Friday, May 19, 2017

Travel Writing Lap Desks: Some History

I'm super excited to be sharing something special with you all today! My kids and I have come out to Oregon to visit my mom for awhile this summer and she had a surprise waiting for me. This is my grandmother's travel writing desk---something my mom remembers her always having and keeping her poetry in. I believe it is made of cedar, but have no idea when it was made or how she came to own it.

I lost my Grandma Betty when I was just eight years old. My mom says I inherited her love for writing and creativity with words. I remember her poetry and am so honored to have this gift of her writing desk!

The Bronte's study, Haworth, England
I took this photo last fall in Haworth. Notice what I originally did not---the writing slope lying open on the table!
The lap desk, writing slope, writing box, or writing cabinet originated in the 17th century as a trendy accessory for the traveling gentleman. The box was small enough to be carried on his horse or by his valet and was designed to hold all his implements of correspondence.

Jane Austen's Writing Desk and Spectacles, British Library
It didn't take long for them to become fashionable for men and women alike. Portable antique writing desks had a hinged writing surface that was sometimes covered in leather or other material and flipped open to a storage space below. Compartments were revealed to house inkwells, pens, blotters, sealing wax, and more. Sometimes there were hidden compartments inside!

The use of portable lap desks gradually declined during the 19th century, as people began mass producing home furniture, as well as more convenient writing tools---and as the middle and lower classes became more literate, making correspondence a much more common activity.


However, vintage and modern lap desks can still be found for sale online. Here is a cute modern version, The Schoolhouse Cushioned Lap Desk from Victorian Trading Company. It employs the use of a cushion for added coziness and to help it stay put.

I'm excited to store my favorite stationery in my new-to-me writing desk. How do you organize your letter writing materials?


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15 comments:

  1. I have a cardboard Miss Me gift box that I store my writing things in. I am glad you love my mom's writing box. it makes me happy to see you happy!

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  2. What a lovely gift - your Grandmother Betty would be so pleased!

    I enjoyed this post very much!

    As for my writing things - all my pre fabbed cards are stored in a drawer in my home office.....and my craft supplies to make my own cards are in my crafting area of the basement. As for my pens, they're in a square glass container right here at my pc. : - )


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    1. Thank you, Michele! I've started making my own envelopes and I'm having so much fun with it.

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  3. I love your writing lap desk and especially love that it was your grandma's. :) I may have to add one to my wish list lol.

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    1. Thanks, friend! Yeah, it's a fun old-fashioned extra. Jamie bought me one from VTC a few years ago---painted pretty with flowers all over. I don't think they sell them anymore.

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  4. I like the idea of a portable writing desk very much! Just finding stationary these days is hard. Do you order yours online or have a local place to buy? I know note cards are readily available but not as easy to find loose leaf stationary sets.

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    1. Hi Laura!

      I purchase stationery from a few places online. I like Victorian Trading Company for my Victorian style stationery, Kawaii Depot for whimsy sets, and Etsy or eBay has a TON of the old style sets that are so difficult to find nowadays in the shops. I'm actually planning to design and offer my own sets, hopefully this fall---because you're right, it's difficult to find great stationery!

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  5. These are cool. I would use one now if I had one.

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  6. I loved this post!!

    First of all, what an incredibly special heirloom for you to have!! And second, I didn't know the history behind writing desks. Thanks for sharing!

    I'm so glad I stopped by. :-)

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  7. What a very special gift to receive something that was so personally used and loved by your grandmother! It seems to be perfectly bestowed upon you, and I'm sure you will treasure it for many years. . .

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  8. Gorgeous! I love the photos, and such an interesting history. Thank you for teaching me something today :) #fandayfriday

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  9. This is so charming! Pinned! Thanks for sharing @Vintage Charm!

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  10. Sarah, how wonderful you got this family heirloom! A beautiful connection between you and your grandmother. Thanks for sharing with SYC.
    hugs,
    Jann

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  11. What a great writing desk... especially with the history of it in your family. :)

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