading,” and learning to grade accurately takes years of observation and study. This book doesn’t claim to make anyone an “expert coin grader,” but it does provide an introduction to what is required in grading coins.
A key provides grading abbreviations, and James L. Halperin’s “color maps” (previously published in Making the Grade and republished here with a special license) highlight in color on specific coin designs how severely imperfections in those areas affect the grade. For each coin featured, the book includes a history, a color map, and multiple images of the coin’s obverse and reverse in various grades, along with a description of the wear, luster, strike, and eye appeal. Coin-related advertising is peppered throughout the book, and an index to advertisers is included on the last page.