TREASURES OF IRISH ART: 1500 B.C. - 1500 A.D., by G. Frank Mitchell, Peter Harbison, Liam de Paor, Maire de Paor, and Roger A. Stalley (Knopf/Metropolitan Museum of Art, $25). New York may have the magnificent "Treasures of Irish Art" exhibit, but its sumptuous catalogue, which gorgeously displays each masterpiece of metal work and illumination is the next best thing. Here in 86 color plates are examples of the simple, twisted gold and bronze jewelry of the pre-Christian period; the finely interlaced decorations of the early Christian art, as in the carpet pages of the Book of Durrow ; the golden age of Irish art with the elaborate Book of Kells and the ornate Ardagh chalice; the changes in taste wrought by Viking invasions which introduced the animal and vegetable motifs; and the glorious development of Irish art in the Romanesque and Gothic periods, as seen in tis croziers, bell and book shrines, including the shrine of St. Patrick's bell. Each illustration is accompanied by extensive historical and critical commentary, and a scholarly essay covers each period giving the history of early Irish art.
THE IRISH WORLD: The Art and Culture of the Irish People, edited by Brian de Breffny (Abrams, $28.50). Wearers of the green in flesh and spirit will respond to The Irish World as to an Irish harp. Eleven Hibernian scholars trace the history and culture of the Emerald Isle from its mysterious prehistoric beginnings to the troubled present in Ulster. Copiously illustrated (340) illustrations including 62 color plates), this impressive overview touches upon all key events, men and women, art and artifacts which have combined to form the Irish heritage, whether high points like the arrival of St. Patrick and the Celtic Revival or low points like the potato famines and the suffering under English domination in the 16th and 17th centuries. One chapter is devoted to the Irish in America.