Friday, May 06, 2011

My Portable Writing Box

   My dear friend, Mrs. Cartwright, and I made our way to one of our favorite antique stores a few days ago. When we walked in the door Mrs. Cartwright spotted what appeared to be a writing box sitting on a table with a $65 price tag on it. Now, I have been looking for a box like this for ages, and the cheapest ones I have found run in the $120’s and a reproductions made out of cheap wood with little decoration. I about fell over when I found this lovely.

    I took it home and showed Aaron, feeling quite convinced that it was probably from the early 1900’s, until today. I started researching and after a few hours of scouring antique writing box sites, I’m beginning to believe it might be an original from around the late 18th and early 19th century. I would love to hear your opinions and see if you agree with me. I’ll love it, regardless of its age, but it’s exciting to think it might be the real deal.

   So, here’s a few pictures of an original dated box from around 1800….

This is the secret compartment on the original.

Ok, now for some pictures of my box.




The workmanship is really beautiful. Everything is inlayed and well fit.



The box opened revealing the writing slope.


Each side of the slope opens to a compartment.



This sticker on the panel made be begin to wonder if it could be original. So I did some research and found a reference to Elizabeth Gaimes’ shop in the UK National Archives. Here’s what it said

[no title]  MS 11936/467/904379 23 February 1815


Insured: Elizabeth Gaimes, 53 St Pauls Churchyard, jeweller and dealer in writing desks.

You can read more about the insurance that was purchased here… UK National Archives The Sun Fire Office


The pen holder is removable and there is a small compartment underneath it for storage.

The most thrilling thing I found was a small pigeon hole in the inkwell slot. I didn’t notice it until about an hour ago. After I had looked at tons of pictures of these boxes with secret compartments. I finally put two and two together, I discovered that pressing on the pigeon hole with a small pin reveals this…


The pigeon hole



It has a secret compartment with two small drawers. I literally squealed!!!


The tiny knobs are so detailed. I’m not sure what they are made of. Bone???


I love the delicate dovetails on all of the drawers and corners.

So, what do you all think??? Could it be the real thing???

Love Lauren

12 Witty Sentiments:

Kleidung um 1800 said...

Oh you lucky lucky girl! Your find is superb. First of all the dovetails (and the use of mahagony(?) wood indicate that it is of english origin and the secret compartment indeed was something that was fancied from the 18th until the late 19th century. I'll show my neighbor (he restaurates furniture for the past 30 years, but of course is more familar with the German carpenters and their work) your pictures, but sometimes it's hard to tell just from a photo. Maybe a look on the back and backsides of the details will show...if wood is sawn with a machine you'll find minor circles on the surface of the wood (sometimes the angle of light reveals this), machine saws have been in use since the mid 19th century (1840s and a tad earlier) as far as I remember, but I have to ask my neighbor again.

No matter if it's late 18th, early 19th or mid 19th it's really incredibly beautiful and at such a bargain price! That must have been a truly wonderful day!!!
Have lots of fun with your writing desk.

Summer said...

Wow, what a find! It's gorgeous, and certainly very high quality. With the details and label 19C seems possible :D

The secret compartment is so exciting--I would have squealed too!

Anonymous said...

How lovely, Lauren! What a great find!

From my reading, that large side drawer you have stopped being used after the mid 19th century-ish (maybe a bit earlier?), so it seems promising! I'm by no means an expert, but I've done a post about dating a writing box myself and there are a few links to what might be useful websites:

Unknown said...

What an incredible find. Will you be filling it with quills & ink?

Abby said...

Good gracious Lauren, you struck Antique Gold! I think the sticker is enough proof, but I showed it to my mother (big antiquer) and she says that the smaller the dovetails the older it is, because after a while they were made by machine and became bigger. It's obvious your writing desk is handmade...gawh.

Is Antique Roadshow coming around Portland anytime soon? Cause you should start working on your 'Surprised' face!

Congratulations! :D

Olympe de la Tour D'Auvergne said...

Oh that is a lucky find! What fun to research it's possible history, and that secret compartment is thrilling! Congratulations, it certainly does seem a plausible original.

Jenni said...

I'm a bit envious! Bravo, wonderful find. I'm leaning toward early 19th century...but I'm just a lover of antiques, not an expert.

Madame Berg said...

Oh my, do want! If I'm ever become as lucky as you, I promise I'll start writing actual letters again!

Hungarican Chick said...

SCORE, Lauren!

Rachel said...

It is beautiful!!

The Dreamstress said...

OOoh...lucky you! I don't know anything about dating wood, but whenever it is from, I think $65 is a score for something and beautiful and beautifully made as that. Especially since it brings you so much joy!

Carla Gade said...

Oh, how wonderful to have this. What a treasure. I just know you'll enjoy!