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Photo: Courtesy The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, The Bayou Bend Collection, gift of the estate of Marian M. Britton
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Desk and bookcase

Object number



Maker probably by Edmund Townsend, 1736/7–1811


98 x 40 1/2 x 23 3/4 in. (248.921 x 102.87 x 60.325 cm)



Current location

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston


Made in Newport, Rhode Island
(view a map of Rhode Island)


Mahogany (primary), eastern white pine (secondary); chestnut (top of desk, backing for two drawer dividers, and bottoms of exterior drawers); yellow poplar (backing for one drawer divider and sides of the exterior drawers); cedar (shelves in bookcase)




"3," " 4," and "5," in graphite, on backs of fronts of prospect drawers; "1," "2," "3," and "4," in chalk, in corners of fronts, sides, and backs of exterior drawers; "1" and "4," in graphite, on interior front and sides of larger interior drawers; "1" through "6," in graphite, on interior backs of valance drawers; v-shaped notches numbering one through five on top interior edges of valance drawers




Possibly owned by Raymond H. J. Perry (1789–1826), Newport, Rhode Island. Ginsburg and Levy, Inc., New York, 1943; sold to the family of Julia Perry (née Esty); sold to Israel Sack, Inc., New York, 1973; sold to Marian M. (died 1998) and James L. Britton, Jr. (1908–1988), Houston; given by her estate to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1999

Associated names

Raymond H. J. Perry
Ginsburg and Levy, Inc.
Family of Julia Esty Perry
Julia Esty Perry
Israel Sack, Inc.
James L. Britton, Jr.
Marian M. Britton


BOOKCASE: The door frames have no pins or tenons showing; they are attached to the case with two brass hinges each; two screws fasten the hinges to the doors and three screws fasten them to the case. The sides of the bookcase are double walled; the shelves fit in grooves in the case sides; the shaping of the front edges of the shelves and dividers is a double astragal. The backboards are four vertical boards with half-lapped joints; they are fastened with nails to rabbets in the sides, the top of the bookcase and to the back edge of the bottom board; the top of the bookcase is visible above the vertical boards. The pediment of the bookcase has a separate backboard. The columns at the front corners have five flutes and the bases and capitals are separate. DESK INTERIOR: The slant-front is attached to the writing surface with three hinges. The dividers flanking the prospect double have double astragal moldings. The bottoms of the interior drawers are glued to rabbets in the drawers sides, fronts, and backs; mill saw marks are visible on the undersides. DESK EXTERIOR: The top of the desk is dovetailed to the two-piece case sides. Half-blind dovetails fasten the drawer dividers to the case sides. The drawer supports are fastened to the case sides with nails and are all replaced. The lopers are half-height and the muntins beside them continue under the loper. The two piece horizontal backboards are lapped to one another and are nailed to rabbets in the sides with rosehead nails; they are reinforced with a vertical brace fastened with rosehead nails. The top edges of the drawers sides are rounded and the back edges are flat. The drawer bottoms are let into grooves in the drawer fronts and sides and are nailed to the underside of the drawer back with brads. The grain of the two-piece drawer bottoms runs from front to back. The top drawer locks with a wooden mechanism; the three lower drawers have metal locks. Examined by P. E. Kane, March 2004

See also


"Ginsburg and Levy, Inc., advertisement," Antiques 44, no. 4 (October 1943): 155, ill.
American Antiques from Israel Sack Collection, 10 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Highland House Publishers, 1957–1989), vol. 4, pp. 852–853, 971–973, no. P3755, ill.; vol. 6, p. 6, no. P3755, ill.; vol. 8, p. 2145, ill., ill.
"Israel Sack, Inc., advertisement," Antiques 103, no. 6 (June 1973): ill. inside cover.
Elisabeth Donaghy Garrett, "A Houston Collection of American Antiques," Antiques 108, no. 3 (September 1975): 504, ill.
Michael Moses, Master Craftsmen of Newport: The Townsends and Goddards (Tenafly, N.J.: MMI Americana Press, 1984), 342–43, pl. 18, fig. 8.27, 8.27a.