Books About Miniature Lamps and About Other Antique Lighting


Bidstracker identifies the miniature lamps it tracks and reports on by using five "standard" reference books.  For your convenience and to assist you in using the Bidstracker database, these books are described below and links to sites at which you can purchase them are provided.  When you use these links to purchase a book, Bidstracker will receive a modest commission from the bookseller.  These commissions are used to offset the costs of maintaining Bidstracker and enable us to continue to offer Bidstracker as a free service to collectors and other interested parties.  In addition to the 5 books used by Bidstracker, we have provided information on and links to purchase other books which we believe to be of value and use to antique lighting collectors.


The Five "Standard" Reference Books

Miniature Lamps by Frank R. & Ruth E. Smith, 1968.  If you only have one book about miniature lamps, it should be this one.  Over 75% of the lamps tracked in the Bidstracker database are shown in the more than 625 photos of lamps (most in black and white) contained in this book. In addition to the photos and descriptive information about the lamps, the book contains about 30 pages of background information and copies of some 14 relevant U.S. patents on lighting.  Referred to in Bidstracker as "S1", this book documents the most frequently seen as well as some fairly rare antique miniature lamps.  First published in 1968,this book is now out of print and getting increasingly hard to find.  Used and sometimes new copies can usually be found at Amazon.  Click on the "Buy From" link at the left to see about getting a copy.  If it's not available from Amazon, contact us at   We try to keep a few copies on hand and if we have one we'll quote you a price; alternatively we will direct you to another source where you can get a copy.


Miniature Lamps II by Ruth E. Smith, 2000.  Referred to in the Bidstracker database as "S2", about 18% of the lamps in the Bidstracker database are pictured in this book.  Originally published in 1992 and revised and expanded in 2000, the book provides photos  and descriptions of over 560 antique miniature oil lamps.  Fifty of these photos are in full color, the remainder in black and white.  While some of the lamps shown in this book are found quite commonly, the great majority of the lamps pictured are harder to find and, consequently, tend to be more valuable.  In addition to the photos of the lamps, the book has some 35 pages of background information on miniature lamps (much of it a repeat of information provided in the original "Miniature Lamps" book).  The revised Second Edition contains estimated values (see the description of the "Price Guide" below for a word about these "book" values) for each of the lamps as well as photos of about 20 lamps which were not in the 1992 edition. This book is a valuable addition to the original and should be in every collector's library.  The book is still in print and is, generally, quite available.   Click on the "Buy From" link to the left to order your copy.


Miniature Victorian Lamps by Marjorie Hulsebus, 1996.  Referred to in the Bidstracker database as "H", this book contains over 440 full-color photographs miniature lamps which are, by and large, much harder to find than those pictured in the Smith books.  The book also contains 2 very useful pages of photos of newer, or reproduced, lamps.   (A number of these newer lamps are tracked in Bidstracker and some of them sell for surprisingly high prices).  The photos in this book are of excellent quality.  The descriptions of the lamps are concise and, unfortunately, provide little historical background. An estimated value is included for each of the lamps in this book.  Note, however, that this book was published in 1996 and the estimated values were revised and republished in the 1998 "Price Guide" (see below).  Read the description of the "Price Guide" (below) for a word about these "book" values.  Despite the limited background information and the outdated "values" this is an important book for collectors.  It is available both new and used.  To order this book, click on the "Buy From" link on the left.


Miniature Lamps of the Victorian Era by Marjorie Hulsebus, 2004. This is the newest of the books about Miniature Lamps, and was compile by Marjorie Hulsebus with the assistance of a good number of miniature lamp collectors who contributed photographs and descriptions of their previously unlisted lamps to her as she was preparing the book.  It is referred to in Bidstracker as "H2"; note that only a few of the lamps included in this book have shown up, so far, on eBay;  many of the lamps in the book are quite scarce, which is one reason they were not documented in the earlier books.  Like the 2nd and 3rd books, this one also contains estimated values for the pictured lamps.  In addition to the more than 585 full color photographs of lamps which were not covered in any of the 3 preceding books, this book contains additional information on reproductions (which are becoming an increasing problem for serious collectors of the antique lamps) and an interesting section on miniature lamps from Europe (a topic not really dealt with in any of the other books).  This book is a valuable addition to the literature of miniature antique lighting.  Click on the "Buy From" link at the left to order your copy.


