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Victorian Writing Slope - My Pride & Joy!


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#1 Marlow

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Posted 16 June 2012 - 13:05

I have at long last managed to get round to taking some photos of my victorian writing slope. It gives me such immense pleasure to write on it! I hope you enjoy the photos and will forgive the shortcomings in my photography skills! This is quite a photo-rich post so I have excluded all but one of the blurry ones!


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This one shows a frontal closeup and displays the grain and patina quite well.

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As does this one of the top.

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Extraordinary mahogany lining in almost completely mint condition. See that little 'lid' in the 2nd compartment from the top right? There be summat hidden in there...

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Ooh! What's this? Some kind of ingenious victorian mechanism?...

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Now how did that loose panel appear? Can you guess how?

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Panel comes away completely to reveal the first 3 tiny hidden drawers...

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Walnut veneered and french polished even these little drawer-fronts!

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Inlaid brass locking catch for the lower panel section. There are two of these catches to hold the lower panel in place when the slope is closed.

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Lower storage section – sorry about the blurry pic but you can still see the fantastic condition of the wood.

Now to a side view and a fourth 'secret' drawer.
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Now what have we in here?...
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A fifth hidden drawer – this one at least as truly 'secret' as the first three! There is a tiny catch inside that upon release permits this fabulous drawer to descend. It glides effortlessly back into position on replacing it. Extraordinary workmanship.

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This is what I found inside this drawer! How lovely!
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Included with the photo lockets was a shattered locket containing the hair of a loved one – perhaps the lady herself? There is a card from a loving husband to his wife reading “Thank you, my darling, for another wonderful year” along with a lady's driving licence dated 1951, deeds of house ownership and various receipts and even a note from the lady's doctor!


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Quite a nice piece all round really! lol

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Without exception, every time I move this slope carefully from its resting place near my desk and set it down on a large square of felt in front of me, I am transported into a nostalgic reverie of more genteel times, even though that nostalgia may be illusory! Whatever the case, it's a joy to write upon and it confers the quality of verisimilitude to my conception of myself as a serious writing-person!

From a practical standpoint, the writing surface angle of approximately 20 degrees above horizontal, combined with the huge, leather covered writing surface of 43 x 43 cm, set within an overall opened surface of 51 x 58cm, is extremely comfortable for long periods of writing. It means the writer can avoid the 'leant over' position and sit more naturally upright as the writing paper is raised up towards you by the slope. This position was favoured especially by those illuminating manuscripts as the surface brought their work closer to the eye whilst reducing the neck strain associated with being bent over towards one's work. I also use a much larger Weymouth Parallel Action draughtsman's board for my artworks which offers both the 20deg slope and a 45deg one for similar comfort reasons.

I hope you have enjoyed the photos! I would encourage you strongly to consider an angled writing surface for comfort as well as for sheer atmosphere! :cloud9:

Edited by Marlow, 16 June 2012 - 13:09.

"Every job is good if you do your best and work hard. A man who works hard stinks only to the ones that have nothing to do but smell." Laura Ingalls Wilder

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#2 Aslan

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Posted 16 June 2012 - 13:18

Beauty. Thoughtful design. Practicality. Exquisite material selection. Expert crafmanship. Nostalgia. Time travel (even if illusionary). Personal history (slices of life from a previous owner). And, those delightful secret drawers! Wow! Thank you for sharing this treasure with us!
John

#3 DaleR

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Posted 16 June 2012 - 14:09

Beautiful!!!!

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#4 goldiesdad

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Posted 16 June 2012 - 14:29

Wow what a find ... and treasure ... Congrats and thanks for making us all very jealous

#5 OakIris

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Posted 16 June 2012 - 16:07

Absolutely beautiful, as others have said. :puddle: And the additional history for the writing slope provided by the things left in it by the previous owner and user makes it an even more interesting and special find.

You are very lucky to have such a lovely writing slope; I am sure it inspires you to write and is a joy to use. Thank you for sharing this with us. :thumbup:

Holly

#6 mgm1988

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Posted 16 June 2012 - 16:41

I was like a small child as I looked at your photos: my fingers traced the fine woodwork and my nose was almost squashed against the 'window' of my monitor. A beautiful piece.
"In his physiognomy there were what seemed traces of many passions which his will had disciplined but which seemed to have frozen those features they had now ceased to animate."
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#7 Shangas

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Posted 16 June 2012 - 20:22

It's a beautiful piece! Makes me appreciate my own writing-box so much more. You should be proud to own it! That tucked-up secret drawer between the three small ones and the one big one at the bottom is just enchanting! That's a REAL secret drawer! I love it!

