Friday, July 7, 2017

Curious Collector Cabinet

Beautiful and Functional But Why?

I need your help.

A few weeks ago one of my old clients came in with this curious box.  He hangs out at estate sales and finds things on Craig's list and is always looking for something unusual.  He often discovers amazing things.

After all, isn't that one of the reasons we collect stuff?  Not that we need it.  If we need something essential we go out and get it.  If I need gas I go to the gas station.  Not much excitement there...

On the other hand, when I travel I always take time to explore old used book stores, antique stores, used tool shops and even, in some cases, thrift stores.  It's the lure of the unknown which keeps me searching.

So this client walks in with this box.  It is amazing.  Made of Brazilian rosewood with boxwood trim. Made by a professional, probably British.    It is about 11 x 12 x 22" in size.  I think it' either British or even American since the writing on the drawers is in English.

The locks, keys, hinges and screws all indicate a period before 1850.

Mid 19th Century Script?

The secondary wood is Spanish Cedar.

Lift Top With Two Trays Inside

The front has double glass doors and the top lid lifts up.  There is a lock on the glass doors and a second lock on the lid.  Whoever had it wanted to keep the contents secure.

When you lift up the top there are two trays in a till.  A very shallow tray on top of a deeper tray.  The deeper tray is missing a divide which would go from side to side.

What Are These Trays For?

Inside the double glass doors are 4 fake drawers over 6 functional drawers, each with turned ivory pulls.

The amazing and curious feature is how the drawers are divided into strange and complex compartments.  I have no idea how these compartments could be used.  My only guess is that there was a fad of collecting exotic sea shells in the past.  Perhaps these compartments could be designed for shells.

When I Saw These Drawers I Was Speechless 

However, as the drawers are fairly deep and the compartments rather small, it would be difficult to reach some of the contents.

What Would You Keep In These???

Please help me find out what this is.  If you have any idea just post in the comments.

Understanding the lost mysteries of past cultures is why we explore.


Bruce said...

"Middle left Draw..." At one time I had a style that was similar. I think it was copied from my Grandpa, born in 1875, grew up and lived in Pittsburgh. Still it is not too out of place, even for 1950's non-cursive.

Now, everyone should understand the rest.... He was retired, or had a beautifully appointed tool chest in similar veneers and woods--the practice piece. This was his, or his wife's curio collection cabinet. His wife probably found the receipt for all the tools he bought. On her way out the door to the trinkets market she left him with an ultimatum.

The drawer dividers are simply pretty. I could go into the male logic for the designs but we have enough for the rest of the story.

Anonymous said...

I love the cabinet!
I noticed that there is another cursive handwriting underneath the current block-cursive writing. You can see the bottom part of 'f' more clearly. Do you think it has different writing/language?


Martin said...

The wife says, "It's a jewelry box."

Unknown said...

I wonder if it was used for an entomological collection. Beetles or other jewel like insects pinned on a small piece of wood may have been organized by type, or color and would fit the small compartments. The Spanish Cedar and glass doors would probably have been a safeguard against small Dermestid beetles that damage such collections. That's my guess.

Jeremy said...

I also think it's a jewelry box and the dividers are primarily for being pretty and not exceptionally functional. Another option might be that this is for a jeweler (or watchmaker?) to house some sort of loose, but at least semi-precious materials, where shape and size are more granular and odd.

Anonymous said...

Just a guess, but with the Spanish Cedar to protect against bugs and control humidity and the small deep compartments, I wonder if the cabinet would have held silks, either for wearing or for sewing.

Alysha | Furniture Fitouts said...

At first look, I thought of it as a drawer for jewellery. Nevertheless, the cabinet is interesting and the intricate design of the dividers is beautiful.

JC said...

Wow. This is a first for me, too. I definitely agree with the approximate date (no later than 1860) and that it is likely English. Before seeing the drawer dividers, I was thinking maybe it was a fancy case for fine drafting or machinist tools, or perhaps a gemstone collection, but with thin/tall/narrow compartments like the Pinwheel type ones, I can't even begin to guess what could practically go in there. The one with the diamond and semi-circles makes the most sense, but most of the other drawer divisions are TINY. Even more so when I have to factor-in the fact that the entire case is rather tiny, and those drawers can't be much larger than 10" x 10" (likely smaller!)

voncarlos said...

I wonder if the hinged top had glass at one time; allowing the piece to be a storage and display case.
I too would venture a guess at entomology.

Ricardo said...

With the deep drawers, odd shaped dividers and the spanish cedar, I think it is a collectors humidor, A good sniff may confirm it, thanks so much for sharing your knowledge on this blog