The satinwood bookcase displays a number of features closely associated with the cabinet-making partnership of William Ince (1737-1804) and John Mayhew (1736-1811) of Broad Street, Soho. The same Muse figure features in a painted medallion embellishing a tambour writing-table formerly at Durdans, Epsom (L. Wood, Catalogue of Commodes, London, 1994, p. 229, fig. 215). Ince and Mayhew also favoured the use of richly-figured yew veneer, as seen on a bureau-writing-table at Burghley, Lincolnshire. An arched pediment featured on a mahogany bookcase also attributed to the firm ('Dealing in Excellence: A Celebration of Hotspur and Jeremy; Christie's, London, 20 Novenber 2009, lot 90).
Weald Hall was purchased by Thomas Tower (1700-78) in 1759. He died unmarried and the house passed to his nephew Christopher Tower (d. 1810) of Huntsmoor Park, Buckinghamshire, in 1778. In October and November of that year, the celebrated architect-designer, Robert Adam (1728-92), was engaged to refurbish the interiors including designing ‘fresh decorations for the new ‘eating-room’ to the left of the great hall (‘Weald Hall, Essex: The seat of Mr Christopher Tower’, Country Life, 3 October 1914, p. 456). The extant Adam drawings in the Soane museum include twenty-one designs for alterations to the house including designs for the interior decoration of the saloon, drawing room and dining room, and preliminary designs for a table and curtain cornice for the dining room. From 1764, Ince and Mayhew worked with Adam on several notable commissions, culminating in their 'ability to produce very early on furniture in the most startling advanced Neo-classical taste' (G. Beard, C. Gilbert, Dictionary of English Furniture Makers 1660-1840, Leeds, 1986, p. 592). Their joint commissions included Coventry House, Piccadilly and Croome Court for the 6th Earl of Coventry followed by work at Sherborne Castle, Audley End, Shelburne House, Northumberland House, Kimbolton and Derby House.
The bookcase celebrates lyric poetry and is designed in the elegant George III 'Roman' fashion of the 1770s. Its triumphal-arched temple pediment, intended to be crowned by sacred urns, has its tympanum labelled with a beribboned medallion of Erato, the lyre-playing Muse of Love Poetry and Mount Parnassus companion of Apollo as leader of Artistic Inspiration. Its architecture corresponds to that of a 'Design for [a bookcase] for a Gentleman's Villa', illustrated in 1774 in John Carter's, Builder's Magazine (see E. White, Pictorial Dictionary of British 18th Century Furniture Designs, Woodbridge, 1990, p. 243). Its 'commode' base is mosaic-parquetry with golden Apollonian laurels enwreathing Roman medallions of burr-yew, such as featured on a pattern for an urn-capped 'Lady's Secretary and Library' published the following year in Thomas Malton's Compleat Treatise on Perspective, 1775 (ibid., p. 228).
The glazing pattern was invented and engraved in 1753 by the St. Martin's Lane cabinet-maker Thomas Chippendale (1718-1779) and featured in his Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker's Director, 3rd edition, 1762, plate XC.