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Photo: Courtesy private collection; photo by Christopher Gardner
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Desk and bookcase

Object number



Maker Unknown


95 3/4 37 1/2 23 in. (243.21 95.25 58.42 cm)



Current location

Private Collection


Probably made in Bristol, Rhode Island, formerly said to have been made in Boston
(view a map of Rhode Island)


Walnut and light and dark wood inlays (primary); ring porous wood (inlaid flowers behind bookcase doors); pine (back and top boards of pediment, glueblock behind proper-right oculus of pediment, and block to exterior of proper-left loper); chestnut (all other secondary wood)




On most interior desk and bookcase drawers: “/,” incised, at center of drawer sides and backs; “/,” incised, at interior front corners on proper right sides; “X,” or “//,” incised, at interior front corners on proper left sides; proper left and proper-right upper drawers, exterior desk: “/,” incised, at center bottom of interior drawer sides and back; “/,” incised, on drawer front and sides at interior front corners; exterior long drawers, exterior desk: “/,” incised, at center of interior drawer sides and backs; middle long drawer, exterior desk: “X,” incised, on drawer front and side at proper right interior corner; “///,” incised, on drawer front and side at proper left interior corner; lower long drawer, “X,” incised, on drawer front and side at proper right interior corner; “IV,” incised, on drawer front and side at proper left interior corner; desk case: “V,” incised, at front of exterior bottom board of desk; “IX,” incised, on exterior bottom board of desk; “13519,” in black wax pencil, on exterior backboard of desk; “X” and “//,” incised, on exterior backboard of desk


Christie's, New York, October 13, 1984, lot 298; sold to John Walton, Inc., Griswold and Jewett City, Connecticut; sold to private collection, 1984

Associated names

John S. Walton, Inc.


The bookcase roof consists of boards shaped to align with the serpentine backboard and scrollboard, and nailed with brads to them and to the tops of vertical walls enclosing the void between the pediment sides. The roof includes triangular sections behind the central pediment termini, above shaped blocking glued to the back of the scrollboard. The floor of the void is a single board nailed with brads into the scrollboard and into the single-piece pediment backboard. The walls of the void are also nailed with brads into the pediment backboard. An upright vasiform element with a rectangular top in the center of the scrollboard has a conformingly shaped block behind it. It supports an urnform finial with corkscrew flame, as do rectangular, line-inlaid plinths at the pediment?s outer frontal extremities. The pediments?s single-piece crown molding is nailed with brads and wood-filled fasteners to the case sides and to the upper board of the two-piece line-inlaid scrollboard. The scrollboard is joined to the case sides by, among other means, wood pins located at its outer extremities beyond the line inlay, and within the inlaid arches. The bookcase back consists of multiple horizontal boards nailed with brads into rabbets in the case sides. The single-board upper-case bottom is dovetailed to the case sides. Visible at the case bottom are rosehead nails in a board forming the lower face of the bookcase back. The rails of the arched, lipped, thumb-molded bookcase doors are tenoned, without wood pins, to the stiles, and enclose single-board, compass-inlaid fielded panels. The ends of the lower rails are visible through the bottom of the outer stiles. The lower, proper left corner of the proper left door contains three wood pins, possibly evidence of an old repair. The doors open to inlaid, quarter-spherically concave, sunburst-inlaid typanums above an array of open compartments separated by straight half-round-fronted uprights and double-beaded stiles and rails. Below is an arrangement of one large and four smaller drawers with line-inlaid, kerf-marked fronts, which meet their slightly shorter, slightly rounded-topped sides in dovetail joints having single large pins with half-pins above and half-pins with rabbets below. The drawer bottoms are perpendicular to the fronts, and full-width. The bookcase section has a narrow bottom rail joined to the case with wood pins. The desk top consists of two boards- a narrow strip of walnut at the front and larger expanse of chestnut concealed under the bookcase top. In its center is a rectangular void related to the removable "secret" prospect section in the desk below. The desk top meets the three-board case sides in half-blind dovetail joints, largely concealed by a (possibly later) quarter-round molding held on with brads. The lipped, thumb-molded, line-inlaid hinged lid is assembled in the "breadboard" manner, having a line- and compass-inlaid two-board horizontal portion tenoned into narrow vertical boards. The joints between the horizontal and vertical boards are visible at the top and bottom of the lid. Centering the interior is a removable prospect section with two open compartments above a small drawer, flanked by applied colonettes. The top and bottom are dovetailed to the sides, which are fitted with touch latched. In the back are three horizontal butt-jointed boards with prominent rasp marks, nailed with brads to interior partitions flanked by open "secret" compartments. Marks and old repairs indicate the possible former presence of a prospect door. Flanking the prospect section are banks of four valanced open compartments divided by scrolling uprights above line-inlaid small drawers, whose construction is similar to those in the bookcase above. The molded base is joined to the blocking below with brads, and is ressaulted at the bases of the prospect section?s colonnettes. The perimeter of the writing surface is line-inlaid; the lid is not. The desk case-back consists of four half-lapped horizontal boards nailed with brads into rabbets in the top and sides, and directly to elements within the case and to the two-board case bottom. Within the case the top rail and drawer dividers meet the case sides in joints covered by cockbeading nailed with brads. There is no bottom rail. The vertical divider between the upper pair of drawers is dovetailed to its neighboring elements. The drawer divide below is full-depth. On its underside are two rails and a longitudinal batten, attached to the backboards. The lopers are shallow, enclosed in walled compartments, and have beaded surrounds. The full depth drawer supports and drawer stops are replaced. The graduated, line-inlaid, kerf-marked drawer fronts meet their slightly shorter, slightly round-topped drawer sides in dovetail joints, having large, thick-necked pins with half-pins above and half-pins with rabbets below. The two-board drawer bottoms are full-width, perpendicular to the fronts, secured to the drawer sides under dull-depth runners, and to the drawer backs with brads. Flat blocking is applied with brads to the front and side edges of the case bottom. To this blocking is attached, with brads, a base molding to its front, and short cabriole legs flanked by shaped brackets to its underside. The brackets are secured with glue and brads. The legs are angular, with square feet chamfered on their underside. Examined by P.E. Kane and J.N. Johnson, May 9, 2014; notes compiled by T.B. Lloyd.

See also


Christie's, New York, Fine American Furniture, Silver, and Decorative Arts, sale cat. (October 13, 1984), 132–133, lot 298, ill.
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), 2, 5n9, 205, 208, 234–239, no. 39, fig. 5.