Secretary Bookcase

Collection Type

  • Furniture






Secretary desk and bookcase. Mahogany with cherry side handles and white pine and other secondary wood. Desk has four straight-fronted drawers, each with two brass Chippendale style pulls (replaced) and a central escutcheon of the same style (replaced). Egg-and-dart molding at base, with scalloped central drop. Rests on short cabriole legs that terminate in claw and ball feet. Desk lid opens to reveal eight drawers and a central prospect drawer surmounted by shell carving. Outer left and right-hand sides of interior contain a matching row of three drawers. Topmost drawer of each features a shell carving. Two pigeon holes flank each side of prospect drawer. Bookcase: Two fluted pilasters surround the two six-paned doors. Green curtains hang from the bookcase interior, behind the glass of each door. Egg and dart motif set above a row of dentils on pitched pediment. Removable carved phoenix (eagle) finial perched on a ball at center of pediment. Both upper and lower sections fitted with original brass lateral carrying handles.


Descriptive Terms

secretary-bookcases (bookcases)
mahogany (wood)
cherry (wood)
eastern white pine (wood)


English form and Boston details characterize this desk and bookcase, made in Boston around the years 1770-1790. The broken pediment and absence of curved lines on the bookcase and desk was more common in English case furniture than in pieces produced in Boston. The ball and claw feet, knee brackets, central drop, and interior are typical of contemporary Boston desks. The carved bird that rests on a ball atop the plinth of the bookcase resembles a finial on a bombé desk and bookcase by Boston cabinetmaker George Bright. Another similar finial appears on a blockfront desk and bookcase that descended in the Low and Cutler families of Boston. The blocking beneath the pigeonholes and the coved drawer fronts bear similarities to Bright's work. Although a definite maker has not been determined, this piece displays the work of an accomplished Boston cabinetmaker of the same caliber as Bright.




98 1/2 x 47 1/2 x 24 1/2 (HxWxD) (inches)

Credit Line

Given in memory of Henderson Inches (1885-1947)

Accession Number



Massachusetts (United States)