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1730 Mahogany Desk-and-Bookcase

While not a proven Logan family object, this c.1730 mahogany desk-and-bookcase has represented the "Scrutore" worth seven pounds on James Logan's 1752 estate inventory and alternatively the "Escritoire with Glass Doors" worth seven pounds, ten shillings on his wife Sarah's 1754 inventory. Could an addition of glass panels have increased the value by ten shillings?

Desk-and-bookcases such as this were most often found in parlors as a symbol of education and mercantile success in the Atlantic trade. The form illustrates the eighteenth-century mind's desire for order. The "pigeon" holes across the top allowed for alphabetical filing of recent correspondence. The tall divisions provided ideal space for merchants' ledger books, where the details of accounts were recorded. The many small drawers stored implements for writing, and the "secret" drawers behind the central prospect door in the desk held small valuables and currency, like built-in spice box drawers.

The book-style details of this desk could have appealed to a bibliophile like Logan. The inlaid prospect doors and central doors in the upper case look like book bindings. The inside of the backboards is painted with an oyster shell-like design, much like the endpaper patterns inside printed books.

Photo Captions: 1) In the first half of the 18th century, many merchants worked from home. Without email, letter writing was the primary form of communication. This was the ideal storage “cabinet” and work station for everything a merchant needed to keep well organized and on hand. 2) The “secret” doors hidden behind a pull-out bank of of drawers inside the central prospect door in the desk. 3) The removable central bank of doors with the cover for the hidden drawers resting on top. The cover wood and secret drawers are light in color because they are protected from oxidation (exposure to the air). 4) The form of the classical pediment at the top is known as an “O.G.” or ogee-head. For more information on this form google Andrew Brunk, The Claypoole Family Joiners of Philadelphia, American Furniture, Chipstone Foundation, 2002. 5) Logan family objects on loan to Stenton from the Loudoun Collection at the Fairmount Park Commission. James Logan’s ancient Greek skyphos and his collection of stone and marble samples. 6) Sir Henry Gough Family Conversation Piece by William Vereslst, 1741, on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. These group portraits help us to imagine the Stenton parlor in action. Notice the gendered nature of the objects with females in command of the tea table and Henry Gough’s secretary desk as his operational center. 7) Small "secret" drawers from inside the parlor desk-and-bookcase. Notice the woven tape pulls affixed with rose head nails, the unoxidized appearance of the drawers, and the swirling oyster-like graining painted inside the back boards.


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