Gone are the days when Christmas shopping meant an endless traipse of the streets in search of inspiration. The burgeoning trend for mail order shopping means that you can now relax in a comfy armchair, safe in the knowledge that your presents are just a phone call away. Museums have been quick to jump on the bandwagon and their catalogues offer a surprisingly large range of merchandise. Quite apart from the obvious advantages of shopping by telephone, these catalogues are a good way of supporting national museums.
The Bodleian Library
This is an excellent example of how a little flair and imagination can result in an interesting and unusual collection of well designed, covetable gifts. Clearly a great deal of thought has gone into creating the catalogue and a large proportion of the gifts take their cue from works of art owned by the Bodleian: Cats Post-It Notes has a procession of cats taken from a 13th-century English bestiary printed on each page (pounds 2.99); and a delightful set of three colouring books for children contains images lifted from the Library's medieval manuscripts (pounds 3.75 for the set). The Bodleian building itself is also a rich source of inspiration - a range of fantastical silver jewellery includes a brooch featuring the Bodleian Beast, which was taken from a stone carving in the Old Bodleian Library. The catalogue is divided up into six sections - "Town and Gown", Indoors, Outdoors, Works of Art, The Middle Ages, Fun and Games, and Reading and Writing. There are plenty of ideas for those of a literary bent, as one would expect: the sturdy oak "Bodleian Bookrest" as long used in the reading rooms of the Bodleian Library (pounds 75), or the Bookworm Game, a novel memory game which uses stories and illustrations from more than 100 children's books in the Library. The Bodleian Shop in the Old Library is open Mon-Fri 9am-6pm, (9am-5pm, Jan-March) and Sat 9am-12.30pm. For details contact The Bodleian Library Marketing & Publishing Division, Broad Street, Oxford (01865 277091). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, A quick flick through the "Holiday 96" catalogue confirms the Met's legendary reputation. Every single object for sale - from humble glass beakers to elaborate pieces of jewellery - is in what we have come to regard as unquestionable good taste, of an extremely high quality and, furthermore, sold at competitive prices. Don't be deterred by the fact that the Met is 3,500 miles from England. It is relatively easy to order items over the telephone provided one has a credit card to hand. Americans go the whole hog when it comes to Christmas decorations, and the Met offers an exciting range of Christmas tree ornaments including a 24ct gold electroplated, 3-D holly leaf ornament taken from a Gothic design in Floriated Ornament, and a book by Pugin, ($28). Equally good-looking are the hand-blown and hand-painted glass tree ornaments copied from northern European blown-glass vessels in the Museum's Robert Lehman collection ($16.50 each). The huge range of gifts ensures that there is something for every taste, from the funky frosted glass Monkey glasses, based on a design by Joseph Hoffman ($48 for a set of eight), to what has become a design classic, the "Venus Earrings" taken from earrings in a painting by Peter Paul Rubens ($48 a pair). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10028. NB: The last mailing date for merchandise to reach the UK to arrive in time for Christmas is 25 November. The special customer service number for orders coming from outside the US is 00-1 718 326 7050, between 9am and 4pm Eastern Standard Time. The Science Museum The 36-page catalogue is brimming over with a confusing mix of imaginative brain-teasers, science fiction toys, electronic gadgets - and also some surprisingly mundane practical items, such as a Multiway Plug, which can wire up to four appliances into one unit (up to a maximum total of 13 amps, pounds 12. …