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Michael Hannigan
Michael Hannigan, Consultant
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Experience:  25+ Years in the field
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Is it possible to find desks or cupboards from the 700s still

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Is it possible to find desks or cupboards from the 700's still around? I'm searching for information on items from a scriptorium maybe Monkwearmouth-Jarrow monastery or something in that era. I would think most furniture that old would be in a museum. Thank You
Hello. My name is Michael. I can help answer your question, but I'm not sure it's the answer you want! Although you're obviously not going into this blindly, so what I have to say won't be very shocking.

Anything made of wood from the 8th century would be extraordinarily rare, and as you mentioned, most likely in a museum.

In addition, any that do exist would be considered ancient artifacts and in most countries, laws regarding antiquities would prohibit their export.

While there are remains from the latter part of the Viking age, they are mostly fragments of the full pieces of work, and even in those cases are nearly non-existent prior to the 10th-11th centuries.

While I can't say it would be impossible to find a piece of furniture from the 8th century that you could acquire legally, It could be a lifetime search. I would be very interested in hearing your experience with trying to find something up to this point.

Please let me know if you have any questions or if you would like to engage in additional discussion. I'm afraid I don't have a "go-to" place for this type of object, but I will certainly do anything I can to help you in your quest.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Hi Michael, Thank You for answering so quickly. I'm in the process of writing a story, and not really looking to buy anything, but my character is supposed to be an expert in antiquities, and since this is a work of fiction, I can do what I please. But I also want to be as accurate as possible. So my character has been hired to find such an object as a desk or cupboard for manuscripts. Could you possibly give me some advise as to what kind of wood and marks, such as hand planed, signs of oxidation and patination, would there have been a veneer on such a a piece? I really would love a hidden, secret place too. Never know what one might find in such a place. If I were in England where might I find super wonderful dealers in this sort of stuff.

Thanks, XXXXX

Oh... OK. Good, Maude. That's very good. I was thinking that you were actually trying to get some 8th century furniture for yourself and I was trying to let you down softly! I had pictured you as a person wanting to install 1300 year-old kitchen cabinets. This is much more exciting. Yes... I do actually have an excellent reference for that sort of thing. As you know by now, even information on such things is a bit scarce. But here in chapter II provides some of the background for what the "furniture" of the period was like. Actually, when I read about the grand scale and ornate design, I feel funny calling it furniture.
Illustrated Hostory of Furniture

And I do have more, along with some great pictures and locations for you. I just need a little time to get them together. Much of the histroy on furniture is from around the 1400s and after. But what you are looking for is much more interesting. I will follow up with you a little bit later today.


One of the resources I was referring to earlier today with a tremendous amount of information on wood carving at the time.
Viking Furniture and
Elements of the Liturgical Furniture in an 8th-century church (NWC) in Hippos (Sussita), Israel
Here are some other examples of furniture from around that time.



In the 8th century, carved bone panels were not uncommon in some parts:
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Hi Mike, Thank you, XXXXX XXXXX from Ill. History of Furniture, good info from Viking Age too. Glue and woods used very helpful. Any suggestions on my secret compartment located in the cupboard? From the picture it had five shelves, manuscripts were stored flat. Maybe the top decoration which I envision as two panels, a cross in relief and a rosette in a wreath

could conceal my little book which is 5inX3.6 inches. A pocket gospel. Need some kind of lever to open. A puzzle of some kind.

Thanks Maude

Puzzles are one of my specialties. It doesn't have to be real, just plausible, right?


Will the desk be in the church or monestary, or should it be self contained with the item, as it would have to be if found in a different context from its original location?

Customer: replied 4 years ago.


Good morning Mike. I think my cupboard is in private hands, going to be sold to another private collector. The monasteries of Lindisfarne and Wearmouth-Jarrow were kind of destroyed by the Vikings in around the 790's. I get to pick an unknown gospel to be hidden away and the missing gospel from the Codex Amiatinus, the Book of Baruch. My characters must find these books before the bad guys. They are worth many millions. As you said, something plausible, hooray for a fertile imagination. Sorry about my Vikings relatives being so naughty, at least they didn't burn down the library of Alexandria. Sob, sob.


Thanks again. Maude


LOL... good point. I'm wondering now if I might be of Viking descent.

Despite the hundreds of puzzles I've solved in video games, it's surprisingly difficult to think of one that translates to a reality that is a. Challenging and b. Plausable in the context 8th century technology!

But I saw this REAL desk, which is pretty amazing and I thought it might get the creative puzzle juices flowing.
Pipe Organ Puzzle Desk

The artis's slogan is "Building the box for others to think outside of"

I think it would be an entirely reasonable business expense, since it would be best to actually try it. It took the craftsman 5 years to make and it appears to available for purchase. Laughing

Still contemplating alternatives.

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