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Antique Bookcases

No other piece of furniture brings more sophistication and charm, executed with such utter simplicity, than the antique bookshelf. Gracing our homes for centuries, antique bookshelves are one of the most revered pieces of furniture and an absolute must for any home serious about its style. So much more than just a place to plonk down your novels and the odd plant, a set of gorgeous antique bookshelves can completely command attention in any room.

Traditionally made with intensely durable hardwoods, like teak, oak, walnut and mahogany, an antique bookcase is built for a lifetime, bringing you and your books years of enjoyment. Our expertly curated marketplace brings you the best quality, best looking and most jammy pieces from all over the UK and beyond. Filter by size, materials, style, designer and even door type with our handy menu to the left. Whether you’re after a classic open bookcase to show off your most-loved reads, an antique bookshelf for the bathroom or kitchen, a breakfront, a bureau or even a revolving bookcase, we’ve got you covered. Simply sit back and browse the best bookcases on the block.

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Antique bookshelves for sale at Vinterior

With modest beginnings, the bookcase was originally designed as simply a set of shelves for kitchen items or storage. It was only much later, around the 1700s, that they made their way into the homes of the aristocracy to shelve, then very expensive, books.

Antique bookcases include any type of bookcase that is over 100 years old. Beautiful, tactile, and highly sought-after, antique bookshelves are multifunctional and can be repurposed for modern homes. Style aside, they are excellent choices simply for their exceptional quality. Once installed it was rare for antique bookcases to ever be moved from their original spot, mainly due to their weight. Although heavy, these beauties are built to last.

Antique bookcases come in lots of different shapes, styles and designs. Let’s take a look at a few of our favourites available on our marketplace.

Types of antique bookcases to consider

There are many different types of antique bookcases, each one adding a unique function to its design. These include:

  • Revolving bookcases - perfect space-saving bookcases that have a simple pivot mechanism to rotate when you need to locate the paperback you're after.
  • Breakfront bookcases - grand dresser-style bookcases that fit effortlessly into alcoves or as stand-alone antique pieces.
  • Corner bookcases - Tall and narrow or squat and chunky, mahogany antique hues can help bring a splash of sophistication to your book storage while making clever use of space.

Choosing shelving units, from an antique walnut bookcase to a classic French-inspired unit

Many styles of antique shelvinghave a unique open design. With no back or side panelling, these pieces have their shelves completely open, supported usually by a simple wooden frame. A big benefit of antique shelving units is their amazing versatility. Their open structure allows it to be placed pretty much anywhere in the home. We love creating a divider sprinkled with plants, records and books to break up open-plan spaces. Alternatively, you could opt for the classic antique walnut bookcase with it’s burr marbling. Choose a freestanding antique piece and its versatility means you can place it in any room, from your study to your bedroom. Or why not choose a wall-mounted set of French shelves if your home is on the bijou size to free up floorspace. At Vinterior, the possibilities are endless.

How to identify an antique bookcase

There are many reproductions on the market, so it's important to know what you're looking for when hunting for an antique bookcase.

Firstly, examine any bookcase carefully. Check the sides, back, and shelving. Any scuffs or nicks shouldn't be seen as a negative. This is charming character and can show that a bookcase was handcrafted using a plane or drawknife.

Secondly, focus on the joins between the wood. Dovetails are a surefire giveaway that you are looking at an antique bookcase from the 19th-century.

Thirdly, take a step back and assess the symmetry of the bookcase. If it looks too perfect, it may have been machine-made. A slightly imperfect shape is one of the best ways to tell if a bookcase is antique or not.

And lastly, feel the bookcase. Any chips or nicks shouldn't reveal chipboard underneath. They should be gentle dents in solid wood. You should also feel a subtle sheen from a shellac or wax finish. This was a common way of protecting the wood pre-20th-century. And, if there are holes of historical woodworm, this is also a surprisingly good sign that you're looking at an antique bookcase.

Why choose an antique bookshelf or bookcase?

Having high-quality antique bookcases in your homes can really add a sense of grandeur to your interiors. These wooden bookcases develop character as their patinas age with time, so the bookcase you purchase today will get better with age, just like fine wine. Find a piece that matches your personality and carry it with you throughout your lifetime, or pass them down throughout the family. Antique bookcases can have a formidable presence in the home and will always be something to marvel at for years to come.

Buying an antique bookcase on Vinterior

Discover the enduring history of antique shelves and antique bookcases with Vinterior’s awe-inspiring marketplace. Our dealers and sellers have amassed centuries worth of antique bookshelves from all across the world, with different histories ingrained in each of them. Find antique French bookshelves from the eighteenth century, Georgian and Victorian bookshelves in deep and hearty wooden finished and metallic embellishments or combine multiple antique bookcase units to create the at-home library of your dreams! Vinterior is the one-stop-shop for all things vintage and antique, and you’ll be sure to find the perfect antique bookcase right here. And why not explore the link between home decor and books a little more and have a read of our decorating with books blog?

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