We are in absolute awe of this remarkable antique writing box.
The angled lid (or writing surface) along with the sides and interior bear the most astonishing Oriental decoration.
The look and feel of the box is achieved by layering and adorning heavy sheets of molded papier / paper mhé. As you can see, the background is rich black; this is achieved by first heavily lacquering or "Japanning" the surface of the box.
Household items very similar to this one were produced mainly in the early 1800's by Jennens and Bettridge, a British company based in Birmingham who specialized in lacquerware and paper mhé.
The company's head designer 1821-1835, Joseph Booth, utilized Oriental designs like the one you see here as well designs inspired by foreign goods brought to England by the East India Trading Company.
The lid is hinged at the lower end and lifts smoothly up to reveal an equally beautiful interior. Here you will find another hinged lid over a space where paper or parchment would have been stored. This is lined in luxurious, decoratively embossed blue velvet.
There is also a glass inkwell with a brass lid and a space for pens or quills. This pen tray is lidded with an intentionally loose piece of lacquered wood bearing a decoration similar to the motif on the lid.
Of course, the box shows expected wear due to its age: there is some slight finish loss and chipping and the lock is no longer functioning. The lacquer has crackled, though we think this enhances the antique look.
It appears to have been repaired along the inner-most edge and the right side is slightly loose.
This exquisite box speaks to an era when letters were written by hand and everyday items were made with an impeccable sense of quality and beauty.
Measurements: width 11", depth 8", height (front panel) 3.2", height (rear panel) 2", ink well 1.5" wide by 1.5" long by 1 5/8" tall, length of writing desk while open 14", width of writing desk 7.5" Weight: 2 lbs., 7 oz.