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A Short History of Shelves and Bookcases

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Whereas a case suggests a closed object, bookcases at the moment are very generally open fronted, and as such are sometimes actually not more than a easy collection of cabinets designed to carry books. Thus, curiously, the bookcase has come full circle from its earliest type as a easy shelf, mostly built-in within the wall within the method of early aumbries, the place a medieval scribe stored the ebook or codex he was writing, by means of its improvement as one of the most important items of furnishings ever made, typified by the usually monumental cupboards of architectural proportions used from the seventeenth century to current occasions and which can be thought of because the direct ancestors of the fashionable leisure middle.

The chief distinction between the medieval model and the fashionable bookcase is that the modern sort is often freestanding. Two uprights supporting two or extra horizontal cabinets, the entire stored inflexible by a hard and fast again, constitutes the only modern type. Given the good variation of e-book sizes, cabinets are sometimes made adjustable, supported on pins or pegs inserted into appropriately spaced holes made within the insides of the uprights. Offering the shelf helps are sufficiently robust, the chief consideration of the profitable bookcase builder is to make use of materials inflexible sufficient or of sufficiently thick dimension to withstand sagging. A pine shelf, for instance, must be produced from 5/four materials if it’s going to be for much longer than three ft.

Even after the invention of the printing press, books continued to be among the many most valuable and treasured family possessions, and consequently bookcases, as books turned extra widespread, and as libraries elevated in measurement, have been invariably furnished with doorways — turning into, the truth is, instances — often glazed in order that bindings could possibly be protected however admired. An exception was the massive constructed-in college bookcases, the ancestors of at present’s public library bookshelves. These, nevertheless, have been generally pierced for the chains which secured the books. One other distinction resulted from the truth that books have been generally shelved with their spines to the again of the case, to be able to show the ornate clasps that secured the covers.

Giant formal bookcases, could also be made in a spread of types, starting from two- or three-half breakfronts, to tall cupboards with an enclosed base containing drawers or small cabinets, to smaller glass-fronted cupboards, such because the stackable horizontal type referred to as “lawyer’s bookcase.” For causes of stability, given the load of giant numbers of books, bookcases designed for substantial portions are sometimes made with wider, deeper, or heavier bases than the higher instances. Equally, fairly than counting on pins or pegs for shelf helps, cabinets are sometimes housed in rabbets or serrated cleats. Vertical divisions or helps additionally turn into vital the place the books are bigger than regular, each to guard the books from one another as well as to offer help for superincumbent cabinets.

Whereas many bookcases are designed as constructed-in models, many are freestanding, and could also be designed double-sided, and even as spherical or 4-sided models, meant for mid-room placement.

Graham Blackburn is a furnishings maker, writer, and illustrator, and writer of Blackburn Books (www.blackburnbooks.com) in Bearsville, N.Y.

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