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Antique Opulent Regency Brass inlaid Kingwood Writing Box with Elaborate Secret Drawers and Mechanisms Circa 1815

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Reference:  WB477

Description:
WB477: Opulent high Regency writing box veneered in very thick strongly figured kingwood, banded and inlaid with brass,  having brass set-in handles to the sides. The box opens down to reveal an embossed leather  writing surface (replacement)  framed with brass inlayed ebony and having spaces for writing implements. The box has complex laired  secret drawers and compartments,  which are revealed by  triggering hidden spring mechanisms.   There is also a side drawer. 
English circa 1815

Origin: English London

Circa: 1815.

Materials:

Size: 45.6 cm by 25.5 cm by 16.5 cm: 18 inches by  10 inches by 6.5 inches.

Condition: Good overall working locks and keys. see photos and comments.

 

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Certain details such as the escutcheon and the engraved plate in the center of the  top would indicate that this box is from the same workshop/maker as http://www.hygra.com/e/rwb.htm 

 

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The box is constructed with full-blind dovetail joints. The brass is fixed with brass pins which have their heads ground down level with the brass. The result is a strong and stable box which has survived well the harsh environments it has had to encounter.

The box opens down to reveal an embossed leather  writing surface (replacement)  framed with ebony and spaces for writing implements. 

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This is a truly exceptional example of this kind of box. The figuring of the wood is very striking and the rich deep colour  contrasts effectively with the brass decoration. 

 

Here the box is propped half open (see mechanism below) and is used with the book rest which is kept in the upper part of the box when not in use.

The box has side handles in the military style. The handles fold flush with the surface of the box when not in use. 

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On the left the brass support of the box (when half open for use with reading stand) is seen in the propped position. This is lifted up to prop up the box (see below).

For strength the brass hinges are wider than on many boxes. There is a further piece of brass inlaid into the facing of the flap to accommodate the hinge when the flaps are open. 

An interesting feature is that iron screws are used at this date. most of the screw slots have been lined up.

 

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The corrugated brass line is the top part of the book stand position prop mechanism. Different angles of opening can be achieved by using different grooves. 

All the facings are in dark coromandel/ebony.

 

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The inside of this box is sumptuous. There are brass inlays to the facings,  to the bottom of the pen-tray and to the supplementary lids.

 There are further pieces of brass inlaid into the corners. These are primarily structural.  

The box would be constructed with dove tails joints. These corner pieces of brass would give added strength.

 

There are brass inlays to the facings,  to the bottom of the pen-tray and to the supplementary lids.

When not in use the candle sconces are stored in one of the accessory compartments.

The dark blue gold embossed skiver is a replacement.

The inkwells with screw tops are contemporary with the box.

 

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When not in use the candle sconces are stored in one of the accessory compartments.

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There are further pieces of brass inlaid into the corners. These are primarily structural.  

The box would be constructed with dove tails joints. These corner pieces of brass would give added strength.

The brass inlay has inlays of ebony.

 

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Detail of the brass inlay. The black accents are ebony. The design seems to be of a stylized spear. 

 

In the center of the top there is an plaque which is engraved with an armorial  of:

Crest: 
On a Wreath of Colours demi Lion Rampant Crowned holding between (fore)Paws a Rose (?)

and  initials. 

I have not yet identified the initials or the armorial crest. One search led me to Earl of Cornwall.

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This image detail  is much as that above but I have increased the contrast to make the engraving slightly easier to see.

Crest: 
On a Wreath of Colours demi Lion Rampant Crowned holding between (fore) Paws a Rose (?)

If you know whose crest and initials they are please let me know.

Crest:  On a Wreath of Colours  demi lion rampant crowned holding  between  (fore)paws  a rose (?)

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There are brass inlays to the facings,  to the bottom of the pen-tray and to the supplementary lids.

When not in use the candle sconces are stored in one of the accessory compartments.

The dark blue gold embossed skiver is a replacement.