To think someone crafted this masterpiece...and there really is no other way to describe it...by hand, and did all this intricate work is just stunning.
http://www.throughouthistory.com/ - My Blog on History & Antiques

#8 pen2paper

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Posted 16 June 2012 - 20:34

stunning!
are you sure there aren't more secret drawers?
the photo of the little girl, (center parted hair), is aprox late 1850's - 60's
hard to tell about the one with glare, painting on ivory would be earlier than transfer with tiny dots.

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#9 myn

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Posted 16 June 2012 - 21:55

OMG :puddle: :puddle: :puddle:

Need I say more? Yes, I do!

Absolutely stunningly gorgeous.

Umm you wouldn't happen to want to sell it? :ltcapd:

Congratulations Marlow, it is truly exquisite. Thanks very much for documenting the
incredible craftsmanship so well through your photos.

A delightful journey back in time.
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#10 Gloucesterman

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Posted 16 June 2012 - 23:30

Absolutely beautiful. How long have you had it and where did you find it? A shop, an estate sale?

Don't know if I am out of line, and my apology if I am, but I am curious, how much it cost?

Congratulations on such an exquisite piece.

Sid

“Don't put off till tomorrow what you can do today, because if you do it today and like it, you can do again tomorrow!”


#11 Marlow

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Posted 16 June 2012 - 23:45

Thanks very much for all the appreciative comments! I really am very proud of it. Was a great find! :cloud9:


stunning!
are you sure there aren't more secret drawers?
the photo of the little girl, (center parted hair), is aprox late 1850's - 60's
hard to tell about the one with glare, painting on ivory would be earlier than transfer with tiny dots.


Hi pen2paper - funny that your avatar pic looks exceedingly like a lovely friend of mine!

As to there being further secret drawers - wouldn't that be something?! I did have a look around but I couldnt find anything else - then again, had I not been shown the hidden long drawer I suspect it may have taken me some time to locate that so you never know!.. I'm delighted to receive the benefit of your knowledge regarding the two portraits. There is certainly room for some investigative work to establish an accurate dating and provenance for the pictures as well as the slope itself! I will post close-ups of the two portraits and PM you when I've done so in order that you may get a better look at the detail.

The box is very very heavy, weighing in at just over 10kg! I have searched high and low online for another like it and come close but not found one exactly the same.

The locking mechanism, for which I have not yet located a key, is made by Bramah of London, a company established in 1784 renowned for producing locks for the finest cabinets and chests and still operating today in the modern locksmithing market. I recently found a highly regarded local french polisher who says he has a large bunch of keys from quality old locks and he knows Bramah locks so there is hope that he may have one that fits... I am in no hurry, however. 'Haste' and this slope feel like mutually exclusive entities!

:happyberet:
"Every job is good if you do your best and work hard. A man who works hard stinks only to the ones that have nothing to do but smell." Laura Ingalls Wilder

#12 Anne-Sophie

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Posted 16 June 2012 - 23:53

Stupendous! Thank you for sharing the beautiful pictures of this incredible find and the accompanying trip to someone's history.
Is it fair for an intelligent and family oriented mammal to be separated from his/her family and spend his/her life starved in a concrete jail?

#13 JonSzanto

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Posted 17 June 2012 - 00:14

This is the stuff dreams are made of. Thank you so much for sharing all the details of your handsome writing slope.
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#14 Marlow

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Posted 17 June 2012 - 00:14

Absolutely beautiful. How long have you had it and where did you find it? A shop, an estate sale?

Don't know if I am out of line, and my apology if I am, but I am curious, how much it cost?

Congratulations on such an exquisite piece.

Sid



Hi Sid - oh no, not out of line at all - a perfectly natural question - I am aware that I left out many details in my original post. I paid what I realise is the very modest sum of £**** for it 3 years ago and it came from....a certain auction site beknown to and beloved (sometimes) by most FPNers!!! At the time, I was coming to the end of a particularly taxing twelve-week project and, some time around week 9, when I was struggling with the project, I chose to plan a reward for myself for completing the project. One random thought led to another and I settled upon a victorian writing slope as my reward and then, a week or so later, lo and behold, there it was, on auction! I bid £**** as I was determined to win it. When the box arrived it had a 5mm wide split across the middle of the base, due to shrinkage, that the seller had neither photographed nor mentioned in the listing. After a bit of negotiation the seller agreed to refund me £*** so I ended up paying £**** for it!

