Relevant categories: Bookcases,Desks
A secretaire bookcase is usually in the form of a desk with a base of drawers with a bookcase with a pair of mostly glass doors standing on the desktop. It stands out as one, tall, and heavy furniture piece. The other name for this is the secretary bookshelf. It features a hinged top which lies flat when open and stands obliquely when closed. When closed, the hinged to conceals the nooks, small drawers, and shelves. Thus you cannot close the desk until all of your documents are removed from the surface.
You are likely to find a secretaire bookcase among antique furniture pieces, even though there have been reproductions of original pieces over the years. In terms of its weight and height, only wall units beat it among the rest of the home furniture.
The first secretaire bookcases appeared in England in the mid-17th century and have since featured as a major part of the home furniture. In its early form, the secretaire bookcase was glazed with pediment or plinth. The glass panels used were mostly square in shape. During the Stuart period, the secretaire bookcase now featured double the height of the original bookshelves from the cupboard case or desktop.
Another unique feature of the earliest form of a secretaire bookcase hand wood-paneled or mirror door fronts. In recent days, these have since been done away with and in their place clear glass panes.
(Above photo: Desk section on a secretaire bookcase )
In addition, the earliest secretaire bookcases were nothing higher than three feet tall and were known as ‘dwarf bookcases’. They left some space on the walls where you could hang pictures and other pieces of art. These were common during the Regency period when the bookcases were open at the front or featured great brass-grille doors complete with pleated silk. In this case, it would be called an open bookcase, given that it didn’t have a door.
During the 18th century, the first revolving secretaire bookcase appeared on the market. It was so small that it could stand beside a chair on the floor. It was a must-have item for people who loved reading books. Although it exists mainly as an antique, you can find some new pieces on the market today.
It was between the 1930s and the 1950s when many of the revolving secretaire bookcases were made to be sold together with an entire set of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. They have since become scarce, which explains why they are much sought after among all antique furniture pieces.
Most of the antique secretaire bookcases available today were made from hardwoods such as pine, oak, or cedar. Some had a veneer finish which the rest had nothing but plain wooden surfaces. In most cases, these were varnished or stained to give them a good finish. That’s why you are likely to find some pieces which are as good as new in your next antique furniture auction.
As a clarification, a secretaire bookcase isn’t necessarily meant for use by someone working as a secretary. Instead, they were used in people’s homes as storage of books and working surface in the study.
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