Lap desks and writing boxes

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Anyone else see Brian Goulet’s recent post about antique writing boxes? Also known as “lap desks,” these boxes were used in the 18th and 19th centuries to house writing supplies (actually, as Brian explained to me in an email, lap desks seem to have been smaller and thinner, as opposed to writing boxes, which were too large to use on your lap). They were also beautiful, with ornate detailing and odd fold-out compartments and drawers in which to stash pens, ink, and paper. Karen has her great-grandmother’s lap desk, which is inlaid with mother-of-pearl. A big step up from those laminate boards with the bean bags that I picture when I see the words “lap desk!”

Brian is thinking about using his woodworking skills to create some contemporary lap desks, which would, of course, be awesome. “They all fit right into that period when writing was not only practical, but a highly valued artistic skill,” as he pointed out to me in an email.

Image via Svadilfari.

9 thoughts on “Lap desks and writing boxes

  1. I have just bought a mid to late 1800s writing box in great shape.thinking about selling it,if anyone is intereasted please contact me for more info.


  2. I love just holding my great-grandmother’s lap desk. It is a wonderful connection not only to a person, but to a time when writing conveyed thoughts and feelings that were meant to be held in your hands or even carried with you. Notes and letters on a specially-selected paper, written with a favorite pen, convey so much more of a person than an email – no matter how well meaning or heartfelt.

  3. My aunt gave me a lapdesk/writing desk when I was about 11, as a Christmas present. It was from the Bombay furniture company (are they still around?). It’s a wood storage box; the lid is on a slope so you can use it as a writing surface while the desk is on your lap. Inside is a large compartment and a smaller one designed for holding pencils and pens. I used to store my journals and a pen in it when I was younger. Now, I use it to store a few extra-special pens, mementos, important documents, etc. It’s held up very well over the years, save for a minor run-in with a leaky ink bottle back in 1996.

  4. I’ve read his FPN posts with interest. What I’d love is a writing box that can either act as an extension to a high-up shelf, or clip securely to a stand, so it can double as a small stand-up desk. It’s nice to write letters and journal entries upright after a long day at the computer!

  5. “Brian is thinking about……some contemporary lap desks”, that is a bit of an understatement…I’ve been obsessed with them!! I’m inspired by the craftsmanship and ornamentation of the antiques, but I want to update the designs to fit today’s writing enthusiasts. I write daily with fountain pens myself, so I understand from a ‘users’ perspective what would be ideal in a writing box. Different writers have different needs though, so I’m wide open to suggestions about the style and design of the boxes. I am encouraged to see how many people are interested in them though, perhaps craftsmanship is not a thing of the past?

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