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contents Antique Boxes at the Sign of the Hygra

2 Middleton Road, London, E8 4BL
PHONE: 00 44 (0)20 7254 7074


The Schiffer Book: Antique Boxes, Tea Caddies & Society --- 1700-1880 
Antigone Clarke & Joseph O'Kelly

ISBN: 0764316885
Size: 9" x 12"
Extensive text. Illustrations: 887 color photos, 18 b/w illustrations. Pages: 304
  1st Edition is out of print.

The second augmented and updated edition is in preparation. 




Part I  
Chapter 1    Eighteenth Century 
Chapter 2    Neoclassicism
Chapter 3    Chinoiserie
Chapter 4    Regency
Chapter 5    Trade and Taste
Chapter 6    Victorian

Part II 
Chapter 7    Painted, Penwork
Chapter 8    Papier-Mâché
Chapter 9    Tunbridge Ware
Chapter 10    Tortoiseshell and Ivory
Chapter 11    Filigree or Rolled Paper
Chapter 12    Straw Work
Chapter 13    Scottish
Chapter 14    Irish
Chapter 15    Oriental Lacquer
Chapter 16    Anglo-Indian

Part III   
Chapter 17    Tea Caddies
Chapter 18    Card Boxes
Chapter 19    Sewing Boxes or Workboxes
Chapter 20    Dressing Boxes
Chapter 21    Knife Boxes
Chapter 22    Writing Boxes and Slopes
Chapter 23    Table Cabinets
Chapter 24    Other Boxes

Appendix. Box Makers
Select Bibliography

Antique Boxes, Tea Caddies & Society --- 1700-1880 can be ordered from Amazon by clicking on the links below:

Please support this site by purchasing with these links.


And from Barnes and Noble with the link below:

The  1st Edition is out of print.

The second augmented and updated edition is in preparation. 


Customers in Australia and New Zealand can order from:

Peribo Pty Limited
 58 Beaumont Road
Mount Kuring-Gai  NSW  2080
Tel: +61 (0) 2 9457 0011
Fax: +61 (0) 2 9457 0022
Mob: +61 (0) 412 656 334

From the Flap:

Antique Boxes,

Tea Caddies,

& Society


Antigone Clarke &

Joseph O'Kelly

The box represents great temptation. "Open me" it says. The human cannot resist it; its charm is overwhelming. So too, is the charm of this remarkable book, in which antique boxes and tea caddies --- along with the people who inspired, made, and used them --- dance gracefully through the pages. The reader is guided through the aesthetic, cultural, and social influences of the years covered, accumulating a deep understanding of the form, decoration, and purpose of eighteenth and nineteenth century boxes. The extensive text covers wooden, tortoiseshell, ivory, papier-mâché, and lacquer boxes. There are chapters on Anglo Indian, Scottish, Irish, Penwork, Straw work, and Tunbridge ware boxes, as well as on boxes made for special purposes. Captions include complete descriptions, values, and circa dates for all boxes shown. The 905 images include original drawings, magnificent photographs of complete pieces, and close-ups illustrating the structure and decoration of boxes. This is an indispensable companion for box collectors and reflects fascinating information about cultural forces that shaped the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

About the Authors
Joseph and Antigone live in an old part of London, close to the heart of traditional cabinet making. There is a wealth of material relating to their chosen fields, in libraries, museums, and homes easily accessible to them.
Joseph has a passion in nurturing old string instruments back to health and has carried out conservation projects photographing the work in progress.
Antigone has been dealing in boxes for nearly thirty years, delving into their history and finding them appreciative homes. Too busy sourcing boxes, she leaves the running of the house to the cats. Their website is  They may be contacted at


Some reviews we have found:  

Average Customer Review: *****

*****Novice and Expert alike, October 8, 2003


Reviewer: Emily T. Meredith from Philadelphia , PA United States

One does not have to be an expert to love this book. It is a treasure trove of information on all kinds of English boxes from the 18th to the early 20th centuries. Packed with photographs and intelligent text, it is simply the best, most informative, most comprehensive book on the subject. It's easy to tell the writers are not only experts with vast experience but lovers of these boxes too.
I'm particularly interested in writing boxes, and I could wish for more chapters on these, but that is purely out of a sense of greed. The whole book is fascinating, whether one is browsing or studying. Thanks.

