This week a regular customer to the antiques centre came in asking me to value a beautiful writing box that had once been his father’s.
It is worth a mention as it is very unusual. Portable boxes for writing materials have existed for many centuries and in many cultures.
However, it was not until about the 18th century that they became popular.
A box which could be transported and then used to lean on, or write on (either on a table or on ones lap), was really the thing to have among England’s elite.
Quality, design and decoration played an important part in the choice of box, as the writing box was connected with intelligence, commerce and world awareness.
Unlike an actual desk, the box was a personal possession and travelled with its owner on military expeditions, holidays, into libraries and at home. In the Victorian era, writing was the only way to communicate and these boxes were taken away on holiday.
These boxes were not for decorative purposes, but made to be used and carried around, hence many I’ve seen are usually very well used, some even ‘battered’ and worn.
However this customer’s father was in good company, keeping his in such a pristine condition as greats like Oliver Goldsmith, Charles Dickens and Lord Byron, who all treasured their sturdy writing boxes.
Most writing boxes have a flat top which could be leant on for writing and this one is unusual in the fact that it has a carry handle. It is in immaculate condition and hard to believe that all the wonderful pieces are still intact inside. It fabulous to see both the inkwells present as these are the items that are usually missing. The fact that they are made of glass and are still in perfect condition after all the miles that the box has possibly travelled is incredible. The shaped pen rest is a lovely feature and can be removed to show the ‘secret compartment’ inside. This was used for the pens, nibs and accessories, but also used to house letters or short notes from loved ones and there’s a certain romance about these boxes that you don’t get from a modern equivalent.
I valued it at between £150 - £200.
By Allan Blackburn