China Trade Desk & Bookcase, ca. 1810
Has this been in your family for a long time?
We think it's between five and seven generations. My grandmother acquired it from her cousin, and I have a letter to the effect that it belonged to a man who was her great-uncle in Providence, Rhode Island, and apparently he obtained it when he was traveling in China.
I'm quite surprised to hear you say it's from Providence because the only one I've ever seen that's similar has a Providence history.
And was brought back about 1805 to 1807 by a Captain Pearce of Providence. What this is, it's a piece of traveling furniture that a sea captain would have ordered at Canton when he was living there for the trading season and he would have used it in the hong, or the place he was staying, and then he would have brought it home with him on shipboard. We have a desk down here with a finished top with a tambour that works here. Then we have the top bookcase part, and you can see that the top here is finished. So the way it could have been used is when he was at home in Providence or in China, he would have had it as a full bookcase. On shipboard, he would have taken this off and stored it and used it just as a working desk in his cabin. However, if the seas were really rough, he could take this piece off. So it's a piece of modular furniture. It also could be used with the top on this without the tambour. And the nice thing to confirm the fact that it's Chinese is there is the Chinese workman's character to identify the drawer.
Oh, wow, okay.
And we have a desk with what we call a till-- this would have lifted up-- and then these removable compartments for ink and writing-- an incredibly practical, wonderful piece of furniture. And on the side, you have these what we call bale handles that are used for carrying it and lifting it up and down. Do you have any idea what you think it might be worth?
No-- I could guess, but I don't know.
Well, I would say in today's market, for its rarity and the fact that we know as much about it as we do, it would be between $20,000 and $25,000.
For a family piece. Well, it is a wonderful piece of furniture and it's got an interesting history.
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