Desks first appear in the late 17th century (1600's) as bureaus, i.e. a sloping front desk in which the writing surface can be openedand closed. They were an adaptation of the chest of drawers onto which the writing slope was fitted.
The bureau has subsequently become a very popular form and was made in great numbers during the 18th century.
They were closely followed in the Queen Anne (1702 – 1714) period by the kneehole-writing table. This was a small desk with drawers either side of a kneehole, which was often fitted with a central cupboard. These were either veneered in walnut or provincially constructed of oak.
It is not until the 1750’s that we start to see the pedestal desk that has become so popular today.
At this time the Caribbean islands made available mahogany, a wood which is richly figured and when polished and becomes a deep reddish brown colour.
This wood was a luxury item and popularised by designers, such as Thomas Chippendale, who were
working for wealthy patrons. Consequently most desks, which survive from the mid 18th century, were made for the country house library. They are often large, ornate, with carved embellishments, and command substantial prices due to their rarity.
The advent of the UK Industrial Revolution, in the later part of the 18th and early 19th century, lead to the rise of a business
class. This entrepreneurial group grew rapidly during this period and during the whole of the 19th century. They followed the fashions of the day and had a practical use for desks of all sizes within the workplace and at home.
Although desks from the late 18th and early 19th century are not common they are available. They are generally made of mahogany or using mahogany veneers.
It is when we reach the second quarter of the 19th century that we begin to find the majority of antique desks and writing tables that are available in the market today. They were made in a variety of styles and sizes throughout the 19th century.