Gillows of London and Lancaster, with their trade in the finest mahogany, were quick to draw inspiration from the fashionable patterns published from 1754-1762 by Thomas Chippendale and his rival cabinet-makers. They were also to develop a highly functional 'harlequin' library desk, with rising top and secretaire or fitted drawer, that was to become a masterpiece of the firm's cabinet-work. A popular feature of many of these Gillows desks was a frieze drawer with alphabet-inscribed medallions inlaid on lidded compartments. This desk relates to their pattern, with double ratchet-supported top and 'turn down' front with quadrant supports, featured in their 1798 Estimate Sketch Book (p. 1481). In addition the arched recess is filled with a commode compartment. Gillows' most famous desk of this type, was supplied in 1810 for Sir Walter Scott's Edinburgh house. Its cost of 'about 30 ready money' was funded from the success of his poem 'The Lady of the Lake', and it was inspired by one that he had seen at Rokeby Hall, Yorkshire. After visiting Rokeby in that year, Scott had written to his host, 'You know I fell in love with your Library table and now that The Lady has put crowns into my purse I would willingly treat myself unto the like'. Scott's Gillows desk was later transferred to Abbotsford, where it appears, laden with books, in a view of his study executed in 1832 (C. Wainwright, The Romantic Interior, London, 1989, fig. 162).
A closely related desk by Gillows, was sold anonymously, Christie's, London, 26 January 2006, lot 114.