I have an award-winning carpenter as a close friend who schooled me in how to fill the split with a piece of wenge, chamfered into a leading edge. It took me four careful hours to shave the edges of the existing split with a very sharp chisel, 'offering up' the wenge lathe after every few shavings until it almost slotted in perfectly. The lathe was then lightly tapped into place, all edges having been coated with the correct wood glue, leaving about 0.5 - 1mm proud of the base. After 24 hours I returned to the job for another 2 hours of careful paring then sanding of the proud part of the join, until there was no perceptible edge whatsoever when running a finger across the base of the box. I was very proud of the job as you can imagine, especially when my buddy confirmed it was a job well done! He would have done it in half the time, mind you!

If you look at the front view of the box, at the bottom in the middle is a tiny split. This it was not possible for me to fill using the lathe insert due to the placement of a nail right at the edge that I did not want to disturb and also due to not wishing to risk disturbing the brass edging that runs all the way around the box. The French Polisher I mentioned earlier said he can make that split disappear if I so choose. I may, I may not. Doesnt seem a priority! (see the Ruskin quote in my signature for my views on 'imperfection'!)

All in all I am delighted to have been able to participate in strengthening the box, ensuring it lasts easily another 160 or so years! :happyberet:

(edited out amounts - sorry Sid, hope you got your answer before I asterisked it out! :headsmack: )

Edited by Marlow, 17 June 2012 - 12:39.

"Every job is good if you do your best and work hard. A man who works hard stinks only to the ones that have nothing to do but smell." Laura Ingalls Wilder

#15 kiavonne

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Posted 17 June 2012 - 00:15

Marlow, you have a very stunning and beautiful treasure! Thank you so much for sharing your photos with us!
Scribere est agere.
To write is to act.
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#16 nitnop

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Posted 17 June 2012 - 00:50

Amazing workmanship! I just returned from a holiday in Ireland and saw a slope similar to this in a Dublin antique shop, although it didn't have that beautiful burl. The owner said he had just recently sold one like it to Tom Beokaw. I wonder if Tom is a member on fpn?

#17 dnayakan

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Posted 17 June 2012 - 03:31

I use a writing slope and have even made a couple as gifts. That is a truly unique and stunning piece. I am fascinated by writing boxes in general and examined many in some detail when I decided to make a couple as gifts. Most are just open into a writing slope with lids that can lifted to reveal some storage. The more elaborate ones have something like those 3 secret drawers that are revealed when a thin wood panel is opened by the release of a spring catch. This is the first one I have seen with that secret long drawer.

Beyond the appeal of writing boxes as something that makes writing easier, beyond even the appeal of them as memoirs of another time, I find the thoughtfulness of the craftsmanship quite wonderful. There is a knowledge behind the making of these things that has been, if not lost, definitely dimmed. So, I tip my hat to you for such a careful and thoughtful restoration of a truly remarkable piece. I am sure it will bring you many years of writing pleasure.

Cheers, DJ

#18 Shangas

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Posted 17 June 2012 - 08:19

The writing-box is, in my opinion, one of the GREAT unsung heroes of history. Their contribution to arts, historic events and literature are vastly underappreciated. It's what makes me value my own writing-box all the more. And especially a TREASURE such as this one!
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#19 Marlow

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Posted 17 June 2012 - 09:53

Further to pen2paper's earlier, keen observation, I have done my macro-best without a polarising filter on my Lumix point and shoot, to show the photo and portrait that I found in the truly secret drawer!

First, a fine portrait of a beautiful young woman:
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And the delightful photograph of the little girl:
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The practice of having the subject look slightly down in photographs of the period, reminiscent of pen2paper's avatar, I find simply enchanting in its modesty.

Lastly, the back of the photo locket. I had not noticed the strands of hair before, which tells me that what I had previously thought to be the 3rd, shattered locket with the hair was, in fact, the reverse of the photo locket!
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I am indebted to pen2paper for the observations to date and look forward very much to any further elucidations that may arise from these detailed views!

As several comments have noted, and as I am still discovering, this artifact is redolent with historical significance, both immediately apparent and still to be revealed! :vbg:

M :happyberet:

ps - pen2paper: tried to PM you as I said I would but I believe your inbox must be full..

Edited by Marlow, 17 June 2012 - 10:44.

"Every job is good if you do your best and work hard. A man who works hard stinks only to the ones that have nothing to do but smell." Laura Ingalls Wilder

#20 nujak

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Posted 17 June 2012 - 10:32

Absolutely fantastic. I hope to one day own one anywhere near so fine as this one.
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