Featured Mystery Inscription on Edwardian Desk Drawer

Discussion in 'Furniture' started by Svenedin, Jul 1, 2020.

  1. Svenedin

    Svenedin Member


    I have an English pedestal desk circa 1900-1910. Whilst moving this desk I noticed something written on the underside of the centre drawer. It could never be seen without taking the drawer out. I have no idea whether it is something to do with the maker, perhaps a dealer or auction house or something written by a previous owner. Does anyone have any ideas?
  2. clutteredcloset49

    clutteredcloset49 Well-Known Member

    I see:
    T. VS.+
    Ini Pol

    Most likely manufacturer markings of some kind - but I have no idea what it means.

    BTW welcome to the board.
    Keep in mind people come and go at all hours, so be sure to check back for other comments.
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  3. Svenedin

    Svenedin Member

    IMG_5595.jpeg IMG_5596.jpeg IMG_5597.jpeg IMG_5598.jpeg IMG_5600.jpeg IMG_5604.jpeg IMG_5605.jpeg
    Thank you. I am not sure if it is a "T". It could be the Greek letter Lambda, "λ". Then is that a plus sign + or a cross of some religious significance?

    A bit more info, this is an English mahogany pedestal desk, inlaid with satin wood and of the highest quality. Possibly made by Maples but not confirmed. I attach some photos to give context and because it is rather beautiful!
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2020
  4. KarensVinteriors

    KarensVinteriors New Member

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  5. clutteredcloset49

    clutteredcloset49 Well-Known Member

    If you go back to your post #3, the Edit button should still be there.
    Click Edit, More Options and next to the picture Full Image, Save.

    Also could you please add a picture of the drawer construction - the joint where the side meets the front. Thank you.

    A lovely desk.
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  6. Svenedin

    Svenedin Member

    Certainly. Done.
  7. Svenedin

    Svenedin Member

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  8. clutteredcloset49

    clutteredcloset49 Well-Known Member

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  9. verybrad

    verybrad Well-Known Member

    Inscription means nothing to me. Are you sure this is Edwardian? Would think quite a bit newer based on what I can see.
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  10. Christmasjoy

    Christmasjoy Well-Known Member

    Gorgeous desk !!! ... Joy. :)
    KSW likes this.
  11. Svenedin

    Svenedin Member

    As sure as I can reasonably be unless the (well-respected, Lapada member) dealer who sold it to me was lying or mistaken and this I think very unlikely given their reputation. It has had a new leather top and has been re-polished very recently. It certainly has knocks and bangs (and a few burns) in all the right places for the claimed age. It also has rather a lot of ink staining in two drawers and quite a lot of wear to the drawer runners which would take a very long time in normal use. I don’t know when Hobbs and Co went out of business but those are the original locks. I do agree though that is very unusual to see an Edwardian piece quite so immaculate, perhaps even over-restored but it didn’t belong to me before it was restored. Having said that, I have other pieces of definite, older provenance in as good condition.
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2020
  12. James Conrad

    James Conrad Well-Known Member

    Does look newer than 1900 but, could just be very good condition which is entirely possible.
    Handsome desk, the new leather helps it I think.
  13. Svenedin

    Svenedin Member

    It is amazing what the attentions of a skilled French Polisher can do. I have had several pieces looking very shabby from degraded shellac that have been absolutely transformed by a skilled polisher. The new leather is very smart and since this is a desk I work at every day it is a very pleasant surface to work at. I am not so much an antique furniture collector as a clock collector and it is not at all unusual to see clocks with cases in as good condition as the desk (and considerably older too). I think this kind of condition is usually only seen in pieces that were expensive to begin with and because they were expensive they were well looked after. Having said that, the previous owner of this desk was careless with his cigars and spilt an awful lot of ink (blue-black it would appear)!!
    IMG_5606.jpeg IMG_5607.jpeg
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  14. verybrad

    verybrad Well-Known Member

    Restoration could explain why this looks newer. Is drawer bottom solid or plywood?
  15. Svenedin

    Svenedin Member

    IMG_5608.jpeg IMG_5611.jpeg
    Drawer bottoms are solid timber. The bottoms project slightly at the back of the drawers so I can fully see the grain. Definitely not plywood!

