The invention of this ingenious table enclosing a set of steps is attributed to Robert Campbell of Seven Dials, London, who patented the design in 1774. A set of library steps supplied in 1777 to Saltram, Devon, bears Campbell's trade label. By 1788 Campbell's patent had expired, allowing rival cabinet-makers to exploit the ingenious design. For the next twenty years, library ladders and steps in a range of shapes, including stools, tables and chairs, were widely produced. Campbell's design was published in Thomas Sheraton's Drawing Book, 1793 (see C.Gilbert, Pictorial Dictionary of Marked London Furniture 1700-1840, Leeds, 1996, pp.20-21, and p.134, pl.185). Gillows illustrated an almost identical table in their Estimate Sketch Book in 1798. The steps offered here are almost identical to a set at Ardgowan, Renfrewshire, a house furnished by Gillows in 1801, and illustrated in Susan Stuart, Gillows of Lancaster and London, 2008, vol. II, p. 108, pl. 655.
A related set of library steps was sold anonymously Christie's, London, 19 November 2009, lot 19 (£27,500 including premium).