Book of the week: The Antiques Magpie

Cultural knowledge
The Antiques Magpie
Marc Allum
(Icon Books, £12.99 *£10.99)

Why do the best Chinese dragons have five claws, what’s the difference between celluloid and Bakelite (the latter is, of course, made of polyoxybenzylmethylenglycolanhydride), where are Wellington’s boots and Monty’s beret and how should you bid at auction? Antiques Roadshow regular Marc Allum answers these and many more questions you never knew you needed to ask.

There are four pages on the differences between Greek urns, a disquisition on the willow pattern, the sad story of Donald McGill, king of smutty postcards (right), a history of hallmarks (700 years old) and a short guide to periods, from Gothic to Pop Art. Not only a very useful overall guide for collectors, whether of cheese labels (fromologist) or umbrellas (brolliologist), and source of unlikely information, but a laugh a page. A perfect present for virtually everyone.

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