*****A great resource on the subject, September 28, 2003


Reviewer: Robert H. Foose from Birmingham , AL USA

This book is an exceptional resource for information and insights about writing boxes, lap desks, etc., from authors who clearly know the subject extremely well. The photography of examples is consistent with the high quality of the rest of this book. Definitely a must have for those of us interested in the subject and worth the price.


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:

*****Boxes: Touching the Past, June 21, 2003


Reviewer: A reader from Chicago , IL USA

Anyone who's ever touched a small box or tea caddy or folding writing desk from several hundred years ago knows the thrill of holding that object, one used by ancient sets of hands. Or maybe it's the thrill of seeing rare and ancient woods -- amboina or coromandel or burled yew or satinwood -- up close. Whatever leads you to boxes, lead yourself to this book. The pictures are gorgeous, but even better is the precision of the social history which surrounds them, whether it's the intricacies of the tea-opium trade, or the influence of the penny post, or the Prince Regent's taste. Many books I've seen before -- small "Shire" studies of writing antiquities, for example -- are good but small, and almost impossible to find in the States except at occasional antique shows. This is both scholarly in its documentation and readable, even enjoyable, in the portrait of Britain it unfolds. And the pictures are a refreshing change from the blurry amateurism that marks too many specialized "guides." Pricey but worth it. 

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:

*****A BOOK BEGGING TO BE OPENED!, May 6, 2003


Reviewer: Cindy Kirschke from USA

Like a box begs to be opened, so does this book!

The history of antique boxes is finally told in a comprehensive way with wonderful photos of quality boxes and details of the contemporary events and fashions that influenced their design and construction.

Whether you are a collector or not, this book will captivate you as it takes you back to a time when the box was as necessary in society as today's computer. The box is now a time piece that represents the artistic flair and superb craftsmanship prevalent in the 18th and 19th centuries. This book gives antique boxes the admiration they deserve! 


 Barnes & Noble  

 Customer Reviews


Number of Reviews: 4    Average Rating: *****5 out of 5 stars

A reviewer, a box collector, June 30, 2003 , *****5 out of 5 stars
Opening up to the Past
Detailed cultural history, interestingly told, and endless specificity on production and period details, as for example, what materials and shapes characterize some periods and not others. Excellent on writing boxes/folding lap desks, which have been waiting for such an extended treatment. Pictures are crisp, and, aside from encouraging fits of envy for all collectors, provide 'eye-candy' designed to train the eye. Fun and beautiful.

Robert A. Erlandson, a tea caddy collector in Baltimore , June 12, 2003 , *****5 out of 5 stars
Tea Caddy book fills a void in antiques collecting.
The antiques world owes the authors a debt of gratitude. Their comprehensive book, covering many antique boxes while focusing on tea caddies, fills an age-old void in the literature of antiques. As a caddy collector since 1979 I have found information only in bits and pieces until now. This book brings together the best illustrations of and information on these marvelous small examples of the cabinet-maker's art and craft. It should find a place on every antiques lover's bookshelf.

Robert A. Erlandson, a tea caddy collector in Baltimore , June 5, 2003 , *****5 out of 5 stars
Antigone Clarke and Joseph O'Kelly have combined to fill a long-standing void in the literature of antiques. Tea caddies and small boxes are a popular area of collecting but until this book collectors have had to pick up information from a few small booklets or articles. Antigone put her initial information online four years ago and was overwhelmed with suggestions that she put it in book form. She and Joseph have done this, and the antiques world owes them a huge debt of gratitude. Her information is solid and the illustrations are magnificent, pieces from some of the best collections in the U.K. and the U.S. Bravo Antigone and Joseph!!

A reviewer, A reviewer, May 30, 2003 , *****5 out of 5 stars
Most through, comprehensive book on caddies
This is the book we 'caddy collectors' have been waiting for...the most comprehensive book to have been published! The wealth of knowledge presented within this book, is without equal. The pictures to support the text are beautiful. This is truly the Caddie Collector's Bible!


