Desk and Bookcase

Desk and Bookcase

1765-1775, Williamsburg , Va. (Colonial Williamsburg Foundation)


Hurst, Ronald L. and Jonathan Prown. Southern Furniture 1680-1830: The Colonial Williamsburg Collection. Williamsburg : Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1997, esp. 470-474. 

Shields, David. Civil Tongues and Polite Letters in British America. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997. 

Somerville, Wilson. The Tuesday Club of Annapolis, 1745-1756 as Cultural Performance. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1996. 

Davis, Richard Beale. Southern Colonial Bookshelf: Reading in the Eighteenth Century. Athens: University of Georgia , 1979. 

Richard Brown. Knowledge is Power: The Diffusion of Information in Early America, 1700-1865. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989.


1. The desk and bookcase was the major repository for books in the colonial house. Using the Gunston Hall Probate inventories, make some generalizations about libraries in colonial Virginia. How do your findings relate to the scholarship listed above? What kinds of books are most frequently encountered? 

2. Designed in the British neat-and-plain style and related to a design in a patternbook, what does this piece tell us about artisans and cabinetmakers in the colonies? 

3. Using the database of Virginia probate inventories, in what room would such an object likely be located and what other pieces of furniture would be there as well?

4. The desk and bookcase would have been the repository for knowledge in the home. Discuss other venues of knowledge for colonial men.

Desk and Bookcase