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Gift ideas -- choicest new books for the holidays; The summit of caricature; In Vanity Fair, by Roy T. Matthews and Peter Mellini. Berkeley, Calif.: The University of California Press. 275 pp. $45.

In the Victorian Age, London's Vanity Fair magazine was justly famed for its witty and biting comment and especially for its caricatures - which made visual history. More than 2,300 of the great, the famous, and the merely notorious were immortalized and insulted in its pages.

This beautifully produced book introduces us to the royalty, politicos, judges, artists, and writers of Victorian and Edwardian England as nothing else can. The colorful, lively, readable text includes a history of caricature and lithography, advice for those interested in collecting Vanity Fair originals, and enough background on each portrait to show whether the magazine's evaluations stood the test of time.

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