A George II Mahogany Reader’s Companion – Part One

George II mahogany reader’s companion, circa 1755.

On a cool mid eighteenth-century autumn morning, deep in England’s green and pleasant countryside, you find yourself in your considerable pile, perusing the tomes in your two-storey, balconied library; searching for a little meaningful reading to see you through until luncheon. However, the drafty open layout of the library isn’t conducive to immersing oneself in Fielding, Gray or Swift, so you hand your selected titles to Hayman (the family’s faithful old retainer) who collates the books in your newly acquired mahogany reader’s companion. You repair to your cabinet where your much-loved leather-upholstered Gainsborough chair and a well established fire await you. Moments later, Hayman, audibly straining under the burden of the laden companion, enters and places it conveniently by your side.

Such were the hardships so valiantly endured by the middling and gentrified classes of the eighteenth-century, but it is thanks to them that little gems like this table exist. Reader’s companions are also known, in various guises, as book caddies, book hods, book troughs, moving bookcases[1] etc.

Sheraton mahogany ‘moving bookcase’, circa 1780. (Peter Lipitch)

These items of furniture don’t turn up too frequently and as a result they always fetch good prices; being popular for use as bedside tables – as, I am lead to believe, this apotheosis is destined to be (this table is a commission of sorts and not for myself.)

The mahogany has been acquired and despite the brumal conditions of The Lemon Studio, work is underway.

[1] Thomas Sheraton, The Cabinet Dictionary Containing an Explanation of all the Terms Used in the Cabinet, Chair and Upholstery Branches, W. Smith, London, 1803, plate 25.

About Jack Plane

Formerly from the UK, Jack is a retired antiques dealer and self-taught woodworker, now living in Australia.
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4 Responses to A George II Mahogany Reader’s Companion – Part One

  1. Eric R says:

    Beautiful piece.
    I love the hood design, and the side drawer is splendid.
    The opening story makes one yearn to live in those times, if only briefly.
    Thank you.


  2. Tico Vogt says:

    This piece looks interesting, especially the leg posts that have their inner corners hollowed out to match the heavily rounded outer corners. Haven’t seen that before. What would you call that transition, similar to a stopped chamfer but round/


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