Designed in the George III 'antique' manner with 'Etruscan' ebony veneer highlighted by purpleheart crossbanding in imitation of 'Attic' vases, these library tables can be confidently attributed to Messrs. Gillows of London and Lancaster. The distinctive pattern of wreathed patera handle is seen on several pieces by Gillows, including the architect's desk stamped 'GILLOWS LANCASTER' and sold in these Rooms, 10 June 1999, lot 161 - which in turn corresponds to a design for a 'Bureau writing-table' with these same handles of 1789 which featured in Gillow's working drawings (L. Boynton, Gillow Furniture Designs 1760-1800, Royston, 1995, fig.24, 117 and 121).
Interestingly, a 'Library table' of this bureau-plat form, was executed in 1792 by John Crookall and appears in the Estimate Sketch Book of Gillow of London and Lancaster. The latter mahogany table, with black leather top, cost almost £5 to manufacture, and was fitted with eight of Gillows' 'oval' pattern handles instead of the type indicated in the design.
This basic handle pattern first appears in Gillows 1788 Estimate Sketch-Book, whose Palmyreen Apollo-sunflowered medallion paterae wreathed by reeds that are wrapped by Roman acanthus is likely to have been inspired by the ornament of Rome's celebrated 'Tomb of Bacchus' chest illustrated in G.B. Piranesi, Le Antichita Romane, II, Rome, 1756, pl. XXV.
The Mote, an austere house in the Grecian style, was built for Charles, 1st Earl of Romney by the prison architect Daniel Asher Alexander between 1793 and 1801. It was certainly complete for occupation by 1799, for in August of that year King George III and Queen Charlotte stayed with Lord Romney and reviewed a 6,000 strong corps of Kentish Volunteers. A celebrated connoisseur and bibliophile, these tables presumably stood in Lord Romney's Library at the Mote - the books from this being sold Sotheby's following his death at Sotheby's in 1813.
Although there were furniture sales by subsequent Earls of Romney at Christie's on 26 March 1885 and at Sotheby's, 26 June 1936 and 8 October 1948, these writing tables do not appear. They are, however, reputed to have come from the Bearsted Collection at Upton House, Warwickshire. It is, therefore, pertinent that Marcus Samuel, later 1st Viscount Bearsted purchased The Mote from Lord Romney in the 1890's, together with much of its contents including English portraits and furniture.