Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Fashionable library table for January 1814

Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Loretta reports:

Since they're usually rich and upper class, my characters tend to live in large houses.  I plant my dukes in a fictional version of Norfolk House or Northumberland House—buildings that occupied large chunks of London real estate.  In the country, their domiciles are the fictional counterparts of Derbyshire’s Chatsworth or Hardwick Hall.  If your library measures, say, 30 X 50 feet, with built-in shelves, you don’t have to worry all that much about where to put the books.  Nor do you fret about fitting in a set of the latest mode in furniture for reading or writing or staring into the fire thinking shallow or deep thoughts, according to your inclinations.

But a great many people, including celebrities like Beau Brummell and Lord Byron, lived in lodgings. For them and others living in smaller quarters, furniture designers exercised their ingenuity.

Above is s a piece of fashionable furniture from January 1814.
The chaste and elegant library table represented in the annexed engraving, is of a convenient form and moderate size, and is suited to an apartment of small dimensions:  at the same time it exhibits that breadth of parts and greatness of design, which characterize most articles of modern furniture, and give a dignity heretofore unknown.  The recess beneath renders it also extremely commodious for a writing table, which was not the case with the library tables formerly constructed.  The chair is designed with equal attention to elegance and convenience, and made to correspond.  They may both be formed of mahogany, with rings and ornaments of bronze; the shelves of the table will divide, so as to admit either a row of folios and octavos, or two rows of quartos.

Excerpt from Rudolph Ackermann’s Repository of arts, literature, commerce, manufactures, fashions and politics, for January 1814, Vol. XI, 1814.


Unknown said...

A lovely piece of furniture, indeed. We can all use more space for our books, can't we?

Hels said...

You found a little gem!

Living in lodgings is never a really good idea. But I suppose writers could surround themselves with wonderful desks, chairs and book cases to make their lives bearable. And what a blessing when shelves of the table could divide, so that large folios could be accommodated.

If I was stuck in uncongenial surroundings, I would fix the library first. Sleeping, eating and socialising could wait.

Chris Woodyard said...

I wonder which of the paneled areas are actually drawers or compartments?

And I love how the furniture has moral qualities: it is "chaste and elegant" (as opposed to those sluttish library tables one sees so much of) and achieves "a dignity heretofore unknown". Who knew that previous writing tables had been so frivolous?

QNPoohBear said...

The Providence Athenaeum has an Egyptian themed library table more elaborate than that one shown above. I'd love to have something like that in my house!

Jane O said...

I wonder if my writing style would change if I worked at a desk like that. Would it simply reject my computer and insist that I write with a pen at least, even if it let me do without a quill?

More importantly, would it allow me to sit down at it wearing a sweatshirt and jeans? Or would it insist on a corset?

Christopher said...

I love this: "it is "chaste and elegant" (as opposed to those sluttish library tables one sees so much of)"
I wish I had sluttish library tables when I went to school, they were usually pretty dull pieces of furniture.

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