Roll-top desk

Roll-top desk
Paris, circa 1775
Oak and pine structure, bloodwood veneer, blue Turquin marble, gilt bronze
Gift in memory of Monsieur Émile Perrin, member of the Institut de France, as a tribute by his son Émile, 1909
Inv. 16391
© Photo MAD, Paris / Jean Tholance

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In all likelihood, it was the cabinetmaker Jean-François Œben who invented the roll-top desk, to cater for the need to both store documents and conceal work from view. It represents a form of evolution from the flat-topped desk towards the secrétaire writing desk. One could now instantly conceal private papers or work in progress simply by pulling down the roll top and locking it. The work surfaces can be increased with flaps on either side and at the back, enabling four people to work at the same time.