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Work of the Week: Library Ladder

Badminton House in Gloucestershire, England, is perhaps best known as the home of the first badminton game, played on a rainy day in 1863, but was the principal country residence for the Dukes of Beaufort. Additions to decor were made across the generations, and this library ladder was one of the 5th Duke of Beaufort's, added in 1782. In the account books for that year, there is an entry—“February 23 to Wm France Library Ladder 16 Pounds 11"—referring to the London cabinetmaker William France, Jr. As a scholar, the 5th Duke paid careful attention to the decoration of his library, and included this stunning mahogany ladder that reaches just over 8 feet tall. The Chinese-style cutouts decorating the sides seem to have been inspired by the Chinese-style bed at Badminton, building on past generations’ additions.

See Library Ladder and other works of European decorative arts in Gallery 233.


William France. Library Ladder, 1782. The Antiquarian Society; Fred and Kay Krehbiel; purchased with funds provided by Neville and John H. Bryan; European Decorative Arts Purchase Account Fund; through prior purchase of the Estate of Reid Martin; Mr. Henry Hawley; through prior bequest of Francis S. McCormick; through prior gift of Robert Allerton; through prior purchases of Mrs. Wolfgang Shoenborn, Mrs. John Graham Jr., Mrs. C. Morse Ely through the Antiquarian Society, Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong, Mrs. Samuel G. Rautbord, Mrs. Marilyn H. Karsten, and Mr. Barry Friedman.