Skip to main content

History of Design

Decorative Arts and Material Culture, 1400–2000

Pat Kirkham (Editor), Susan Weber (Editor), Bard Graduate Center (Other primary creator)


List Price: 65.00*
* Individual store prices may vary.


A survey of spectacular breadth, covering the history of decorative arts and design worldwide over the past six hundred years

Spanning six centuries of global design, this far-reaching survey is the first to offer an account of the vast history of decorative arts and design produced in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, the Indian subcontinent, and the Islamic world, from 1400 to the present. Meticulously documented and lavishly illustrated, the volume covers interiors, furniture, textiles and dress, glass, graphics, metalwork, ceramics, exhibitions, product design, landscape and garden design, and theater and film design. Divided into four chronological sections, each of which is subdivided geographically, the authors elucidate the evolution of style, form, materials, and techniques, and address vital issues such as gender, race, patronage, cultural appropriation, continuity versus innovation, and high versus low culture.
Leading authorities in design history and decorative arts studies present hundreds of objects in their contemporary contexts, demonstrating the overwhelming extent to which the applied arts have enriched customs, ceremony, and daily life worldwide over the past six hundred years. This ambitious, landmark publication is essential reading, contributing a definitive classic to the existing scholarship on design, decorative arts, and material culture, while also introducing these subjects to new readers in a comprehensive, erudite book with widespread appeal.

Praise For History of Design: Decorative Arts and Material Culture, 1400–2000

"Scholarly yet generally readable, close attention is paid to the style, form, materials, and techniques associated with interiors, furniture, textiles and dress, glass, and so on. Exhaustive—not exhausting. Rather like walking through the front door of an imaginary museum of design and letting the artistic wealth of the ages overwhelm."—Norman Weinstein, Designers & Books

"Nearly a decade in the making, History of Design is right for both the design maven and novice. Organized by historical era (1400-1600, e.g.) and by various areas of the world (East Asia, Europe, etc.), this heavyweight is dotted with gorgeous images. The knowledgeable commentary by various design writers lets interested readers delve into the details, but flipping through the book’s 700 pages is fun too."—Kirkus Reviews

"Whether readers are veteran collectors or novices, this magisterial volume offers them countless examples of the infinite richness that design has brought to daily life in all levels of society. Comprehensive, erudite, and invitingly accessible, the tome is hard to lift, but harder to put down."—The Magazine Antiques

Bard Center, 9780300196146, 712pp.

Publication Date: December 10, 2013

About the Author

Pat Kirkham is a professor at the Bard Graduate Center, where Susan Weber is founder and director.