Such writing-desks with hinged flaps at the top and front of the drawer were referred to as a 'bureau' in the late 17th century. One of the earliest references to such a bureau is recorded in a bill of Gerrit Jensen who, in January 1688, supplied 'a little Bewre Walnuttree' to Colonel James Grahme of Levens Hall, Westmorland for £4. Two examples with similar fall fronts are illustrated in A. Bowett, English Furniture 1660-1714, London, 2002, p. 212, figs. 7:33 & 7:34. The latter are veneered in burr-maple and walnut. A closely related kneehole desk with a similar drawer and fall arrangement was offered anonymously, Christie's, New York, 23 October 1982, lot 205.
The arrangement of the end or obliquely-cut veneers on the top of this desk relates to an escritoire illustrated in Bowett, i bid., pl. 7:30, p. 209. The timber used in the manufacture of the latter and the present piece was referred to in the late 17th and early 18th centuries as 'princeswood', probably Dalbergia cearensis, a type of rosewood with a deep red colour which loses its hue rapidly. This is now referred to as kingwood.