Wednesday, February 4, 2009

History of "The Portable Writer's Desk"

Called Jefferson Boxes in America, the writing box was a staple piece of furniture of the wealthy in Georgian and Victorian Britain.

From: Suite101

During the middle-ages, when the vast majority of the population of Britain was illiterate, there was little need for a specific piece of furniture for writing or reading. Only the monks, who laboured away copying and recopying holy books and stories had pulpit like writing tables. However, as the middle-ages drew to a close, both literacy and leisure-time increased among the wealthy classes.

By the dawn of the Georgian age, letter writing had become popular among the upper-classes and was often used as a means to spread political discourse. Stories were written in letter form, and many letters were printed in magazine and newspaper like publications. To aid in this new activity, a new piece of furniture became popular.

The writing box, or portable writing desk, was a hinged rectangular box that when unfolded provided a continuous slope upon which to write. It also normally contained an area where quills, ink-bottles, and paper could be stored.

Writers such as Sir Walter Scott, Alexander Pope, Jane Austin, and the Bronte sisters all used writing boxes, as did Sir Admiral Lord Nelson. In fact, a portable writing desk was deemed essential for any travelling military officer. In America, the most famous writing box user was Thomas Jefferson, and thus writing boxes became known as Jefferson boxes in America.

Today, some of the spirit of the writing box lives on in the laptop computer.

Primary information for this article obtained from Portable Writing Desks by David Harris, Shire Publications, 2001.