Collection Type

  • Furniture






Six-board box. Red oak. Molded two-board top. Front features foliate and strapwork carving. The left side of the interior contains a till.


Descriptive Terms

Bible boxes
red oak (wood)
Box, Household
Box, Bible
Box, Bible


Documentation ties this box, created about 1663-1680, to Ipswich, Massachusetts, where it descended in the family of joiner Thomas Dennis. Its decoration echoes that of grand English furniture made during the reign of King James I in the early seventeenth century. Curled scrolls, strapwork, and foliate patterns that resemble flowers and vines comprise its elaborate carving. The Exeter region of Devon, England, produced some of the finest carved work of the period. Joiners who emigrated from Exeter, like Dennis himself, brought the Jacobean carving style to Ipswich. It is likely that Dennis made the box, but there is a possibility that another Exeter-born joiner, William Searle, could have been its maker. The two craftsmen shared a close association. After Searle's death, Dennis married his widow, and acquired much of Searle's furniture. The box is missing its original drawer and probably stood on bun feet.
"Cherished Possessions": A common feature of seventeenth-century New England homes, boxes like this one were used to lock away valuables or store important papers. This utilitarian object is highly ornamented in a style that reflects the dominant taste in England and New England in the seventeenth century. Known today as mannerism, the style is rooted in the luxurious Catholic courts of Italy in the early 1500s. Contrary to the popular notion that the early settlers to New England chose to live austere, colorless lives-in truth, despite their Calvinist principles, they surrounded themselves with objects like those of their brethren back in England, objects that were often colorful, frequently embellished, and occasionally extravagant.


Possibly Searle, William (Maker)
Possibly Dennis, Thomas, 1638 C-1706 (Maker)

Location of Origin

Ipswich, MA, USA


7 4/16 x 25 5/8 x 16 7/8 (HxWxD) (inches)

Credit Line

Gift of Mrs. Wilton L. Putnam

Accession Number


Reference Notes

Jobe, Brock and Myrna Kaye. New England Furniture: The Colonial Era. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1984.


Massachusetts (United States)
Ipswich (Essex county, Massachusetts)