Sometimes you have to look, really look, at a piece of furniture to even understand what is was made for. It`s a sort of mental puzzle to put all the clues together. And sometimes you come up with something that even surprises you.
I`m going to take this table as a good example of what I mean. I bought it from a photo on the internet, similar to the first photo here. I could see it was a corner table, dating from about 1780 from the pad feet. I could also see the drop-leaf top had an excellent untouched colour, so I thought lets give it a go. The one thing that really bothered me was the lozenge- shaped insert, slap bang in the middle of the flap. It could very well mean the top was made from a piece of timber disassociated with the bottom. However, I thought that if it was cheap enough, lets have it!
Sure enough, I purchased it, and it was delivered a couple of days later. First impressions told me that the gate leg that held the flap up was original and that when it was up, the square table looked right. Turning it upside down the patina along the edge where countless hands had lifted that flap before me, told me that the top did indeed belong to the bottom. But what else was going on underneath?
There was an additional support that turned out from underneath the gate leg, and underneath the flap was a brass strip that had been sprung, allowing for that odd lozenge in the top to be raised and lowered. A book rest perhaps? The spring looked original, especially when I took into account that the side of the gate leg had been made to accept it when the flap was down. One problem though. From the top of the book rest to the top of the table, there just wasn`t enough space to rest a book without it falling backwards.
Then I noticed that the whole of the other side of the table-top lifted up. At first I had thought it was broken, until I realised this was the rest of the book rest. Eureka! Not only did I have a nice little corner table, I also had a one-off corner/ reading table. I`ve never seen another like it!
And the bad news. Well the side drawer is a later replacement, and I suspect the original contained some sort off mechanism for keeping the top flap in the reading table position. What we have today works perfectly well, but I suspect the original was more satisfactory.