The difficulty in assessing glass art lies in separating artistic ability and intent from the sheer sensual beauty of the material. Can a shimmering emerald piece of glass be improved by letting an artist mold its shape or decorate its surface? Clearly Inspired is a lively catalog written to accompany an exhibition (in Tampa and Fort Wayne) exploring the premise that contemporary studio glass artists draw on historical antecedents. Chambers and Oldknow, who have both written previous books on glass art and artists, illustrate this premise with examples of Roman, French, Venetian, German, and Russian glass and the work of 20 contemporary glass artists. An 18-page essay presents an overview of glass history from dynastic Egypt to the present, and a complementary essay discusses each modern artist and his or her working methods. Authored by British writer Tom Goodearl and glassblower Marilyn Goodearl, Engraved Glass, on the other hand, approaches contemporary art-glass through surface decoration (although many of the objects are blown or molded specifically to enhance the engraving). The majority of the 60-plus artists represented here are Europeans who have been influenced by traditional engraved goblets and bowls. Some innovative works, which pay more attention to manipulating form and color, are also presented. Disappointingly, the short accompanying essays are of minimal value. Clearly Inspired, with its useful essays and broader scope, will be suitable for all libraries; Engraved Glass will be of most interest to collectors and artists.--David McClelland, Philadelphia Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.