For Your Library: Time Capsules Filled With Oak Furniture

Fred Roe was an accomplished artist who later became an expert and collector of oak furniture. Three of his books are available online to add to your digital library. Although most of the oak pieces are British there are some Continental examples. Even if you are not a fan of oak furniture there are historical anecdotes, and as one would expect, plenty of carvings. One great value of these old books is finding inspiration for your next project be it in wood, stone, textiles or that waiting-to-be-filled space between your  tattoos.

Book One: “Ancient Coffers and Cupboards” was published in 1902, includes drawings by Fred Roe and begins with The Dark Ages. I have always been fascinated with linen fold panels and was happy to find ‘The Linen Panel’ chapter (sample platter below). Roe’s drawings are well done and help you see carving details that get lost in old halftone photographs. You can find the first book here.

Book Two: “Old Oak Furniture” was published in 1907 and all the images are drawings by Fred Roe.

In the chapter on ‘Old Furniture with Hiding-Places’ there is a tale involving a bed, a treasure and Richard III on his way to Bosworth. The chapter also gives you several ideas on where to search for your own hidden treasure. You can find the second book here.

Book Three: “A History of Oak Furniture” was published in 1920 and was part of a series by The Connoisseur Magazine.

Joint stool with 15th c. French manuscript reference.

Joint stool with 15th c. French manuscript reference.

This book is comprised of short chapters followed by a large selection of photographs. There is some overlap with his previous books, but put together the three books provide a small library of aumbries, benches, boxes, chairs, coffers, cupboards, dressers, stools, tables and all sorts of decorative details. You can find the third book here.

Fred Roe was able to document furniture and decorative elements found in public establishments and on private estates. Some of the old taverns and houses were later demolished, private estates were sold and their treasures auctioned. In the first quarter of the 20th century he captured a collection of oak furniture, and a century later we can still learn from and enjoy his time capsule.

Suzanne Ellison

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4 Responses to For Your Library: Time Capsules Filled With Oak Furniture

  1. bcfnc says:

    In 1970 I started work for a firm of antique dealers , my first job out of school . I spent two years out back with the restorers , including a clever Hungarian cabinetmaker , a very old polisher who had done his apprenticeship in 1925 , and a newly arrived Italian tradesman who had made faked furniture for a well-known dealer in Wichester, England .Could he pick fakes, over-restored and altered pieces ! He had made davenport desks out of old walnut pianos, supposed 18th century bookcases out of Victorian wardrobes, and painted hundreds of pieces of satinwood to improve their value! All work that he hated . He emigrated with his young family, then spent his days carefully repairing and conserving old furniture , much happier living and working in Australia. I learned valuable lessons and was promoted to the showroom . The family had started business in 1901 and were the most respected antique dealers in Melbourne, Australia selling mainly English furniture and decorative arts .. On their bookshelves were many old books on English furniture and the second volume here was amongst them . Amazing .My education continued reading all these old books and sale catalogues. I left them in 1987 to start dealing myself . I haven’t seen that volume again until now , lost from my memory . I can now re-read it and the other volumes .I thank you !

    • saucyindexer says:

      Thank you for your story. Almost 30 years since you saw Roe’s book. I hope you enjoy your reunion!

      • bcfnc says:

        Ha ha , I’ve read volume two again already ! I have always remembered the story of the early chair in the Little Dunmow Church being used in the medieval Ceremony of the Fitch ! The ceremony and its history became a rather oddball film in the 50s or 60s . The chair is discussed in Vol 2 , page 56 . Its been a treat !

    • Derek Long says:

      Great story. Thanks for sharing.

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