Samuel Pepys 1666 Oak Library Bookcases Pair High Provenance Carved by Forsyth For Sale
Want more images or videos?
Request additional images or videos from the seller
1 of 20

Samuel Pepys 1666 Oak Library Bookcases Pair High Provenance Carved by Forsyth


We are delighted to offer for auction this stunning pair of solid oak Samuel Pepy’s library bookcases based on the original design of 1666 These bookcases have high provenance, each one has the history carved to the base, the first says "Made By William Hammond for F E Cleary Esq MBE F.RIC.S" and the second is carved May 1973 carved by Forsyth" I will include below any information I have on the aforementioned gentlemen These bookcases are basically the birthplace of the free standing bookcase as we know it today, in 2016 they celebrated their 350th anniversary, these are 20th century examples hand made by a master craftsman, every single piece of wood has been hand cut and chiselled, if you look closely at the intricate designs you can see the cut marks I’ll include below the history of the pieces in their original form, these bookcases are historically important, the originals are in the Samuel Pepys Library in the Magdalene College of Oxford university, there is one in the Victorian and Albert Museum These have been cleaned waxed and polished and are in sublime condition, there are working keys for most locks Dimensions: Height 228cm Width 132cm Depth 51cm Please note all measurements are taken at the widest point Samuel Pepy 350th Anniversary year 2016 marks the 350th Anniversary of the Great Fire of London, which Pepys so famously recorded in his diary. This year also marks the 350th birthday of Pepys’ first two bookcases, or ‘presses’ as he called them. Pepys noted in July 1666 that he had lost the use of his books due to their being stacked up on chairs. Instead of emulating a library in an aristocratic house by fitting shelving to the walls in his modest lodgings on Seething Lane, Pepys decided upon a flexible (and affordable) approach to the storage of his books. He commissioned a ship’s Master Joiner, Thomas Simpson, to help create a radical new design. The freestanding ‘flat pack’ oak book presses, which can be dismantled and moved using the carrying handles fitted to the sides, indicate Pepys’ ambition to move into bigger and better accommodation. During Pepys’ lifetime, the presses were moved around as he changed his place of residence. However, the presses have never been moved from the Pepys Building since their arrival at Magdalene in 1724. During the Great Fire of London in September 1666, when the first two book presses were almost brand new, Pepys had them sent across the River Thames to Deptford for safe-keeping. A few weeks after the fire, Thomas Simpson returned to help ‘set them up’ again in Seething Lane. The book presses are a representation of Pepys’ understanding of book conservation and a reflection of his astuteness. By employing the services of a ship’s master joiner, Pepys used his naval connections to ensure a ‘good deal’ for the materials and workmanship, and the presses are reminiscent of ship’s furniture, for example the deep carving patterns in the wood. The wooden feet prevent damp and rodent damage, and the glazed fronts allow the books to be shown to their best advantage. This type of book storage was revolutionary, and the presses are now considered to be the oldest of their type with these particular features. Of course, books in the 17th century were still a symbol of status and the notion of books as aesthetically beautiful objects to enhance a room’s decoration was an important one. This idea, combined with Pepys’ love of order and organisation, leads to an obsession with achieving aesthetic perfection, and the overall look of the library was extremely important to him. The books are stored in order of height, going against contemporary practice of shelving books by subject matter. Although this seems a very illogical idea, we can be grateful to Pepys for his predilection for symmetry of form: by having books of the same size next to each other, the books are well supported and thus the bindings remain in a good condition to the present day. Pepys repeatedly vowed to himself in his diary that he would not buy any books which he did not have room for in his presses, but throughout his lifetime and as his wealth increased, he commissioned more presses to be made in the same design to house his ever-growing book collection. Although at first glance the presses look identical, there are slight differences: the later presses do not have adjustable shelving, whilst the early ones do. All twelve presses can be viewed in the Pepys Library during the public opening hours. Please see the Magdalene College Website for our opening times. F.E Cleary ESQ Frederick Ernest Cleary CBE (1905–1984) was a Chartered Surveyor and Property Entrepreneur from Crouch End, London. He was an environmentalist, conservationist and philanthropist. He was the founder of Haslemere Estates, a London-based development company that spearheaded, against the grain of the time (1958-1984), restoring existing buildings rather than demolishing and making way for glass and concrete edifices at much greater environmental cost. His philanthropic activities include the founding of two charitable trusts; The Cleary Foundation (1953) and The Bay Trust (1969) an environmental education charity. Within the City of London he gained the pseudonym 'Flowering Fred' for his philanthropic activity in establishing, maintaining and enhancing over 150 green spaces in inner London. He was the author of three books Beauty and the Borough, I'll Do it Yesterday and The Flowering City. Bob Forsyth Wood Carver Extraordinaire