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Antique Solid mahogany writing box in typical late 18th century style c1790 
It is very like Jane Austin's writing box

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Reference:  WB469

Description:

WB469: Solid mahogany writing box in typical late 18th century style c1790
This is a solid mahogany writing box made in the characteristic late 18th century style, designed to withstand military campaigns and/or extensive travelling.

There are drop down handles on the two sides; these in the early form of handles. There is a side drawer which pulls out when a brass pin is pulled out when the box is in the open position. There are T hinges and brass strengtheners in the corners. There is also a reading stand which is attached to the top surface when the box is held at an angle with the hinged brass catch. The surface under the top flap is in oak.

There is an old baize covering on the writing surface which is the correct lining for such a box. However this is not the original, but a later, albeit now old repair.
Working lock and key.

Origin: UK

Circa: 1790

Materials: mahogany and oak

Size: 45 cm by 24.2 cm by 16.5 cm: 17.7 inches by 9.5  inches by 6.5  inches.

Condition: Thin crack on top (slight opening of original joint). Shallow scratches stains etc in keeping with the life story of the box.

 

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This box is very similar to that which was owned and used by Jane Austin. 

Jane Austen's Writing Box

Jane Austen's Writing Box

In 1798 Jane and her writing box were briefly separated. Her letter written from the "Bull and George in Deptford  to her sister Cassandra gives a good idea as to how important the writing box was to her.

In 1798 Jane and her writing box were briefly separated. Her letter written from the "Bull and George in Deptford to her sister Cassandra gives a good idea as to how important the writing box was to her.

 

There is  inlaid version of the 18th century box illustrated at: Hygra: Antique late 18th century inlaid mahogany writing box with an unusual secret compartment

And another  version with brass edging at: Hygra: Antique writing box Circa 1790 

 

 

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There is also a reading stand which is attached to the top surface when the box is held at an angle with the hinged brass catch.

The reading stand was very useful in a time when light was either from window or candle. A book could be arranged to maximize the available light. 

The box enabled you to read and gather knowledge for longer.

Perhaps it inspired you to open it and start writing.

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The pen tray is of the curved form. Sometimes earlier and later  there was a tray.   A tray could hold more pens, but could become cluttered.

The curved form which could be lifted out would at best hold just a few writing implements. 

 

 This is a picture of Jane Austin's box which is now in the British Library. .

 

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 The box is opened 
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 and you face it. There is a comfortable surface on which to write. 

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You have left papers of the current writing activity under the flap.

The two holes to hold the reading stand, when not in us, are visible. 

 

 And there is more room for the other project under the other flap.
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Detail: the box  fully closed the back

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Extract: Choosing and Making the right joints by Tage Frid.

Fine Woodworking Techniques 1978 Taunton Press inc. ISBN: 0918804027

This image is courtesy of  Fine Woodworking Techniques 1978 Taunton Press inc. ISBN: 0918804027

You can order the  Fine Woodworking Techniques from Amazon  by clicking one of the links below:

 

A corner.

In the sides of the box, the carpentry is clear. This is a double blind sometimes called a "full blind"  dovetail joint.

The joint is strengthened with a piece of brass. These are sometimes cast and sometimes cut from sheet. At this date the holding screws, as here, are mostly iron or steel and turned to a screw which would hold itself. A hole would first have to be drilled. The surface would then be flattened. These screws look as if they have never moved since they were put in.

It is not easy to move these screws whose slots are almost never in the center and have ground to be flat with the brass. 

The joint is visually very different to a simple miter.    A miter joint which glues end grain wood to end grain wood is much weaker and would not have survived the rigors of travel or 200 years.

Dovetail joints:

The dovetail joint is one of the wonders of woodwork. In the full blind none of the careful work is visible. If the joint is simply mitered it will not survive atmospheric change. A mitered joint is end grain to end grain. The glue soaks in, becomes dry and brittle and falls apart. 

The dovetail joint enables side grain to be glued to side grain. These joints would hold together without glue!

It is the true proof of these dovetail joints made by craftsmen 200 years ago that their joints are as they made them.

This image is courtesy of  Fine Woodworking Techniques 1978 Taunton Press inc. ISBN: 0918804027

 

 

 

 Some earlier user of the box has added a strip of leather to make opening the flap easier.

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 Detail of the slotted brass inlaid into the facing which enables the angle of the reading stand to be adjusted.

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The box has two replacement screw top inkwells. Although these are of new manufacture they are similar to those that would have been used by 18th and 19th Century users of the box. 

 

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 Much of the inside construction wood is oak.

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 The box has a side drawer of dovetail construction for storing additional papers.
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 The side handles are external and not countersunk as in later boxes.

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 Under the writing surfaces there are places for storing papers. The reading stand when not in use is also stored here.

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In the main wood of the box, the carpentry is clear. This is a double blind sometimes called a "full blind"  dovetail joint.

The joint is strengthened with a piece of brass. These are sometimes cast and sometimes cut from sheet. At this date the holding screws are mostly iron or steel and turned to a screw which would hold itself. A hole would first have to be drilled. The surface would then be flattened. These screws look as if they have never moved since they were put in.

 

Enlarge Picture

Please click on images to enlarge|  slide show   | thumbnail index |

Enlarge Picture

In the main wood of the box, the carpentry is clear. This is a double blind sometimes called a "full blind"  dovetail joint.

It is strengthened with a piece of brass. These are sometimes cast and sometimes cut from sheet. At this date the holding screws are mostly iron or steel and turned to a screw which would hold itself. A hole would first have to be drilled. The surface would then be flattened. These screws look as if they have never moved since they were put in.

 

 

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 The top of the box is in fact made of two pieces of wood. The join is just visible. The cabinet maker must not have had a piece of quartered mahogany wide enough.

Quartered mahogany with a straight grain is used to avoid warping.

It is interesting that there is a similar join visible in Jane Austen's box which is now in the British Library. 

 

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Please click on images to enlarge|  slide show  | thumbnail index |

 

 

Jane Austen's Writing Box

Jane Austen's Writing Box

In 1798 Jane and her writing box were briefly separated. Her letter written from the "Bull and George in Deptford  to her sister Cassandra gives a good idea as to how important the writing box was to her.

In 1798 Jane and her writing box were briefly separated. Her letter written from the "Bull and George in Deptford to her sister Cassandra gives a good idea as to how important the writing box was to her.

 

 

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All text and images and linked images are 1999-2009 Antigone Clarke and Joseph O'Kelly. If you require any further information on permitted use, or a licence to republish any material, email us at copyright@hygra.com