A Book Arts Box, Circa 1800

Hand-tooled leather covered dome-top box, first quarter 19th century, Toronto. (Shown here against a Canon inkjet printer for scale)

One of the many diverse things I do to cobble together a living is to write about the antiques market here in Canada. It is always a bit strange to go to auctions, take photographs and copious notes but walk away with nothing – I simply don’t have the spending power. However, every now and then something comes up that I can’t resist, such as this early 19th century dome-topped document box, which I bid for and won at the sale of Henry and Barbara Dobson’s collection held in Napanee, Ontario on October 22, 2011, held by Tim Potter Auctions. (My article on the auction will appear in the Jan/Feb issue of The Upper Canadian Antiques Showcase, available early in January).

The paper lining inside has been decorated with some kind of faint wash of watercolour through some kind of patterned template or stencil.

Stencil pattern on paper lining.


A closer inspection shows that the paper lining itself are pages of a book, probably printers’ waste since they are full sheets, not folded, cut then collaged in from an existing book. It’s early enough since the ‘s’s are represented by ‘f’s, eg “fally forth for feafhells by the feafhore” etc. Kind of a cool find, and as luck would have it within my financial scope.I read some of the mtter – excruciatingly boring, whatever it is which may explain why it ended up lining a box.

Click to see the text in the lining paper.

Still, I carried this home with me after the auction and regretted the purchase, thinking that I could have spent the money on a fine press book. This was driven home with particular emphasis while I was at the OCAD Book Arts Fair a week ago! Ah well, when my reserves are back and I do get some more books, I have a classy place to keep them!


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