The rectangular black leather-lined top with double re-entrant corners and a stepped molded edge in fiddle-back mahogany, above a confirming frieze centered at one side with a wide deep drawer arched below, the fine cross-banding highly figured veneered panels, flanked by two smaller drawers similarly banded and veneered flanked by stepped and molded capitals centered by a carved oval flower-head patera within a sunken panel within a molded frame with re-entrant corners, the reverse similar but with a false center drawer, each drawer mounted with foliate cast and gilt brass loop handles with circular back-plates with knurled edges and brass-faced locks with S shaped key-holes, the two pedestals each fronted at both sides with wide doors applied at each side with tapered paneled pilasters with scrolled capitals above a string of tapered husks issuing from a flower head, and flanking cross-banded figured panels centered by oval flame-mahogany veneered panels within conforming guilloche-carved moldings and with brass-faced locks with S shaped key-holes, each drawer opening to six drawers, each with a different letter of the alphabet inlaid in ivory, excluding J and V, with molded gilt-brass loop handles with circular back-plates with molded edges, the lidded interiors with concealed brass hinges, steel-faced locks with S shaped key-holes and blue morocco leather pulls, the sides with a similarly cross-banded frieze flanked by conforming flower-head patera ornamented panels above conforming carved and tapered pilasters flanking a cross-banded panel of figured mahogany centered by a circular figured panel within a carved guilloche molding, the whole supported on a stepped and molded conforming plinth with double re-entrant corners.\nThis highly important library table was commissioned by John Martin (1724-1794) from Thomas Chippendale, circa 1773, for his new house, Ham Court, Upton-on-Severn, Worcestershire. The son third of John Martin of Overbury Court, Worcester, M. P. for Tewksbury, 1741-1747, he married on the 3rd of December 1761, Judith, only daughter and heiress of William Bromley, of Ham Court, Worcestershire. He was a member of a prominent family of Lombard Street bankers, and although not a partner, he is recorded as a large investor in the firm. When the table was last sold in 1980 it was believed that the only ledgers still existing pertaining to the personal account of John Martin, preserved in the Martin’s Bank archives at Barclay’s Bank, were for the years 1784-1786, an entry recording a payment to ‘Haig & Co’ for £23 7s. (Archive: SA 89/2). Thomas Chippendale’s firm was called Haig & Company after his death in 1779. Haig was book-keeper and executor of James Rannie, Chippendale’s first partner, and after his death remained with the firm, his letters portraying him as ‘an efficient administrator with financial acumen’ (Gilbert, op. cit. p. 14). After Chippendale the elder’s death, he became the senior partner with Thomas Chippendale jr. until his retirement in 1796. However, subsequent enquiries by Sotheby’s has revealed the existence of further ledgers for the years 1770-1776 which records two further payments by John Martin from his personal account to Thomas Chippendale. The first of these is dated the 5th September 1773 ‘to Chippindale (sic) £89 11s.’ (Archive: 140/349 folio-393), the second dated 9th May 1775 ‘to Chippindale (sic) & Co £44 00s.’ Archive: 140/111 folio 402. One of these accounts undoubtedly includes the payment for the present table and together they indicate a larger commission. Unfortunately, at the present time it does not appear that any actual bills from Chippendale survive in the Martin family papers now deposited in the Worcester County Records Office\nAs previously mentioned John Martin commenced the building of a new house, Ham Court, on his wife’s extensive estate at Upton-on-Severn, 1770-1772, designed by Anthony Keck (1726-1797). Keck had an extensive practice in the West Midlands appearing to have been the leading architect in the counties of Gloucestershire, Worcestershire and Herefordshire from 1770-1790 His most prestigious country house projects were at Moccas Court, Herefordshire, Penrice Abbey, Glamorgan and the orangery at Margam Abbey in the same county. As Kingsley (op. cit p. 140) remarks ‘Within his houses, he relied on the proportion and shape of rooms, and on proportion and shape of rooms, and on exquisitely under-stated Adamesque decoration, to create an abiding and almost Regency elegance’, continuing that he ‘was remarkably quick not only to copy the Adam manner, but to establish a simplified version of it which suited both the lower temperature of his own architecture and the shallower pockets of his provincial clients’.