Those Fascinating Little Lamps by John F. Solverson, 1988.  This book, published after both of the Smith books first appeared (and before either of the Hulsebus books) takes a somewhat different approach to the topic than any of the other books.  It does include a large number of color photographs (and cross-references these to the 2 Smith books--most but not all of the lamps in this book are covered in those books), but does not attempt to be comprehensive.  Rather it groups the lamps by certain characteristics that Solverson felt were important (e.g. type of glass, size of lamp, type of burner, stem lamps, size, etc.) and provides multiple examples of each type.  Perhaps more important, Solverson provides some addition description of the key aspects of each of the categories.  Solverson's descriptive information provides valuable insights and can be especially helpful to the beginning collector.  As indicated above, a small number of the lamps in this book are not covered in the other books.  To the degree that these lamps have appeared on eBay, they are tracked in Bidstracker with the identifier "So".  Although now out-of-print, it is still possible to obtain copies of this useful little (112 pages) book.  Click on the "Buy From" link at the left to get your copy.


Other Books of Interest to the Antique Lighting Collector













The Price Guide for Miniature Lamps by Marjorie Hulsebus, 1998.  This interesting little volume intended as a "companion" to the 2 Smith books and the first Hulsebus book, contains estimated values (as of 1998) for most of the lamps shown in the those 3 books.  For a number of the lamps, the values are separately detailed for each of several variations of that lamp. This breakdown by variation provides additional information on what variations exist.  That information was often left out of the books when they were published or was later found to be incomplete.   Also provided for each lamp is an estimated rating of its relative scarcity.  The values in the book were developed based on estimates provided by a panel of expert miniature lamp collectors.  For the first Smith and the first Hulsebus book, the values published in this volume are the most current available.  The values contained within the second edition of the second Smith book supercede the values published here.  These published "book" values can be very useful--especially as rough guides to the values of rarely seen lamps and for purposes of valuing lamps within a collection for insurance purposes.  But these published values may not represent true market values.  In fact, it was the discrepancy between these "book" values and what we saw both on eBay and at live auctions we attended that led us to develop and publish Bidstracker.  We believe that the Bidstracker values give you a better idea of the amount you can expect to pay (or receive) for a given lamp.  Because Bidstracker is being constantly updated, the values it reports are not static and change over time as the market changes.  We also find the scarcity ratings in this book to be helpful (but then again often find that lamps considered to be "Common" in the book are hardly ever seen on eBay, while others rated as "Scarce" show up quite frequently).  Whatever the shortcomings of published "book" values, every collector should have the most recent published book values.  Click on the "Buy From" link at the left to get your copy of these 1998 values.



The Price Guide for Miniature Lamps by Marjorie Hulsebus, 2006This is the newest edition of the book shown above.  It contains revised prices based on expert judgment and experience.  The availability ratings (Common, Scarce, Rare, etc.) have also been revised and some new information on judging lamp condition has been added along with definitions of terms commonly used to describe a lamp's condition (e.g, "bruise", "flea-bite", "flake").

The Lamp Collector's Guide, Second Edition by John Filson Graff, Jr., 2004.  An extremely useful compendium of lots of information about non-electric lighting burners, wicks, chimneys and related lighting paraphernalia.  As the introduction says, this book "is NOT a 'great read!'  No lurid sex scenes and no plot at all".  But it does have all kinds of interesting information and pictures of non-electric lighting hardware. The Lamp Collector's Guide is a must-have reference for the serious lighting collector/enthusiast.  Published by the author as a spiral bound volume with clear plastic covers, it is available only by mail-order from:

The Lampshop at Lamplighters Farm, Dept BT, 10111 Lincoln Way West,  St. Thomas, PA 17252-9513.

The cost of the book is $30 plus $1.85 postage (via Media Mail) to anywhere in the U.S. for a total of $31.85.  (Pennsylvania Residents:  Please add $1.80--6%--sales tax). (Non-U.S. purchasers, contact the author for shipping costs). For further information, the author (Fil Graff) can be reached at  Be sure to let him know that you were referred to him and the Guide by Bidstracker (Dept BT). 


The Evolution of the Night Lamp by Ann Gilbert McDonald, 1979.  This is the most scholarly of the several books written about Night, or Miniature Oil lamps.  The author, McDonald, both a writer and an antique dealer, earned a Ph.D. in Literature and her academic background adds greatly to the value of this book.  While it contains many photographs, both in black and white and in color, the real attraction of the book is the detailed history of the manufacturers of the lamps.  Much valuable information is given about when a particular lamp first appeared, where it was advertised and what observers of the glass industry had to say about it.  Most of the lamps shown and discussed are cross referenced to the first Smith book (which was the only miniature lamp reference at the time this book was published).  While McDonald does not cover as many lamps as do the Smiths, she provides a great deal more information on most of them.  This is an oversize (11 1/2" x 8 3/4") and attractive volume.  Copies can be hard to find and can be quite expensive. But if you want to know more than the other books provide about the history and background of miniature lamps, it is a must have book.   Click on the "Buy From" link to obtain a copy at a reasonable price.  If Amazon does not have this book, contact us at and we may be able to direct to you to another source.