The Main Antique Digest

Antique Boxes, Tea Caddies, & Society: 1700-1880 by Antigone Clarke and  Joseph O'Kelly (Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2003, 304 pp., hardbound, $89.95 from Schiffer Publishing, 4880 Lower Valley Rd., Atglen, PA 19310; (610) 593-1777; Web site; include $3.95 S/H, Pennsylvania residents add sales tax).
A beautifully made box is irresistible for most people, certainly for me. Even without the excuse of collecting, this journey through 18th- and 19th-century history with fine boxes as the focal point is arresting. The information is clearly presented and covers a broad spectrum of craftsmanship, such as inlay and lacquer. The details of how boxes are constructed, how their design elements evolved, and how people used or misused them are fascinating. If you are a collector of exquisite boxes, you will benefit from the inclusion of prices with the multitudinous examples, presented in full-color photographs, and the authors' explanation of how prices were determined. There is also an index and a list of prominent box makers (excluding general cabinetmakers who also made boxes).
Chapter five, "Trade and Taste," is especially rich in detail and written with wit. It concerns the trading practice of the East India Company from the mid-18th to the mid-19th centuries. The trade was primarily opium from  India to China and tea from  China to England . "The cozy image of the eccentric English person making such a performance of drinking tea in a genteel way is somewhat shattered by the knowledge of the Company's practices." The authors' historical analysis is punctuated by illustrations of appropriate boxes, with locks, for tea and opium and for the equipage of using them. It is intriguing to realize how much mutual misunderstanding and design influence traveled on those East India Company clipper ships. Chapter 17, "Tea Caddies," is most inclusive, detailed, and well informed, and it is a natural complement to chapter five.
The other types of boxes to captivate your attention include writing boxes of all sorts, card boxes, sewing boxes with fantastic interiors, knife boxes, and small cabinets. The chapters concerning styles of manufacture include tortoiseshell, ivory, straw, and other materials. All of it is worthwhile.


The Old Times gave us a reviewe in their August edition: 


Antique Boxes, Tea Caddies, & Society 1700-1880

by Antigone Clark & Joseph O'Kelly (Schiffer Books, $89.95), 304 pp., clothbound.

Ever wonder how paleontologists can look at one little bone and figure out what the whole two-ton dinosaur looks like? Of course, the rest of the dinosaur isn't built out of that one bone, really; it's built out of knowledge - all the knowledge of the dinosaurs' lives and times, learned by scientists over many decades.

In this book, Clark and O'Kelly set out to trace the history of one little household item: the small hand-decorated box. In the course of this story, however, they paint a nice word picture of life and style among the wealthier classes in the decades before the full flower of industrialization. A box is a basic thing, but its look and its function are subject to infinite variation, depending on the technology, taste and needs of its time.

The authors find that the potential of the box as an art object was developed around the same time as the rise of cabinetmaking as a recognized professional craft, in the mid-1700s. The most famous name to survive from this period is Thomas Chippendale, who published his philosophy of the cabinetmaker's craft along with many of his designs, including the designs for several boxes.

Over the next century and a half, boxes appeared in a wide variety of architectural and decorative styles, created by cabinetmakers and also by box-making specialists. The authors present a generous sampling of these works in good color photos, arranged by decoration type, with detailed information about the skills of their makers.

For those with a general interest in furniture or wood decoration, this is a good book to consult for cultural origins and methods. In their small way, these boxes reflect the influences of neoclassicism, Regency and
Victoria n styles. Their beauty was enhanced by the same skills that produced the fine furniture of the times: painting, marquetry, decoupage, etc. The book traces the origins of various decorating motifs - Asian, Irish, Scottish, Indian - to advances in international trade and cultural influences of the day.

The final section of the book is arranged by box type. Tea caddies and tea chests, those indispensable tool kits for better British households, are covered in depth. Covered also are boxes to contain playing cards, sewing tools, dressing or grooming aids, knives, and writing implements. There's a short chapter on table cabinets, front-opening boxes made to sit on the tops of tables or desks.

This is a rather pricey book, but it's dealing with an expensive specialty; many of these antiques are priced in the four-figure range, and many are labeled with daunting question marks instead of prices. It was a difficult collection to put together, even if only in photographic form. The authors have done a fine job of that, and also in placing their collecting specialty in a rich context.

By David Christenson


  From the Antiques Trade Gazette: 

Antique Boxes, Tea Caddies & Society 1700-1880

TEA caddies and antique boxes continue as collectors’ favourites, and this well-written and illustrated book (887 colour photos) with a dollar price guide by two London-based authors – Antigone Clarke has been dealing in boxes for 30 years and Joseph O’Kelly restores old string instruments – delves into the history of caddies and boxes along with the people who inspired, made and used them.

As the introduction has it: “This book tries to deal with boxes not merely as lifeless objects but as participants in a vibrant culture which was responsible for their creation and which in their turn they enhanced.”

