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Antique Boxes in English Society
1760 -1900
Writing Boxes
Writing Boxes


An  Amboina Early Victorian Writing Box/ Lap Desk Gadrooned with Ebony circa 1840
An exceptional example of a writing box of the second quarter of the 19th century. The main panel is in a highly figured burr wood amboina, and surrounded in a raised frame edged in gadrooning and inlaid with white metal and mother of pearl.
Brass set-in handles on the sides. It opens down to reveal a writing surface and space for writing implements. 

Under the pen tray there are  secret drawers which are revealed by a spring mechanism. 

English circa 1840
The box is 16 inches long 10.5 wide and 6.5 tall (when closed).

This is a truly exceptional example of this kind of box. The figuring of the amboina is very striking and  contrasts with the framing of ebony inlaid  with the mother of pearl and white metal decoration.

Amboina wood is the highly prised and beautifully mottled wood of a tree (genus Pterocarpus) of Amboina and the East Indies

The side handles are in the "militery manner" and are flush wit the sides when not in use. 
 Detail of corner  showing the fine mother of pearl inlay and the gadrooned edging. Gadrooning is turned on the lathe.
 Detail of the mother of pear and ebony inlay in the centre of the top panel.

The leather writing surface is framed with ebony. The leather is not perfect as can be seen in the picture on the right. However it is of exceptional quality and in our view should not be replaced.
The gold tooling and the inner embossed tooling on the writing table is of very high quality
There is a secret compartment with three drawers under the inkwells and pen tray. This is concealed by a sprung panel which is released by pressing up the division next to the right inkwell. The inside is completly lined with satinwood. The drawers are also made of satinwood.
The writing box is in very good condition. It retains its original inkwells and has a working lock and key. The pentray is solid satinwood


The gadrrooned edgings give a three dimensional quality to this box.
The facings in ebony contrast with the light coloured satinwood. Another sign of quality is the beading run on all the edges.
Under the writing tablet are compartments for storing paper.  This is lined with satinwood. Satinwood is from a West Indian tree (Zanthothoxylum flavum) of the rue family. It is noted for its fine textured golden yellow wood. 
Close up of the beautifuly figured amboina. 

Amboina wood is the highly prised and beautifully mottled wood of a tree (genus Pterocarpus) of Amboina and the East Indies.

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

We are preparing a highly illustrated book on Antique Boxes and Tea Caddies for publication next year by Schiffer Books USA. This box has been specially photographed for inclusion.

  © 1999 Antigone Clarke and Joseph O'Kelly