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Chippendale - Bookcases And Bureaus

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

The term library case was frequently applied to the bookcases of Chippendale's day. Many old families are proud of their bookcases with Chippendale fronts ; and justly so, too, for the bookcase offered Chippendale and his contemporaries many opportunities of introducing that light tracery which eventually evolved into Gothic design, which, when glazed, had such a charming effect. The pediment of the bookcase, too, offered many opportunities of introducing those somewhat extravagant ornaments which eventually became the taste. In many of the older bookcases the doors to the lower portions were plain, enclosing useful cupboards, the shelves on which books reposed in the cupboard above protected from harm by glass being arranged over them.

The bureau-desk, surmounted by a bookcase, and in some cases a pier-glass, was also one of the finest pieces on which the cabinet-maker could work, for the front of the bureau as well as the fronts of the drawers were highly decorative, their beauty being increased by the ornamental brass work. Such bureaus were often used in bedrooms, as well as in boudoirs and libraries.

Many of the bureaus and bookcases appear to have been specially designed for the rooms in which they were to be used, and Chippendale himself must have received some important commissions for these beautiful pieces of furniture. Those who have examined some of the masterpieces of that day have been somewhat disappointed when Iooking over the pages of " The Director," recognising that some of Chippendale's best designs are absent from his book. That is explained in that in those days there was a strong prejudice against the re-production of any special pattern or design that had been carried out for a wealthy patron. Such prejudice was more strongly marked in Chippendale's day than it is now, in that we are accustomed to machine and factory-made goods, of which there are many duplicates, and makers' pattern books represent standard designs. In the eighteenth century furniture and indeed most household goods, were entirely hand-made, and although the general outline might conform to some accepted principle, details were altered according to the whim of the artist-craftsman, and in doing so no great additional cost, if any, was incurred.

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