Very thorough in its coverage of the form, decoration and purpose of 18th and 19th century boxes, which covers papier-maché, painted, penwork, tortoiseshell, straw work, Oriental lacquer, Scottish and Irish, Tunbridgeware boxes, card boxes, dressing boxes and the popular sewing boxes or workboxes and much else. The photography is a dream. 

Joan Porter


From WELTKUNST, Die Zeitschrift für Kunst und Antiquitäten 

Antique Boxes, Tea Caddies & Society 1700-1880

Ein unwiderstehlicher Reiz geht von diesen kleinen Objekten des privaten Gebrauchs aus: erst nach dem Öffnen des Deckels geben sie zu erkennen, ob sie ihrem ursprünglichen Besitzer als Schreibpult oder zur Aufbewahrung von Tee, Näh- und Toilettenutensilien oder Spielkarten dienten. Ihre in den letzten zehn Jahren rasant gestiegenen Preise, hier in US $ angegeben,  werden den unerfahrenen Leser erschrecken. Es sind die des spezialisierten Handels für außergewöhnliche Stücke in originaler Erhaltung. Wo ein vergleichbares Kästchen auf dem Kunstmarkt nicht verfügbar war, findet sich ein diskretes Fragezeichen. Zudem wird gewarnt, dass stark restaurierte, gängige Exemplare nicht mehr als die Hälfte der unteren angegebenen Werte kosten dürfen.

Die beiden Autoren bringen langjährige Berufserfahrung in Handel bzw. Konservierung (nein, nicht Restaurierung!) mit. Ihr Buch besticht durch die Fülle und Qualität der Abbildungen mit liebevoll beobachteten Details und ausführlichen Bildunterschriften. Vorwiegend handelt es sich um englische Boxes, daneben solche aus den Herkunftsländern des Tees sowie einige wenige Stücke vom Kontinent. Bisher unpubliziert, stammen sie aus den Beständen der Autoren, von Händlerkollegen und aus Privatsammlungen.

          Nach einem Überblick über stilistische Entwicklungen vom frühen 18. Jahrhundert bis zu Queen Victoria mit ausführlicheren Kapiteln über Chinoiserie und den Einfluß der British East India Company („Trade and Taste“) behandelt Teil II Materialien (neben den verschiedenen Hölzern Elfenbein, Schildpatt, Perlmutt, Lack) und Dekorationstechniken (z.B. Tuschmalerei, Strohmarketerie, Papiermâché), während der umfangreichste Teil des Buches  den verschiedenen Funktionstypen der Kästchen gewidmet ist. Hier nehmen die Teeschatullen und Caddies den breitesten Raum ein, gefolgt von den Näh- bzw. Work Boxes der Damen und den Schreibkästen, deren früheste Exemplare sich mit ihren Messingbändern und -beschlägen als Requisit von Militärs und jungen Männern auf der Grand Tour zu erkennen geben.

          Nicht ohne Augenzwinkern beobachten Clarke und O’Kelly die von der Luxusware Tee inspirierten gesellschaftlichen Rituale oder das bunte Treiben echter und eingebildeter Kranker in den mondänen Kurorten der Zeit, wie etwa Tunbridge Wells, wo sich bald die Produktion spezifischer  Souvenirwaren etablierte (Tunbridge Ware). Text und Abbildungen zollen den Kästchen Respekt als Zeitzeugen, eine Einstellung, die hoffentlich Schule machen wird.

Das abschließende Namensverzeichnis der Box Makers erhebt keinerlei Anspruch auf Vollständigkeit. Die Autoren beschränken sich wohlweislich auf die Klebeschildchen persönlich in Augenschein genommener Stücke. Dabei ist grundsätzlich zu bedenken, dass die aufwendigsten Schatullen Auftragsarbeiten gewesen sein dürften, bei denen keine Kennzeichnung zu erwarten ist. Außerdem kann es sich, wo nähere Angaben nicht zu ermitteln sind, bei den Firmennamen auch um Händler oder Ausstatter von Kästchen handeln.

Das hohe Preisniveau macht die Boxes zusehends interessanter für immer raffinierter werdende Fälscher, und so endet gerade das Kapitel über die Tea Caddies mit der eindringlichen Warnung: Vorsicht! Vergnügliche Lektüre bereitet dieses Buch allemal, den ernsthaften Sammler kann es vor teuren Fehlkäufen schützen.

Uta Vogtt



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