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Bookcases

  • Place of origin:

    London (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1763 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Adam, Robert, born 1728 - died 1792 (designer)
    Vile and Cobb (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved mahogany on a carcase of pine

  • Credit Line:

    Purchase made possible by the help of an anonymous benefactor

  • Museum number:

    W.76:1, 2, A/1 to 10, B-1975

  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 118, The Wolfson Gallery, case 1 []

Object Type
Bookcases for domestic use first appeared in the 1660s and were often known as book 'presses'. In the 18th century, books were increasingly seen as status symbols, reflecting not just the wealth but also the knowledge and interests of the owner of the house. For this reason people liked to have their books on display. Glazed fronted bookcases were an ideal way of protecting valuable collections without making them invisible.

People
These bookcases were made by the firm of William Vile (born about 1700; died 1767) and John Cobb (born about 1715; died 1778), cabinet-makers to George III, who were paid £260 in January 1765 for the work. The carpenter John Hobcraft of Titchfield Street, London, assisted with their construction and the finer details were carved by Sefferin Alken, the principal decorative carver of his day.

Places
Croome Court, Worcestershire was built in 1751-1752 for George, 6th Earl of Coventry, by the architect and landscape designer Lancelot 'Capability' Brown (1716-1783). In 1759 Lord Coventry commissioned Robert Adam (1728-1792) to redesign some of the house interiors, including the Library, in the fashionable Neo-classical style. In June 1763 Adam provided detailed drawings for the bookcases, which were to form the principal feature of the room.

Design & Designing
By the mid-18th century, designs for bookcases were principally derived from architecture and often reflected the architectural scheme of the interior and exterior of the house, as did this example from Croome Court. The Ionic pilasters of the central section echoed the Ionic frame of the Library's Venetian window and the honeysuckle motif in the cresting reflected Adam's design on the plaster ceiling.

Place of Origin

London (made)

Date

ca. 1763 (made)

Artist/maker

Adam, Robert, born 1728 - died 1792 (designer)
Vile and Cobb (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Carved mahogany on a carcase of pine

Dimensions

Height: 350 cm approx., Width: 1800 cm approx., Depth: 50 cm approx.

Object history note

Made for George Coventry, 6th Earl of Coventry (1722-1809). Designed by Robert Adam (born in Kirkcaldy, Fife, 1728, died in London, 1792); made in London by the firm of William Vile and John Cobb.

Descriptive line

Croome Court library

Labels and date

SET OF BOOKCASES
ENGLISH; about 1763
Mahogany

From the library at Croome Court, Worcestershire, designed by Robert Adam and executed by William Vile and John Cobb, cabinet makers an upholsterers to George III, in 1763-4 for the cost of £260. The finer details of the carving were carried out by Sefferin Alken. [pre October 2000]
British Galleries:
These bookcases are part of the fittings designed by Robert Adam for the Library at Croome Court, Worcestershire. Adam based the elements of these monumental furnishings on the stone architecture of ancient Greece and Rome. A central pediment is supported by pilasters (flat columns) of the Ionic order. The cresting along the top is copied from cresting on the choragic monument of Lysicrates, in Athens. [27/03/2003]

Categories

Furniture; Woodwork; Architectural fittings; British Galleries; Scotland

Collection

Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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