I am already on my way to Louisville, Kentucky to a meeting of the Jane Austen Society of North America. But I’m so excited I just have to share a few pictures of this amazing project that my husband just finished. You may remember that he made me some small tools to help with my historical handwriting. For the past few months he’s been working on a much bigger object- a reproduction writing desk!
This reproduction is based on pictures of Jane Austen’s own desk, now in the British Library. Another important reference is the many detailed pictures on the Hygra website. We chose a green baize writing surface because it was a very common feature of historical desks, although Austen’s now has a leather surface.
Under the green writing surfaces are compartments for holding paper, letters, and other odds and ends, accessed by pulling up on the grey ribbon loops. A network of green ribbon on the flap helps organize the contents.
Like Austen’s desk, it also has an extra feature. Hidden in that open compartment is a little reading stand which can be pegged into the lid of the box. A brass prop folds up so you can adjust the angle of the book you’re reading.
My husband not only did all the woodwork, he also fabricated most of the brass parts! The handles, main hinges, and key are the only components he bought ready-made. He even made the lock! If you can’t tell, I’m over the moon and just so impressed with his craftsmanship. I am itching to use it, but also anxious about the first inevitable scratch or ink-blot- rather like a new car!
According to the records of Ring Brothers in Basingstoke, Jane Austen’s father bought “a Small Mahogany Writing Desk with 1 Long Drawer and Glass Ink Stand, Compleat” on December 5 in 1794- just in time for Jane’s birthday on December 16! The price he paid was twelve shillings. Now how can I scrape together 12 shillings these days?