THE ART OF FRENCH GLASS, 1860-1914, by Janine Bloch-Dermant (The Vendome Press, $40). La Belle Epoque, France at the turn of the century, saw artists and craftsmen turning away from both the classical models of the early 19th century and the machines that made them. Nowhere was this more evident than in the art glass of the period. Like the Impressionists, the glassmakers sought artistic expression in "the great book of nature" and the use of brilliant color. The workshops of Emile Galle, the Daum brothers, Albert Dammouse and others produced enchanting objects: a mushroom lamp, vases emblazoned with rich color or transparent with flowers and insects frozen in space. Bloch-Dermant has given us an invaluable history of this period; with 300 illustrations (118 in color), a glossary and technical notes, this book will be an important addition for connoisseurs and collectors. MASTERPIECES OF GLASS: A World History From the Corning Museum of Glass, by Robert J. Charleston (Abrams, $40). Glassmakers have been perfecting their art for 35 centuries. This sumptuous book, presenting highlights from the Corning Museum of Glass, records the history of this medium, one born from the basics of sand, ash and heat. Charleston, a former keeper of glass and ceramics at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, has chosen 102 examples to illustrate the significant achievements, from a core-formed perfume bottle made by the Egyptians, through the 17th-century lead glass of Ravenscroft, to the art glass created today by modern artists. Each entry, describing an object and the technique of its fabrication, is accompanied by a facing-page color plate.