Good reference books are essential and, indeed, collecting them could be a good substitute for collecting expensive old silver. Those I have most relied on when trying to identify and interpret my pieces are:
"English and Scottish Silver Spoons, Medieval to Late Stuart", by G E P and J P How. Three massive and expensive volumes, but indispensible for understanding the evolution of spoon forms.
The books of Timothy Kent, a leading expert in this field, in particular "London Silver Spoonmakers 1500 to 1697", "West Country Silver Spoons and their Makers 1550-1750", and "Barnstaple Silver and its Makers".
"East Anglian Silver 1550-1750", edited by Christopher Hartop.
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