image of object
From: Albert Sack, The New Fine Points of Furniture (New York: Crown Publishers, 1993), 168
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Desk and bookcase

Object number



Maker probably by Daniel Spencer, 1741?1796


113 x 42 1/2 x 25 in. (287.021 x 107.95 x 63.5 cm)



Current location

Private collection


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


Mahogany (primary); mahogany (bonnet boards, backing for blocking on lower two exterior drawers, linings for interior drawers); pine (back of pediment, top boards in well on pediment, back of lower case, drawer sides, bottom of bookcase, vertical blocks on front feet and rear feet, dust boards, drawer stops and supports for upper drawers); yellow poplar (rear feet brackets, block on proper-left front foot); maple (top of desk section, bottom of desk, drawer dividers); chestnut (drawer bottoms of exterior drawers, horizontal blocks on front feet, supports for lower drawers; cherry (interior of bookcase including bottom, sides, and top boards, dividers, shelves, and back boards)




“B” and “C,” in chalk, at center of interior backs of exterior drawers; illegible chalk in center back of upper drawer; “1” through “11,” in graphite, on interior drawers at center back and interior front corners; “Bottom,” in chalk, on underside of bookcase and desk; mathematical calculations, in chalk, on underside of desk; Roman numerals, in graphite, on interior backs of valance drawers and Roman numerals incised on interior edges of fronts of valance drawers




Nicholas Brown (1729–1791), Providence, Rhode Island; by descent to his son, Nicholas Brown (1769–1841), Providence; by descent to his son, John Carter Brown (1797–1874); by descent to his son, John Nicholas Brown (1861–1900); by descent to John Nicholas Brown, Jr. (1900–1979), Providence, Rhode Island; by descent to his son, Capt. Nicholas Brown USN retired (born 1932), Providence, Rhode Island and Baltimore, Maryland; consigned to Christie's, New York, June 3, 1989, lot 100; sold to Israel Sack, Inc., New York

Associated names

Nicholas Brown
Nicholas Brown, Jr.
John Carter Brown
John Nicholas Brown
John Nicholas Brown
Nicholas Brown
Israel Sack, Inc.


This example is one of nine Rhode Island blockfront desk and bookcases onamented with six shells.

See also


Rhode Island School of Design Bulletin 15, no. 2 (April 1927): 8, fig. 6.
Edward Wenham, The Collector's Guide to Furniture Design (New York: Collectors Press, 1928), 303, fig. 701.
Michael Moses, Master Craftsmen of Newport: The Townsends and Goddards (Tenafly, N.J.: MMI Americana Press, 1984), 328–329, pl. 1, fig. 8.17, 8.17a–c.
Christie's, New York, The Magnificent Nicholas Brown Desk and Bookcase, sale cat. (June 3, 1989), 11–23, lot 100, ill.
"Israel Sack, Inc., advertisement," Antiques 194, no. 4 (October 1993): 382.
Albert Sack, The New Fine Points of Furniture: Early American (New York: Crown Publishers, 1993), 168-169, Masterpiece, ill.
John T. Kirk, American Furniture: Understanding Styles, Construction, and Quality (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2000), 157–161, fig. 189.
Brock Jobe, "The Lisle Desk-and-Bookcase: A Rhode Island Icon," American Furniture (2001): 130, fig. 13–14.
Sotheby's, New York, Property of the Goddard Family, sale cat. (January 22, 2005), 29, 34, fig. 5.
Patricia E. Kane et al., Art and Industry in Early America: Rhode Island Furniture, 1650–1830, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2016), 301n1, 313nn1, 4.