Bob Forsyth was known as a wood carver extraordinaire, below is an article detailing his specific works, he is from a Scottish family of wood carvers going back to the mid-19th century, the brothers were William and James Forsyth and carved neuroses religious statues in stone and wood Early in 2013 we visited the National Memorial Arboretum, Alrewas, Staffordshire, where there is plaque to a dear friend, John Petch. Access to the site, for those who travel by bus is poor except for Sundays. As it was a week day by the time we finally arrived a sit down and cup of tea was the first priority. In the corner of the cafeteria was a 10-foot tall, finely carved wooden policeman, complete with helmet. I immediately recognised the statue as the one I had last seen, some years ago, at Bramshill Police Training College. Dovorian, Police Sergeant Bob Forsyth had carved it for the centenary of Kent County (Police) Constabulary in 1957. Examination of one of the attached plaques confirmed this. Apparently, the carving was presented to Bramshill Police Staff Training College in 1958 and is on loan to the Arboretum where Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary, Sir David J O’Dowd on 26 September 2001, unveiled it. Bob was born on Tyneside and a keen sportsman, particularly rowing, he eventually joined the police. Of his children one – Alan – was in the same class at the Dover Boys Grammar School as my husband, also called Alan. There is Jean, his daughter, eldest son is Robert and Jim, the youngest, who was a fire-fighter in Dover. In his spare time, Bob developed his interest on woodcarving, working from his studio, at his home in Lower Road, River. Self-taught, he became one of the most commended word-carvers in the country and he also passed on his skills by teaching adult education classes up until he died on 29 April 1989. Showing a remarkable artistic talent from an early age, Bob was only 11-years old a pen and ink drawing of his was given highly commended. However, it was not until World War II that he turned to carving. With a group of fellow servicemen he was in a pub when someone produced a small carved figure by an African artist, saying that ‘None of our chaps could do anything like that.’ Bob bet £2 that he could and produced his first wood carving this is of ‘Flying Officer Kite,’ using wood from the end of a beechen air-raid bunk – he won his bet! He then went on to carve many pieces that are now highly acclaimed, perhaps the best known, at the local level is the life size carving of St Richard of Chichester that stands in the Stonehall, Maison Dieu. That statue was carved from elm tree trunk, which came from Waldershare Park in 1955 and was listed in the Dover District Council Art Audit in 1992. In 1959 Bob carved a plaque of Sir Winston Churchill, the then Lord Warden, for Colonel Cecil Lines. Six years later, in October 1965, Colonel Lines, councillor for Denton and Wootton, presented it to Dover Rural Council and, until their demise in 1974, gave it pride of place. However, it is in the church of Our Lady of Dover, Buckland Estate where one can see the magnificent Pieta, carved by Bob, which depicts Christ lifted from the cross by Mary Magdalene, with Mary mother of Jesus and Joseph of Arimathea in attendance. This was created at the behest of Peter Mee, who in 1974, became the first Town Mayor of Dover (after the 1972 Local Government Act). The figures are life size and the cross is over 15-feet high. It was in 1961 that Bob created this work of art using the engineering shop at the former Buckland Paper Mill, Crabble Hill. At the time, Bob said that when he was working on the face of Jesus, he could not get it right. In the end he went home feeling disgusted with himself. He returned to his makeshift studio the following morning with the intention of trying to rectify the carving but when he looked at the face – it was perfect, but not as he left it! In January 1994, Dover Harbour Board announced that the former White Cliffs Hotel, on Dover’s seafront, was being refurbished. In April that year, it re-opened as the Churchill Hotel with the Lord Lieutenant of Kent, Robin Leigh Pemberton marking the occasion by unveiling a cold-cast bronze plaque of Sir Winston Churchill. Jim Forsyth had made this, and it had been turned and cast by Barry Sheppard, of Rawlson Ltd, Holmestone Road, from the woodcarving made by his father, Bob, in 1958 and had been presented to Dover Rural Council. Of note, Barry was also in the same class at the Dover Boys’ Grammar School as Jim’s brother, Alan. In 2005, the Churchill Hotel became part of the Best Western Marketing Consortium. A couple of years later I was asked to give a talk at that venue, in which I planned to refer to the sculpture but it was missing! I enquired several times as to what had happened to it but was repeatedly told that the sculpture had gone for cleaning. Then on 28 January 2010, the Consortium announced that the hotel had ceased trading. By that time, I had brought Mike Krayenbrick of Dover Harbour Board into the search for the missing sculpture, along with Dover’s two local papers, Dover Mercury and Dover Express, but we all drew a blank. Besides carving the majestic pieces, Bob created numerous smaller pieces such as heraldic beasts, unicorns and owls as well religious pieces. During the Great Storm of 1987, Barry Sheppard lost his Japanese Pagoda tree and when he cut across the wood he was astounded by the different colours. He told Bob and he carved an owl for Barry out of it. Bob also carved for the Dover Probus Club the Chairman’s badge of office. This has Dover Castle on the front and a humorous verse on the reverse. It is worn with a ribbon at the monthly luncheons.     


