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Antique Boxes in English Society
1760 -1900
Writing Boxes


Writing Boxes


A very rare Rosewood Writing Slope/ Lap Desk with Penwork decoration circa 1790
A very rare rosewood writing slope/ lap desk of c 1790.  The rosewood is framed with sycamore with penwork decoration of stylised foliage. 

The centre panel has a hand tinted print of classical inspiration framed in gold leaf and pen and ink decoration.

The slope has a working lock and key. 

The top dimensions are 9.5 inches wide by 7.75 inches. The sides taper from 3.25 inches at the back.

The composition of the top although subject to wear is still exquisite. The sycamore with its penwork decoration contrasts with the dark rich colour of the rosewood. 

Detail of the print showing a classical lady and a child. The varnish on this is unevenly worn and so is the picture. This is to be expected given the fact that is on paper surrounded by gold leaf and has had two hundred years of wear. However it retains its charm and fortunately it has not been subjected to re painting.
Detail showing the stylized penwork decoration of the surround. Some parts of the surround are worn and the decoration smudged. You can see the worn parts on the main picture of the top. The worst wear is on the upper right hand corner and the left side.

The overall effect is that of  subtle beauty and style. 

Inside the box has the original baize writing surface, and compartments for pens an inkwell and a chalk/sand shaker.  The top is lined with the original blue paper, which shows some staining as would be expected after more than two hundred years. 
Close up of the pounce pot and inkwell These are Sheffield plate.. 
Pounce, a fine absorbent powder was used before the invention of blotting paper to absorb excess of ink.  
 The lock is a later (Victorian) replacement. It has a working key.
 The inside of the box under the writing surface. The box is slightly warped (see top picture) on the right side. Keeping it locked when not in use will help it retain its shape.

This is a real antique in unrestored condition. Restoration would destroy its integrity.

It is for a true connoisseur/collector.

For the historical context of this writing slope read the relevant part of Antigone's Online Antique Box Book. If you click here you will go there.

  1999 Antigone Clarke and Joseph O'Kelly