The doors in the lower section each reveal two adjustable shelves.
Note: The cornice is a restoration following traces of the original cornice and adhering to original Chippendale designs. The internal divisions have been reinstated.
This bookcase is a very good example of a design being used by an able cabinet-maker who had access to Chippendale’s Director.
The Director was revolutionary in being the first concise book of designs readily available to cabinet-makers throughout Britain. The list of subscribers at the front of the book speaks for itself. Alongside the gentry, booksellers and an architect, there were chemists and even professors of philosophy, but most of those who subscribed to it were craftsmen in the woodworking trades: cabinet-makers, joiners, chair-makers and carvers.
The need for such a publication and its subsequent huge success are both highlighted by the fact that some workshops tried to follow suit and publish their own designs. The bookseller Robert Sayer recognised the opportunity and followed in Chippendale’s steps by collating designs from various cabinet-makers, including Chippendale. Sayer’s book Houshold Furniture in the Genteel Taste was published in 1760 under the umbrella of ‘The Society of Upholsterers, Cabinet-makers, etc’: it contained 180 designs on 60 plates. Chippendale’s Director contained 160 plates, almost three times as many.
The price for subscribers to the first edition of the Director was £1 10s in loose sheets and £1 14s fully bound, with half to be paid in advance. The post-publication price was £1 17s in sheets and £2 2s for the fully bound book. In contrast, the price for Sayer’s book was only 6 shillings bound with string or 7s 3d bound as a book.
Thomas Chippendale, The Gentleman and Cabinet-maker’s Director, 1st edition, 1754, pl. CVI.
M. Harris & Sons, Catalogue and Index of Old Furniture and Works of Decorative Art, Part II 1730-1780, circa 1930s, p. 298.
M. Harris & Sons, London, England, 1930s.
Private collection, USA.
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