A design for library steps was patented in 1774 by Robert Campbell and later featured in Thomas Sheraton's The Cabinet-maker and Upholsterer's Drawing Book, Third Edition, London, 1802, plate V. According to Sheraton, the 'design was taken from steps that have been made by Mr. Campbell, Upholsterer to the Prince of Wales. They were first made for the King...'.
However it was Francois Hervé who appears to have made a speciality of this pattern of library steps, working in partnership with John Meschain at 32 John Street, London. Hervé is listed as a cabinet -maker and chair-maker and fulfilled important commissions for the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Devonshire and Earl Spencer, working in an elegant 'Anglo-French' style, his furniture often painted. Several sets of steps are signed by Hervé and Meschain, while others are identified by a wooden insert inscribed 'Hervé fecit ....' (clearly the present lot also once displayed this insert). A set of almost identical steps by Hervé is in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, museum no. W.7-1932, and illustrated in C. Gilbert, Pictorial Dictionary of Marked London Furniture 1700 - 1840, Leeds, 1996, p. 265, figs. 493 & 494.
A related set of steps was sold anonymously Christie's, London, 19 November 2009, lot 19 (£27,500 including premium).