When we speak of libraries, what comes to mind usually is a large civic building where we go to borrow books. These buildings vary in structure depending on the community they serve. City examples are usually quite elaborate Victorian or Edwardian structures and there are often fine examples of long, sturdy generic library tables that stretch the middle and sides of these buildings.
However in the antiques world when we think of libraries and library tables, we think of something more domestic and individual. Originally antique furniture of this particular genre was designed for the master’s study and early examples were usually fairly plain. By the 18th century the study had expanded into a library to become more of a literary sitting room, and although still very much a male preserve where books and collections would be shared with male guests after dinner, the women of the house were allowed in the library during the afternoons.
Two distinct types of library table evolved during the 19th century. The drum shaped table was most popular during the mid-Victorian period and was called a ‘rent table’ because this was where the master of the house would store his rent books and payments from tenants. Other examples were rectangular but common to both types was the often central pedestal which varied in elaborate decoration between the Regency and Victorian periods.
Varieties of antique tables in Preston, London and all parts of the country are still to be found. Often confused with sofa tables, they provide a very useful intimate dining space for the compact dining room of modern living and remain highly sought after at auction whether they are antique dining tables or antique library tables.
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