There are many forms of antique bookcases and here are a few examples of antique bookcases in different formats.
Antique Breakfront Bookcases
These are generally called breakfront bookcases because the middle section protrudes out. They can be open bookcases or ones with glazed doors & cupboards below. They can be Georgian, William IV, Regency, Victorian, Edwardian, or 20th century reproductions.
Some of these large three or four door bookcase are not always breakfront. They can also have straight fronts, although they will always have the bottom cupboards protruding out deeper than the top glazed ones. The general reason for the deeper cupboards below was for more storage use & possibly for larger heavier antique reference books.
Antique Secretaire Bookcases and Bureau Bookcases
These normally have bookcase top sections, with bureaux or secretaires below, so they were made for use as desks with space for books above.
Secretaire bookcase originated in the Georgian 1700’s period & they were designed by Thomas Chippendale. George Hepplewhite, Sheraton & many more famous designers. These secretaire bookcases would have the formate of a glazed bookcase above & a pull out secretaire desk section below, which would normally have a leather writing surface. Below the secretaire section would be a bank of drawers or a cupboard.
The same as above applies to the bureau bookcases. The only difference would be a angled fall flap which opened up to reveal the desk section.
Antique Glazed Bookcases
These normally consist of two glazed doors above & two cupboards below. Sometimes they have a drawer section in between the two sets of cupboards. The glazed cupboards vary in style depending on the period. The antique Georgian bookcases would normally have astral-glazed doors of various designs. The Chippendale versions being the most elaborate. The Victorian bookcases would normally have plain glass door.
Antique Open Bookcases
Antique open bookcases were also vary popular, especially the smaller ones & once again they can be Georgian, William IV, Victorian, Edwardian & 20th century.
They would have adjustable shelves, supported by wooden pegs on the sides or sharks teeth supports which would hold a flat wooden support to rest the shelves on. You can find very large four section open bookcases with cupboards below or all open shelves. There are also Dwarf Open Bookcases & Breakfront Open Bookcases.
Antique Dwarf Bookcases
These are called Dwarf Bookcases because they are of a lower height & can have three of four glazed sections. They can also be glazed, open & breakfront too.
Antique Stacking Bookcases
Another different form of bookcase is the Stacking Bookcase & these seem to come about in the late 19th century. Basically, they were made with different but interlocking sections, which just stacked on top of each other & some of them were made to be fixed together side by side or even as corner sections. These stacking bookcases were inter-locking with normally the deeper sections at the bottom. Generally the glazed doors would lift up & slide back into each section Some would be astral-glased with leaded glass & some would just be filled in panels. They would be generally be made in Oak, Mahogany or Walnut.
The most popular & probably the for-runner of these stacking bookcases was the Globe Wernicke bookcase, which was made by Globe Wernicke which was first established in 1899 by Otto Wernicke. Globe Wernicke had factories making these bookcases in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France & Germany.
There were many other versions of these stacking bookcases made by other companies like Minty & Lebus. There are stacking bookcases from the 1910, 1920’s & the Art Deco period. These stacking bookcases were also made in the 60’s & 70’s in the contemporary designs.
All these various forms of antique bookcases started off in the antique Georgian period, but like all antique period furniture they were reproduced in the William IV period, Victorian period, Edwardian period & the 20th century period. They were also made in many different designs, from the Arts & Crafts period, the Art Nouveau period & the Art Deco period. Nowadays, we also need to mention the Modernistic designs too, especially from the 1960’s & 70’s period. Some of these items can be worth a lot more than the antique versions. They will be made from many different woods – Mahogany, Rosewood, Oak, Satinwood, Walnut, Ebony, etc, etc. Some of these bookcases would have various decoration within the wood like inlays & marquetry. The most popular was Satinwood inlays. The veneers too were added to give more patterns.
The insides would normally have ochre finish, which is a coloured stain painted on. The shelves would normally be made from less expensive woods like oak or pine, but the shelf fronts would be capped with the same wood as on the bookcase. All original antique bookcases would have adjustable shelves & closed wooden sides. Some of these antique bookcases would have polished interiors inside the glazed bookcase sections.
The two section high antique bookcases would normally have a top cornice decoration, like a dental moulding or swags. A lot of these would have top pediments of different shapes & again these were first made popular in the George III period.