Slant top desk

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The slant top desk can be considered in some ways as the ancestor or the little brother of the secretary desk for it is, for all practical purposes, a secretary desk without the massive bookcase on top of it. It can also be considered as the descendant, in form, of the desk on a frame, which was a form of portable desk in earlier eras.

Modern slant top desk
Slant top desk in the block front seashell style, 18th century.
Side view of a slant top desk.

In some places the slant top desk is known as a "bureau" desk, and in others it goes under the name of slope-front desk. In the United States, the slant top desk is sometimes called a Governor Winthrop desk, in memory of John Winthrop, the 17th century governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. As Winthrop died in 1647, he had no actual connection to this style of desk, which originated in the 18th century and is especially associated with Chippendale. The name "Winthrop" was attached to this kind of desk by the Winthrop Furniture Co. of Boston, Massachusetts, who offered their "Gov. Winthrop" desk in 1924, during the colonial revival period.

Like the Wooton desk, the fall front desk and others with a hinged desktop (and unlike closable desks with an unmovable desktop like the rolltop desk or the cylinder desk) all documents and various items must be removed from the work surface of the slant-top desk before closing up.

The slant-top desk has been handcrafted in a variety of styles, the most famous being probably the block front seashell desk of the 18th century which was popular among the well-to-do of Colonial America.

The slant-top desk has also been mass-produced in a great quantity of sub-forms and materials. For instance, some slant top desks have very crude chains or levers to hold the desktop in an open working position, while others have elegant sliders ("lopers") which are manually or automatically extended to give support.

See also[edit]


  • Aronson, Joseph. The Encyclopedia of Furniture. 3rd ed. New York: Crown Publishers, 1966.
  • Boyce, Charles. Dictionary of Furniture. 2nd ed. New York: Roundtable Press Book, 2001.
  • Gloag, John. A Complete Dictionary of Furniture. Woodstock, N.Y. : Overlook Press, 1991.
  • Moser, Thomas. Measured Shop Drawings for American Furniture. New York: Sterling Publlishing Inc., 1985.
  • Romand, Didier. L'argus des meubles. Paris: Balland, 1976.