\nCertainly the design and decoration of Ham Court appear to follow this pattern, although, as the house was demolished in the 1920’s, we have to rely on a small number of photographs of the exterior and interior which illustrated the catalogue of the estate when it was sold by auction by Messrs. Mabbett & Edge of Mount Street, London, on behalf of E. Bromley Martin, Esq., October 27 & 28, 1914. Photographs show the house to have been ‘H’ shaped , the link being of three storeys and five bays flanked by long, low wings of two storeys, seven bays with pediments on the side elevations. The principal rooms on the ground floor, which were described in the sale particulars, included ‘The Saloon’, ‘The Very Elegant Drawing Room’, ‘The Dining Room’ and ‘The Large Library or Billiard Room’, for which the present Library Table was undoubtedly commissioned. This is described as occupying ‘ the Eastern end of the Main Front and ha a bow window end similar to the Drawing Room, and also two windows facing the South Lawns, now temporarily screened by bookcases.\nTHE ROOM is 36 ft. long by 20ft 6ins. wide, and therefore allows ample room for a full-sized Billiard Table if desired. It has an oak floor and oak window sashes, a mantelpiece of carved wood representing the Sacrificial Altar with figures of winger allegorical beasts, scrolls and medallions, and other typical ornaments.\nTHE ROOM is fitted with old polished mahogany Bookcases also of the Period, with carved uprights and palm leaf cornices, 7 ft. 6 ins. In height and of about 50 ft. run in several convenient divisions.\nThese Bookcases, which are of considerable value, are included in the sale.’\nThis important Library Table, now confirmed as the work of Thomas Chippendale, is related to two others which, although markedly different in execution, share a common basic design. The first was commissioned by Sir Rowland Wynn, Bart., for his library at Nostell Priory, Yorkshire, the account, dated June 30, 1767, describing his table as ‘a large mahogany library table of very fine wood with doors on each side of the bottom part & with drawers within on one side and partitions on the other, with terms of ditto carvd & ornamented with Lions heads & paws, with carved ovals in the panels of the doors & the top covered with black leather, & the whole completely finishd in the most elegant taste’ for the price of £72 10s., which Gilbert (op.cit.p.169) described as being carved ‘to create an impression of concentrated richness which never verges on showy vulgarity’. The second library table, which is mounted with gilt-metal and veneered with rosewood inlaid with various pattern in the Neo-Classical manner, was made for Edwin Lascelles for Harewood House Yorkshire, Gilbert considered to be ‘definitely less highly finished and together more jaded than masterpieces commissioned for other rooms in the house’ (Gilbert op. cit. p. 201-202). He continued that ‘Most patrons ordered impressive, but not extravagantly sumptuous furniture for their library; a slightly utilitarian character was even regarded as appropriate.’ This comment neatly describes the present table which, although conforming in basic profile to the Nostell Priory and Harewood tables, is decidedly more restrained in its overall decoration, but still superbly designed. Each table is of rectangular form, the Harewood example being some 12 inches wider than the other, the construction with double-re-entrant corners with tapered pilasters framing the doors and ends being identical. Each is ornamented with either carvings in wood or in gilt metal, that of the Nostell Priory table being considerably bolder with strongly modeled lions’ masks and feet and boldly carved swags and applied ovals of husks which, although showing strong Neo-Classical form, show affinities with the carved decoration found on furniture of the 1750s. In contrast, the carved decoration on the Ham Court table is far more refined and restrained, characteristics more commonly found in the Neo-Classical designs of Robert Adam in the 1770s. The placement of this carved detail, particularly that on the Nostell Priory and the Ham Court table is strikingly similar, each having oval frames centered by richly figured veneered mahogany panels on the doors, the ends with circular frames laid over plainer mahogany. Although inlaid and gilt-metal mounted, the ends of the Harewood table are similarly centered by circles.