Oil Lamps: The Kerosene Era in North America by Catherine M. V. Thuro, 1976.  This is the first of 3 books on antique lighting by one of the most well-known and respected authorities on the subject.  The book concentrates on full-size table lamps and most of the text and photos focus on the bases of the lamps.  There are, however, useful sections on accessories (e.g. match holders), collars, burners, chimneys and even on kerosene heating.  Miniature lamps are given only passing mention (less than 3 pages).  While the coverage of lighting topics in this book is broad emphasis is given to the various glass manufacturers and the glass manufacturing process.  This book is a fundamental reference on kerosene lighting and belongs in every collector's library.  To get a copy, click on the "Buy From" link at the left.


Oil Lamps II:  Glass Kerosene Lamps by Catherine M. V. Thuro, 1994.  Continuing where Thuro's first book left off, this book continues to document the development and manufacture of full-size glass table lamps.  It includes information on European lamps and lamp manufacturing and includes more photographs of fancier, art glass lamps than in the first book.  Click on the link to the left to order this book from Amazon.





Oil Lamps 3: Victorian Kerosene Lighting, 1860-1900, Vol. 3
Oil Lamps 3: Victorian Kerosene Lighting, 1860-1900, Vol. 3
Oil Lamps 3: Victorian Kerosene Lighting 1860-1900 by Catherine M. V. Thuro, 2001.  Oil lamps are showcased in hundreds of black and white and color photographs throughout these pages, with greater emphasis on diversity, trimmings, and the probable placement in the home. Lighting fixtures such as hall, hanging, or bracket lamps reveal that Victorian homeowners had an astounding selection from which to choose. The many catalog illustrations and advertisements serve to date lamps and perhaps identify their manufacturer. This third volume is both a visual feast and a wealth of information for readers and collectors.  Clicking on the link on the left will take you to Barnes & Noble from whom this book is currently available.


New Light on Old Lamps by Larry Freeman, 1968.  This older book, now out-of-print but still occasionally available, attempts to cover the full range of antique lighting from early primitive lighting (Betty lamps, for example), through early electric lighting and includes a chapter on "Glass Night Lamps" by Edward A. Rushford.  While the book has many illustrations and some photographs of old lamps, all of the photographs are in black and white and of less than stellar quality.  The value in the book is more from the background information than from the photographs (as opposed to the 2 Smith and 2 Hulsebus books in which the greater value is in the photographs rather than the textual information).  Although old, the book is still of interest to the collector wishing to learn more about the subject.  As always, click on the link to the left to order this book.


Colonial and Early American Lighting by Arthur Haywood, 1962.  Another older book about a broad range of antique lighting, this book was originally written in 1923 and was updated, expanded and reprinted by Dover Publications in 1962.  It is written in a somewhat informal narrative style with a great deal of emphasis on the provenance of the specific lamps shown in the various black and white photographs. Click on the "Buy From" links above to obtain a copy, either used or new.





Classic Lanterns by Dennis Pearson, 1999.  While lanterns are a collecting category unto themselves, there is some overlap and common interest among lantern collectors and miniature lamp collectors.  A few "skater's" lanterns or other smaller lanterns have found their way into the miniature lamp books, and thus into the Bidstracker database. This book is a photographic investigation of the history, companies, people, places, uses of lanterns and of the lanterns themselves.  Some of the lanterns are so rare they have never been photographed before. Each lantern is described in detail. The book includes over 200 photos and illustrations (over 30 in color) and provides detailed restoration information.  Click on the link to the left to buy your copy.



Lanterns That Lit Our World by Anthony Hobson, 1991.  This little soft cover book has lots of information about lanterns, how they work and how they were made.  The book dissects lanterns and discusses each of the key parts.  After the more general discussion, the book devotes individual chapters to each of the major lantern manufacturers, shows illustrations of their products and discusses their history.






Lanterns That Lit Our World Book Two by Anthony Hobson, 1997.  In the world of antique lighting, it seems as if there are always more devices to document and more to say (as evidenced by the two Smith books, the two Hulsebus books and the three Thuro books).  This second of the books on old lanterns by Anthony Hobson begins where the first book left off--with a discussion of additional types of lanterns, additional manufacturers and additional examples.