Tall Adaptable Desk. Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc.

Artist/Maker: Unknown

Created: 1770-1785

Origin/Purchase: Virginia

Materials: mahogany; yellow pine

Dimensions: 116.5 × 91.4 × 58.4 (45 7/8 × 36 × 23 in.)

Location: Monticello Visitor Center

Provenance: Thomas Jefferson; by descent to Thomas Jefferson Randolph; by descent to Hollins N. Randolph; by bequest to Mrs. Hollins N. Randolph; by purchase to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation in 1938

Accession Number: 1938-22

Historical Notes: One of the more interesting pieces of furniture owned by Jefferson is this tall, adaptable desk for reading or drawing. The angle of the top, hinged at the front, can be adjusted with a ratchet stand. A bail handle pulls forward the front of the desk to reveal a flat, lined writing surface. Supported by six legs, the desk has mostly replacement Chinese fretwork brackets beneath the skirt. The original—presumably brass—list to prevent books, papers, or writing implements from slipping is missing. The straight legs sit on casters.

The desk, whose angled top is large enough to accommodate a folio, is similar to a partially illegible description of one that Jefferson ordered from the Williamsburg cabinetmaker George Donald.[1] The dimensions specified by Jefferson, however, do not exactly match the existing desk.

-Text from Stein, Worlds, 252 


  1. ^ The note is recorded in MB, April 6, 1769, 1:18. Transcription available at Founders Online.