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Although the printing press was a well-established piece of technology by the time Victoria came to the throne, it was under her reign that print really became prolific. During the 19th century the printed word was everywhere, and literacy rates were rising. Novels, manuals, cookery books and periodicals were all growing in popularity and people needed places to store their growing book collections. Victorian bookcases were a point of pride, a highly visible demonstration of a household’s status and learning. Built to last and typically made of heavy walnut, mahogany or oak, the bookcases were sometimes bespoke, sometimes bulk-produced to high specification designs. Take a look at some of the antique Victorian bookcases currently featured on Vinterior for an overview of the sorts of items we offer.
Why choose Victorian bookcases?Many Victorian bookcases, particularly those designed in the late 19th century, refer in their design to the Jacobean period. Handcrafted in woods like oak and mahogany, these pieces have solid joints and real durability. Others have their origins not in a domestic setting but in a religious one. Like church pews and altars, these ecclesiastical pieces of furniture bring with them a sense of propriety and respectability.
There is great diversity in the types of bookcases produced during the Victorian era. Some are grand, glass-fronted, high-gloss mahogany pieces that tower at nearly three metres. Others have a homely, hand-crafted feel with their rosewood inlays, motifs from the natural world and a simple waxed wood finish. These are more typical of the Arts and Craft movement, which began in the 1880s, some 45 years into Queen Victoria’s reign.
Just as contemporary furniture echoes the style and feel of the mid-century, Victorians were nostalgic about the Regency period. In celebration of their forefathers, they filled their homes with Regency-style furniture. Lighter in feel than classic Victorian furniture, items in this specific throwback style are more parred back and feature fewer frills and fancies. A Regency-style bookcase created for a late Victorian buyer, for example, might have a glass uppercase and closed lower cupboards, luxurious velvet-lined shelves and may be made of finely moulded rosewood.
Another classical style seized upon by the entrepreneurial Victorians was Gothic, perhaps because the very religious Victorians believed the Middle Ages to have been a particularly spiritual time. Gothic revival furniture became popular in the 1940s with designers taking inspiration from the architects of their day, who began the trend. Neo-Gothic furniture, including bookshelves, can often be found to feature ornate carvings and miniature turrets, arches, finials and heraldic motifs.
Why choose Vinterior for Victorian bookcases?Any vintage or antique piece of furniture introduces layers of intrigue to your space, leaving you pondering who may have owned it over the years and what lives it may have witnessed. An antique Victorian bookcase, potentially with a century and a half of daily use behind it, will have been home to thousands of books enjoyed by hundreds of readers, making it an extra magical piece to own.
Whether you are looking for the perfect piece to complete your living room storage, want to make a statement in an otherwise quiet and neutral space, or simply want something on which to display trinkets and photos in the hallway, browse Vinterior’s Victorian bookcases and take inspiration from the always-changing vintage pieces offered.