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ONE can’t imagine John Bly saying… “come over ’ere and ’ave a look at this,” should he be showing you one of the – er – deceptive pieces featured in this book, about which, in his preface on the ‘genuine’ factor, he sadly intones: “Furniture is, without a doubt, the most problematic collectable antiques area […] sadly, furniture has been altered for fashion as well as for gain.” Or, put another way, when looking at furniture view every piece with suspicion.

In this book a team of experts including Daniel Agnew, Simon Bull, Peter Waldron and Gordon Lang look at the antiques, which, since the middle of the 19th century, have been reproduced with varying degrees of accuracy, from the vague lookalike to the deceptively precise fake. There is no category of art or antique that has not at some time been copied, altered, improved, or is, in one way or another, less than true blue. As well as furniture, porcelain, a big collecting area, is a nightmare for novice collectors trying to spot very clever repairs. That and the absence of marks on some wares and fake marks on others can become a study in social history.

This very thorough book, with plenty of illustrations and explanations, covers a fair range – English, Continental and American furniture, Sheffield plate, English and American silver, pottery and porcelain, and, most importantly here, Oriental and European porcelain and there are sections on other prime candidates for the faked, the forged and the phoney – netsuke and okimono, quilts, decoys, scientific instruments and toys.

The section on furniture alone would be reason enough to buy this book. On English furniture, it covers pastiches, reproductions, separations, marriages and alterations, carving, handles, later veneering, marquetry, scrambled sets and in a piece on distressing there is the brisk comment: “There is a considerable amount of rubbish talked about distressing; some of it highly imaginative – for example, thrashing a table top with chains – and some of it is downright ridiculous, such as firing a shotgun at a chair frame to create the appearance of woodworm.” Good reference, well researched and well written.