the cornice of moulded section above fine flame veneers, matching the cupboard doors of the lower part, the eight tall glazed cabinet doors with rectilinear astragals with scrolls at the top ending in circular ebony paterae, and framed by six ebony-panelled and three triple-reeded pilasters, the mahogany and ebony square-beaded waist moulding above eight similarly panelled and framed cupboard doors, their flame-figured veneers ebony-strung and cross-banded, on a finely veneered plinth base. English, c. 1815.

Height  10'5"  (3,17m).
Width  18'3"  (5,56m).
Depth  20"  (50cm).

There is a design for a very similar bookcase in the Gillow Archives, dated 1814, of just the same size and triple reverse breakfront outline. It has exactly the same distinctive design of glazing bars as this present bookcase, very similar cornice and closely related lower part.[1] Another with just the same glazing, smaller and with a straightforward breakfront form, was supplied by Gillow’s in 1812,[2] the first appearance of this pattern of glazing, of which there are other examples in subsequent years, up until about 1825.[3]

This exceptionally large bookcase is also notable for the particularly fine use of timber. Not only are the cupboard doors of very finely figured flame veneer, but unusually the cornice is similarly veneered and even the plinth is of remarkably fine veneer. The firm of Gillow’s is a byword for the quality of the furniture it produced and for the materials used in its construction, and as well as the direct comparisons above, the design of this bookcase also relates to others produced by the firm, such as the well-known set at Tatton Park, Cheshire, of 1811.[4] Other bookcases by Gillow’s of the same triple and reverse breakfront form as the present example, are those supplied to Sir John Shaw Stewart, Ardgowan House, Renfrew, in 1802, and to Edward Hobson, Hope, Manchester, in 1811.[5] The form also features in the designs of the firm from slightly earlier, such as a ‘Gothic Library Bookcase’ supplied to Daniel Leo, Llanerch Park, St. Asaph in 1795 and a ‘Library Bookcase for Mr. Stainbank’, of 1797.[6]

A related, smaller bookcase, with similar cornice and glazing bars, was recently on the market, having previously been in the collection of the Graham family, Golant, Cornwall.[7]



[1] Westminster Archive Centre. Gillow’s Sketch Books 344/99, no. 1952, dated May 11th 1814. Supplied to Mrs. Wilkinson. The drawing shows alternative designs of glazing, on the right and left, the design of the present bookcase being that on the right. The scale along the bottom shows that the bookcase was about 18' wide, the size of this present bookcase.

[2] For a regular client, Mr. Nottage, the drawing dated July 1812. Westminster Archive Centre, Gillow’s Sketch Books 344/99, no. 1919.

[3] We have found six examples in the Gillow Sketch Books between 1814 and 1817, and two later.

[4] See, for example, Susan E. Stuart, Gillows of Lancaster and London, 1730-1840, 2008, Vol. I, pp. 374-376, and figs. 443-445. The form of the cornices is very like that of the present bookcase.

[5] Susan E. Stuart, op. cit., Vol. I, fig. 439, p. 372 and fig. 440, p. 373.

[6] See Lindsay Boynton, Gillow Furniture Designs, 1760-1800, 1995, figs. 170 and 168.

[7] See Christie’s London, West East, The Niall Hobhouse Collection, 22nd May 2008, lot 90.

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