Joseph Alsop, bon vivant, crusty columnist, collector of Louis XIV furniture and 16th-to-18th-century Japanese lacquerware, will deliver the 1978 Andrew W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts next June at the National Gallery. His topic will be the history of art collecting.

Alsop, who retired from column-writing in 1974 after more than 40 years in journalism, said yesterday, "It hasn't always been rich people who collected art at all. I suspect most often it is, but the first collector of 14- and 15-century Italian paintings was a very, very poor man in Venice. He got them at junk shops."

The idea of collecting art, says Alsop, is one that has happened only six times in the history of art, in six different cultures, and is, he says, "the result of a certain way of looking at things. My dear, if you think I can explain that in 25 words, you're out of your cotton-picking mind. I've been working on this book 14 years."

The book from which the lectures are drawn is tentatively titled "The Phenomena of Art," to be published jointly by Harper and Row and the Princeton University Press. Alsop published another art book, on the Aegean Bronze age, in 1962. "From the Silent Earth" is still used in college introductory courses.

Alsop will be the first lecturer in the new I. M. Pei-designed east wing of the gallery, whose opening is scheduled June 1. The six lectures, open to the public, and are scheduled for June 5 through July 10.