The flap has a separate lock. 

 

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When not in use the candle sconces are stored in one of the accessory compartments.

The inkwells with screw tops are contemporary with the box.

 

 

Under the pen and inkwell tray there is a secret compartment with three drawers.

The catch holding the sprung panel is released by pulling the division up.

This is not unusual as a method of release.

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The secret drawers are revealed when the panel springs open.

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Under the pen and inkwell tray there is a secret compartment with three small drawers.

The drawers are faced with rosewood and inlaid with brass.

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Detail showing the side of the drawer when pulled out. 

Note the fine dovetail construction and the thickness of the saw cut kingwood veneer. 

 

 

 Detail of the dovetail joint at the back of the drawer.

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Detail showing the side of the drawer when pulled out. 

Note the fine dovetailing construction and the thickness of the saw cut kingwood veneer. 

The presence of further secrets becomes obvious when it is ascertained that the drawer is not the same length  as the width of the box.

 

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There is a large side drawer under the top part of the box. This is released by pulling up a brass rod.

There are countersunk brass handles to both sides of the box held in place with brass screws which have been ground flat.

 

 Accessing the next secret compartment is much more unusual

The trigger for the release mechanism is hidden behind the drawer which has to be removed to have access.

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The release pressure point is visible in this photo.

The drawer has been removed to gain access.

The piece of brass pointed to by the arrow has to be pressed.

 

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I was unable to press the release with my hand,

 

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but was able with a ruler.

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When pressure was applied, a panel opens. This can not be done with the fingers as the panel closes the gap. The ruler worked fine.  

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Here the panel can be seen lifted up.

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When the panel is removed the steel spring which lifts it and the catch which holds it in place become visible. 

It is clear that there must be yet more secrets. I don't think I have ever seen an unused space in a box like this.

 

There are two visible lines in the wall of the space, indicating that this might be the pressure point. 
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Pressure with my thumb released the panel.
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Behind it there was two further drawers. They have the same rosewood facings with brass inlay as the drawers under the inkwells and pentray.

 

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Here the drawers can be seen open. Alas they contained no secrets. I had hoped!

 

Detail of one of the secret drawers: they are constructed from dense mahogany using  dovetail joints. Note the thick saw-cut rosewood veneer. The cabinet makers scribe marking is visible.
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Putting it back was straight forward.

The drawers were replaced. The panel engaged on the right was pushed back in place..

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It goes back with a satisfactory audible clunk. 

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The second panel clicks back in the same satisfactory way.

 

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 The flap has a separate lock.

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Detail of the upper lock plate. This shows alteration. See below.

 

 The inside of the box under the lower flap. Writing paper was kept here. 

The reading stand is stored here when not in use. It is visible under the flap.

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Detail: the box is edged with heavy brass held in place with brass pins which are ground flat. The brass is both structural and decorative. The decorative brass inlay to the top is unusual and made from separate elements which may have been made by casting. I think it likely that the ebony accents in the brass are not just decorative but also help to hold the brass in place.  

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The lock is a  replacement of the same period. I think it is a little smaller than the original which would have been on the box. 

The lock plate is stamped "E Turner" and a copperplate "P" within an oval.  I have not yet traced any information on Turner, locksmith. However he was clearly productive as many surviving writing boxes have Turner locks. Some surviving locks are just marked with the P within the oval. 
See:

hygra.com/uk/wb2/wb130/index.htm#07 

 

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 The box has two keys. The one on the top is for the box. The lower one is for the flap.

 

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A

 

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There is a large side drawer under the top part of the box. This is released when the box is opened. When the box is closed a sprung rod secures it.

This is an unusual mechanism. It is in another box on our site:

hygra.com/uk/

wb2/wb117/index.htm#13 

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There is a large side drawer under the top part of the box. This is released when the box is opened. 

When the box is closed a sprung rod secures it.

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All text and images and linked images are 1999-2010 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