    Also dovetailed at the back of the drawers.
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2020
  16. Ghopper1924

    Ghopper1924 Well-Known Member

    The inscription's penmanship style is quite a bit later than any I would associate with late Victorian handwriting. I would guess that it has to do with a previous auction, not the original owner.

    I think the desk is earlier than it looks, but the photos make it look so immaculately restored that it appears new(ish), like a 1940s kneehole.

    In any case, it's a beauty.
  17. Pat Dennis

    Pat Dennis Member

    I agree with Ghopper1924 as the desk being earlier. It appears to be an English Regency pedestal mahogany desk with satinwood inlay. Google English Regency Desk and you will see several. Clues to age: fine drawer dovetails with vertical scribe mark, drawer fronts are solid mahogany and not veneer, drawer bottoms make of one piece and appear to be beveled, drawer sides are also mahogany and not oak which would date late Victorian to Edwardian, etc. Could be 1860s or earlier with the drawer construction. A period furniture appraiser would take out a drawer first thing. For those who want to know more about dating using drawer construction https://www.sapfm.org/forum/index.php?topic=2256.0
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  18. Svenedin

    Svenedin Member

    Thank you all for your time and opinions. I am still of my original opinion that this is Edwardian era (1901-1910), give or take a few years. I also think that is likely to be by Maple and Co although I have found no maker’s marks. Post #3 links to a piece that is attributed to Maple and Co that has many similarities. I do not think it is earlier because the dovetails appear to me to be machine made. Maple and Co actually survived in some form until 1997 but the locks on my desk are Hobbs and Co and from what little information I can find they seem to have gone out of business or were taken over around WW1. I am lucky enough to have another pedestal desk that is Georgian. It is interesting that despite the fact that my Georgian desk is shabby it is immediately apparent that it is much earlier even when seen from the other side of the room. It is the proportions. Thank you for welcoming me to the forum and perhaps I’ll share some more pieces from my collection in due course. I grew up surrounded by antiques -my father was often at the auction rooms. I also had a Saturday job at an antique shop but that was a long time ago. In those days every piece that came in got “tarted up” with a fresh lick of French polish so often pieces look newer and fresher than they actually are. It’s the insides that tell the story -most customers buy with what they see outside. I am much more interested in the quality of construction and if the piece also looks beautiful that is a bonus. One must always be on guard for “mutton dressed as lamb”.
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  19. Svenedin

    Svenedin Member

    Pat you are right, the drawer bottoms are bevelled. The also a lot of wear in the runners which suggests this desk has been well used for a very long time. It slightly puzzled me the runner wear but I think it is because the drawers are so deep. If they are pulled right out they tip down and then if not lifted to push back the runners get worn.

    1) A very worn runner that has been partly arrested by a knot. 2) Bevelled drawer bottom and a worn runner


    Last edited: Jul 3, 2020
  20. Svenedin

    Svenedin Member

    Today I decided that the ink stain in one of the drawers was just too much and I should try to do something about it. This isn't just a pen that has leaked it's a whole bottle of blue-black fountain pen ink. When this spillage happened (before I owned the desk) it seems clear that no effort at all was made to mop it up. The ink dried in situ. Perhaps the desk was moved without taking out the drawers and a bottle of ink smashed but nobody noticed.

    Anyway, I was not expecting success as I had assumed that the ink would have soaked deep into the wood given that the inside of the drawer is unfinished with no protective coating of any kind. I thought it was worth a try providing I did not spread the stain further.

    I started by dabbing at the stain with a ball of cotton wool soaked in hydrogen peroxide (20 volumes). As soon as the cotton wool ball was covered in ink I threw it away and started again with a clean one. I never allowed the wood to become significantly wet. Gradually, over about 2 hours the worst was gone. I then used the same technique using isopropyl alcohol (this must never be allowed to come into contact with shellac French polish or it will strip the finish). Further ink was lifted from the grain. Next, I used some more hydrogen peroxide and ultrafine steel wool but only when almost all the ink had gone. Finally, I cleaned everything down with a damp cloth rinsed clean frequently.

    I'm very pleased with the result. Admittedly it's not perfect but it helps the desk show some age.

    Please don’t anyone tell me that a massive ink stain is patina and shouldn’t be cleaned off!

    IMG_5606.jpeg IMG_5615.jpeg IMG_5616.jpeg IMG_5617.jpeg IMG_5618.jpeg
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2020
    verybrad likes this.
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