Because I handle and deal with a lot of old glassware, it's vital that I have a strong reference library...both for identification of glassware and for determining its value. I have a 5-shelf bookcase full of reference books and three shelves of those are dedicated to books about collecting glassware. But which do I use the most, and would recommend to you?
There are six books on my bookshelf that are the most used and worn. I have tons of other books that I refer to for specific types of glassware (like opalescent glass or jadite or vaseline), specific shapes of glass (like toothpick holders or tumblers or candlesticks), or for specific glass-making companies. But these six are the ones that I reach for first when I have a piece of mystery glass and am starting my research.
Let's start with the older glassware first. I will usually find the most common glassware patterns from the late 1800s and early 1900s in one of two books; Standard Encyclopedia of Pressed Glass by Bill Edwards & Mike Carwile is the book I'll go to first, mainly because of its breadth and terrific photos.
Since there are some mistakes in some of the identifications in the Edwards/Carwile book, I always verify in a second source, which for me is Early American Pattern Glass by Darryl Reilly and Bill Jenks. The photographs aren't as pretty and full-color, but it's still a good general resource for early glassware.
Next is glassware from the 1920s to 1940s. The higher quality glassware produced during this period is referred to as "elegant" glassware; makers include Heisey, Fostoria, New Martinsville, Cambridge, Duncan & Miller, Tiffin, and others. For this glassware I refer to Elegant Glassware of the Depression Era by Cathy and Gene Florence, my favorite glassware authors.
Mass-produced glassware from the 1920s to 1940s is covered in Gene and Cathy Florence's Collector's Encyclopedia of Depression Glass. Here you'll find glassware from Hocking Glass, Hazel Atlas, Jeannette, Federal Glass, Indiana Glass, and other large glassware companies (most of whom are sadly gone now).
For glassware other than tableware from the 1920s to the 1940s, I pick up Kitchen Glassware of the Depression Years, once again by Gene and Cathy Florence. This book covers the types of glassware that you saw Grandma using, like glass mixing bowls, reamers, range shakers, cruets, syrup pitchers, canisters, batter bowls, glass rolling pins, refrigerator dishes, and measuring cups.
For mid-century glass tableware, I would recommend Collectible Glassware from the 40s 50s 60s, by Gene & Cathy Florence. Here you'll find later glassware made by many of the same manufacturers from the Depression years. If you're a Baby Boomer like me, you're bound to recognize a lot of the glassware in this book from your childhood. And I'll bet your mother is still using some of it!
The books that I've recommended above are the latest versions out at this writing, although they may not be the version that's on my shelf. I try to keep up with the latest editions of the books that update frequently, but that gets expensive. When you're starting out, always buy the most recent version of the book; don't try to save a few bucks by getting a ten-year-old book if there's a newer version available.
If some of you glass-lovers out there have better books to recommend for general research, please let me know. I'm always willing to try to squeeze another new book on my shelf!