Reading-chairs were designed so that the reader could sit facing the back with their legs astride and resting their arms. Some chairs were also fitted with an adjustable desk on which to rest a book. A chair of this pattern, associated with the poet John Gay (d. 1732), was illustrated in The Builder, 30 March 1878, as part of the historic 'author's chairs' collection assembled at Cromwell Place by the architect George Godwin (d. 1888). When acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1948, the chair was claimed to have 'had genuine connections with the poet's family'. Henry Lee, a touring actor and author, had included a poem entitled 'To my Chair' which was attributed to John Gay, a native of Barnstaple, in his booklet Gay's Chair of 1820. It was claimed that the poem had been found in 1818 in the drawer of the prototype reading-chair which has since been known as 'Gay's chair', although it has also been referred to as 'The Barnstaple Chair' in an article in Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries, 1955 (Vol. XXVI, pt. 5, p. 134). Its association with both Gay and Barnstaple was also discussed following its sale from a property in the High Street, Barstaple, in 1849 (lustrated London News, London, 1849, vol. 15, pt.2, p. 284, C. Graham, Ceremonial and Commemorative Chairs in Great Britain, Avon, 1994, p. 91, fig. 111 and D. Fitz-Gerald, Georgian Furniture, London, 1969, no. 8).
Two similar chairs with swivel drawers in the arms and a drawer in the frieze, were sold by the Executors of the late the Rt. Hon. the Earl of Buckinghamshire, Sotheby's London, 25 October 1963, lots 137 and 138.