  • In the Style Of
    Charles II
  • Place of Origin
  • Date of Manufacture
    20th Century
  • Wear
    Wear consistent with age and use. Minor fading.
  • Dimensions
    H 89.77 in. x W 51.97 in. x D 20.08 in.H 228 cm x W 132 cm x D 51 cm
  • Seller Location
    London, GB
  • Sold As
    Set of 2
  • Reference Number
Buyer Protection Guaranteed
Our Promise To You: If you're not happy with the way an item arrived, we'll work with you and the seller to reach an optimal resolution. Read more

Shipping, Returns & Payment

  • Shipping
    Rates vary by destination and complexity
    Shipping methods are determined by item size, type, fragility and specific characteristics.
    Shipping costs are calculated based on carrier rates, delivery distance and packing complexity.
  • Return Policy

    This item can be returned within 14 days of delivery.

    View details
  • Online Payment Methods
    1stdibs accepts the following payment methods
  • Item Invoice
    Generate an invoice that you can customize and print.

About the Seller

5 / 5
1stdibs seller since 2017
Located in London, GB
More From This Seller
Victorian Mahogany & Oak Library Bookcase Cabinet Adjustable Shelves Glass Doors
Victorian Mahogany & Oak Library Bookcase Cabin...
Library Bureau Makers
Antique 19th Century English Victorian Bookcases
Glass, Mahogany, Oak
We are delighted to offer for sale this absolutely stunning very grand Victorian Library bookcase cabinet with fully adjustable shelves You can fit an entire library in here, this...
Victorian Library Bookcase in Mahogany with Glazed Doors
Victorian Library Bookcase in Mahogany with Gla...
Antique 19th Century English Victorian Bookcases
Glass, Mahogany
We are delighted to offer for sale this nice vintage Flamed Mahogany Victorian dwarf bookcase with glazed doors A nicely made genuine Victorian piece with the original glass in t...
Lovely Vintage Flamed Mahogany & Boxwood Library Bookcase Cabinet, Twin Drawers
Lovely Vintage Flamed Mahogany & Boxwood Librar...
20th Century English Modern Cabinets
We are delighted to offer for sale this lovely hand made in England Flamed Mahogany Library Bookcase cabinet with twin drawers A good looking and functional piece of furniture, th...
Victorian Mahogany Glass Doored Library Bookcase Cabinet with Single Drawer
Victorian Mahogany Glass Doored Library Bookcas...
Antique Late 19th Century English Victorian Bookcases
Glass, Mahogany
We are delighted to offer for sale this lovely handmade Victorian Library bookcase cabinet with glass doors A very good looking, decorative and functional piece of furniture. This...
You May Also Like
Large Carved Oak Six Door Bookcase
Large Carved Oak Six Door Bookcase
Antique 19th Century English Renaissance Revival Bookcases
Brass, Glass, Oak
This bookcase has three glazed upper doors over three drawers and then three carved panel lower doors. The lower doors are highly carved and show various rural settings with people. ...
Large Antique Hand-Carved Oak Bookcase
Large Antique Hand-Carved Oak Bookcase
Antique Late 19th Century Danish Bookcases
Extraordinary, three door oak bookcase from Denmark with hand-carved columns and figureheads, made in two sections. The most notable carved elements are found in the crown where the ...
Mahogany Breakfront Library Bookcase
Mahogany Breakfront Library Bookcase
Antique Late 19th Century British Bookcases
Chippendale revival, mahogany breakfront library bookcase, the large rectangular top with scale moulded edge above six complex lattice glazed doors, fitted with bramah locks. The doo...
American Breakfront Bookcase "Library Bookcase with Wings"
American Breakfront Bookcase "Library Bookcase ...
Antique 19th Century American Neoclassical Bookcases
Glass, Mahogany, Wood
Breakfront bookcase [library book case with wings], circa 1815–1820 New York Mahogany (secondary woods: mahogany, pine, and poplar), with wood and composition capitals and bases, v...
PAIR of Italian Neoclassical Library Cabinets or Bookcases
PAIR of Italian Neoclassical Library Cabinets o...
Antique 18th Century and Earlier Italian Bookcases
Pair of Italian Neoclassical Cream and Gold Painted Dome-Top Library Cabinets, <br /> <br /> --Each with shell and C-scroll cresting over pair of glass doors mounted with gilt-meta...
Antique Georgian III Mahogany Library Bookcase
Antique Georgian III Mahogany Library Bookcase
Antique Early 1800s English George III Bookcases
Antique George III mahogany library bookcase in two sections and in very good original condition. The astral-glazed top section has three bookshelves inside that are fully adjustable...
19th Century Grand Hand Carved Stripped Oak English Bookcase
19th Century Grand Hand Carved Stripped Oak Eng...
Antique Mid-19th Century English Renaissance Revival Bookcases
Antique English Renaissance Revival bookcase is antique furniture crafted in 19th century on the grand scale. Hand carved in white oak this stately open bookcase features elaborate e...
Vintage Large Oak Bookcase
Vintage Large Oak Bookcase
Vintage 1940s Latvian Bookcases
The book shelves can be fixed in different positions, very simple construction. It features 2 fixed front legs and 2 added wooden cubes for a back support. The bookcase should be exp...

Why Shop on 1stdibs?

Learn More

Only Vetted, Professional Sellers

Buyer Protection Guaranteed

Fully Insured Global Deliveries