Cylinder desk

The cylinder desk is a form of desk which resembles a Bureau Mazarin or a writing table equipped with small stacked shelves in front of the user's main work surface, and a revolving cylinder part which comes down to hide and lock up the working papers when the day is done. Like the rolltop desk which was invented much later, the cylinder desk usually has a fixed work surface. This means that unlike a secretary desk the paperwork does not have to be stored before shutting up the desk. Some designs however, have the capacity to slide out the desk surface a few inches to expand the available working area.

The cylinder desk is also called "bureau Kaunitz", as it was allegedly introduced in France in the first half of the 18th century by Wenzel Anton von Kaunitz, then the ambassador of the Habsburg Empire to the French court. Regardless of the authenticity of its origin, the French court adopted this type of desk with great enthusiasm. The difficulty of producing wooden cylinder sections which would not warp over the years ensured that such desks were reserved for the rich and the very rich. A few variants of this form have slats instead of a one piece cylinder section.

The most famous cylinder desk, and perhaps the most famous desk of all times is the Bureau du Roi manufactured for the French royalty in the 18th century.


  • Aronson, Joseph. The Encyclopedia of Furniture, 3rd edition. New York: Crown Publishers Inc., 1965.
  • Boyce, Charles. Dictionary of Furniture. New York: Facts on File Inc., 1985. ISBN 0-8160-1042-0.
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  • Forrest, Tim and Paul J. Atterbury (consulting editor). The Bulfinch Anatomy of Antique Furniture: An Illustrated Guide to Identifying Period, Detail, and Design. London: Bulfinch Press, 1996. ISBN 0-8212-2325-9.
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  • Oglesby, Catherine. French Provincial Decorative Art. New York: Scribner, 1951.
  • Payne, Christopher, ed. Sotheby's Concise Encyclopedia of Furniture. London: Conran Octopus, 1989. ISBN 1-85029-197-7.

See also the list of desk forms and types.

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