Desk-and-Bookcase (1992.66)

On May 5, 1800, Nathaniel V billed John Lyon Gardiner (1770-1816) £20.8s. for making this desk-and-bookcase. The charge included crating and carting it to a waterfront area of East Hampton Village known as Fireplace and loading it onto a sloop bound for Gardiner's Island. It took approximately eighteen days to build.


Presumably, for the sake of efficiency, Nathaniel V devised an unorthodox method for making the scrolled-pediment moldings. Separately, he turned two workpieces attached to the arbor and cross of the great-wheel lathe, as if turning a tea-table top. He dished one workpiece with a projecting, convex molding and cut the other with a concave, receding molding with matching profile. After cutting the circular moldings from the workpieces, he quartered them and attached a convex and concave piece to each side of the pediment, leaving a clearly visible joint at the midpoint, where each side of the arched pediment "breaks," or changes direction.

He cantilevered the bookcase on brackets attached to the back of the desk so that it would clear a chair rail and fit snugly against the wall.

This was probably the most ambitious piece of furniture produced by Nathaniel V, and it is certainly the costliest listed in the Dominy account books. Much of the cost involved the making of its thirteen drawers. Shaped dividers and arched valances provide relief for the plain interior of both sections.

Dominy based the design on Newport case furniture. He probably modeled the scrolled pediment with conforming raised panels on a chest-on-chest with similar pediment that he saw in Gardiner’s home. Compare the Dominy's desk-and-bookcase with the one below made in Newport circa 1785 (1959.2646)