\nEach is constructed with a central drawer, the apron en traverse, with a dummy drawer at the opposite side. The close similarity between the Ham Court and Nostell Priory tables is also apparent when comparing the simple mahogany cross-banding of the drawers bordering highly figured veneered panels. The pilasters are similarly formed and molded, although ornamented by more delicate and restrained carving in the Ham Court example. These details are also apparent in the construction of an Artist’s Table also supplied by Chippendale for Nostell Priory in 1767 (Gilbert op. cit. fig. 396) The Ham Court table differs from the other two in having lidded drawers fitted to each pedestal, the others having both drawers and folio slides. As with the Nostell Priory table, the doors and drawers are fitted with locks with distinctive S shaped key-holes and locks. These appear to be peculiar to Chippendales’ work, also appearing on the set of library bookcases at Brocket Hall, and which were fitted to ‘A Large French Commode Table’ supplied to the Earl of Shelburne in 1768, the account describing them as ‘very good spring and tumbler locks & S-Bitted Keys’ (Gilbert op.cit. p. 255). All the locks have brass back-plates, the gilt-brass handles to the drawers being a model used frequently by Chippendale, appearing on a japanned clothes press at Nostell Priory supplied in 1771 (Gilbert, op. cit. fig. 263). They are also found on the Ham Court commode mentioned below.\nOverall the Ham Court table is superbly constructed using exceptional mahogany veneers and solid timbers on the exterior, finely grained mahogany, oak and simple pine being used in the interior, all the drawer linings being in mahogany. The banding and moldings to the top are particularly unusual in their use of mahogany cut from fiddle-back grain, which is rarely used in this manner. It is interesting to note that a slight change was made to the drawers within the pedestals, obviously by Chippendale, and presumably before the table was delivered. Originally the covers to the drawers were hinged at the extreme back which would have required them to be taken out of the carcass to be opened, an impractical device. The hinges were then moved forward allowing the lids to be raised while the drawer was only three-quarters open. Presumably at the same time the loop handles, which were fitted to the drawers, were removed and the fronts of the drawers inlaid with the letters of the alphabet in ivory. Evidence of this can be seen beneath some of this lettering. The Morocco leather lifts to the lids of these drawers possibly indicate the original color of the leather top; of a blue/green hue, Chippendale is known to have used this color.\nWhen the table was sold by John Martin’s descendant, E. Bromley Martin, Esq., at Christie’s in 1924, the sale included some forty lots of furniture, not only originally from Ham House, but also from another source, the Bourne family of Acton Hall. Although these are noted, it is still difficult to ascertain as to whether or not the sale included other pieces which could have possibly been supplied by Chippendale to John Martin as part of the original commission. The tantalizingly short descriptions and lack of illustrations makes identification of any of these, such as lot 71 ‘A pair of Chippendale mahogany torchéres, with circular tops with pierced galleries, on spirally fluted stems and beaded tripod – 44 in. high’, or lot 65 ‘A Chippendale small octagonal table, with pierced gallery round the top carved with foliage, on cluster column stem and carved tripod - 24 ½ in. high’, almost impossible to now trace. However, with lot 76 ‘A CHIPPENDALE MAHOGANY COMMODE, of serpentine shape, with three drawers – 52 in. wide’, positive identification can be made. This commode, now in an English private collection, has, fortunately, retained its provenance from that sale and can be confirmed as the work of Chippendale both stylistically and its manner of construction. It also retains its original gilt brass pulls which are identical to the present library table. In form and detail it is identical to ‘a distinguished pair of serpentine mahogany commodes’ (Gilbert, op.cit., p. 259 and fig. 226) which were almost certainly supplied by Chippendale to Daniel Lascelles for Goldsborough Hall, Yorkshire, c. 1771-1776. The brother of Edwin Lascelles of Harewood House, one of Chippendale’s major patrons, much of his furniture was subsequently moved to Harewood and ‘although elegant, was less obviously rich’ (Gilbert, op.cit.) than his brother’s ostentatious furnishings of that house.\nIt is also possible that the bookcases originally fitted in the Library at Ham Court were part of this original commission. Unfortunately, the photograph in the particulars for the sale of the estate in 1914 only illustrate part of these, although this does indicate that they were simple in form with restrained carving certainly sympathetic with the present table.\nWhen sold by Christie’s in 1924 the library table was acquired by Albert Amor for the sum of 950gns.. Amor and his managing director W. L. Perkins were leading London dealers in English porcelain and English furniture, were Antiquary’s to Queen Mary. They presumably purchased the table on commission for Edward Charles Grenfell, a director of the banking firm Morgan Grenfell, who was Created Lord St. Just in 1935. It was then sold at Christie’s in 1980 by the 2nd Lord St. Just to the leading London dealers, Partridge, for the sum of £70,500.. It was then acquired by Edmond Safra, thus continuing ownership by leading bankers since being commissioned from Thomas Chippendale in the 18th century.