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Victorian Writing Desks

Updated on August 28, 2011

Introudction to Victorian Writing Desks

Victorian writing desks are classical antique desks produced circa 1840 to 1910. These desks were hand crafted by English cabinet makers and were highly sought after by anyone wealthy enough to afford one. Desks were becoming accent pieces of furniture and beyond their functional value for penning letters and novels these desks were symbols of status.

Many styles of writing desks are similar, showing a progression of ideas and styles from each passing period of design. The Victorian writing desk owes much of its design inspiration from Gothic style furniture. Some of these designs feature heavy proportions, rich, elaborate carving of the wood, dark finishing and small feet ending in a ball or claw. Victorian desks in England were are the first to be mass produced. Mahogany was often used to make Victorian writing desks. Other woods used by cabinet makers to produce Victorian writing desks include walnut, oak, rosewood, and sometime pine.

Many antique Victorian writing desks have individualized compartments for the writing implements of the time, like the ink blotter and quill. Modern desks reproduced in the Victorian style might not have these quant details but are made to the exacting specifications as the originals for all other intents and purposes. These reproductions can offer you the look and feel of an antique Victorian writing desk without the hefty price tag. Don’t be fooled by the term reproduction, however.

Reproduction work features using the same types of wood as the original and are often hand made in the tradition of the original. Other reproductions are produced from antique wood that has been reclaimed from renovated buildings. Regardless, reproduction furniture likely is as solidly built and just as beautiful as the original, only younger. Replica Victorian rosewood writing desks in particular are extremely popular.

Victorian writing desks appear to be one of the last styles of ornamental craftsmanship. The Arts and Crafts movement was rooted at the end of the Victorian period as a response to the start of industrialization. Some cabinet makers believed that the birth of the machine spelled the death of the master craftsman.

Individuals building desks with the aid of a machine worked with only one part of the desks, such as the legs or the back paneling without ever producing any other part or assembling it into a finished product. As a result a back to basics approach endured with a focus on simplicity and function. It is of note however that the Arts and Crafts movement was not an anti-industrial or anti-modern movement. It just sought to preserve the longstanding legacy of hand craftsmanship of which Victorian writing desks have an honored seat.

Various Victorian Desks

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A Victorian desk for the children who didn't behave so well in class.Classic and aristocratic Victorian writing desk.Close up of a rosewood Victorian desk.Not all Victorian era writing desks were fancy.Mahogany desk in need of some TLC.
A Victorian desk for the children who didn't behave so well in class.
A Victorian desk for the children who didn't behave so well in class.
Classic and aristocratic Victorian writing desk.
Classic and aristocratic Victorian writing desk.
Close up of a rosewood Victorian desk.
Close up of a rosewood Victorian desk.
Not all Victorian era writing desks were fancy.
Not all Victorian era writing desks were fancy.
Mahogany desk in need of some TLC.
Mahogany desk in need of some TLC.

Brief History of the Victorian Era

The Victorian Era denotes the time that Queen Victoria sat on the throne of Great Britain from 1837 all the way until her death in 1903. Art, architecture, literature, furniture, and crafts that became popular at any point during those nearly 70 years are considered "Victorian" in nature. This is where Victorian writing desks (also sometimes incorrectly referred to as Victoria Desks) get their name and influence from.  Because of this, it is also correct to assume that any particular piece of furniture that is Victorian in influence is from England, or at least the British area or of British design.

Comments on Victorian Writing Desks

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    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      8 years ago from London, UK

      Thank you for your hub about something so beautiful.

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