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INGENIOUS INVENTIONS by Allen Bragdon (Harper & Row: $8.50, illustrated)

December 17, 1989|CHARLES SOLOMON

A pleasantly silly catalogue of improbable-looking 19th-Century appliances, presented in a guess-what-this-is format. Perusing these photographs of soap savers, chicken waterers, cartes de bal and sugar nippers offers the nostalgic pleasure of a stroll through a turn-of-the-century hardware store. However, the reader is left with the disquieting notion that in 2089, Bragdon's grandson will publish a similar volume devoted to such quaintly impractical devices as the fax machine, car phone, computer mouse and Walkman.

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