Throughout his career John Peto was overshadowed by the success of William H. Harnett, to whom many of his works have been attributed. Peto met Harnett during his years of training in Philadelphia, after which he spent most of his life living between Toms River and Island Heights. It was in these locations that he was primarily active and best known, and his works hung on the walls of almost all the local homes and clubs according to one of the obituaries published after his death.
Books, Mug, Pipe and Violin is an early composition that is directly inspired by those of the popular Harnett. Peto’s inclusion of a violin in his still life refers to his great love of music, while the books were from his own library. The torn and split book cover on the edge of the table refers to the passing of time and to the frequent use made of these objects.