If you’re sitting at a desk you put together yourself out of an Ikea flat pack, prepare to feel a little envious. This cabinet represents one of the highest points ever achieved in cabinetry. A far cry from faux-birch veneers, this hand-made cabinet features a wide variety of materials, including at least six types of wood (among them: oak, pine, walnut, mahogany, cherry, and cedar). It also has a few different types of metal, ivory, and even silk decorating the surface.
Constructed in 1778 and 1779 by David Roentgen of Germany and his mechanic, Johann Christian Krause, the secretary cabinet is a true masterwork and considering it was delivered to King Frederick William II of Prussia, it really had to be. You might have noticed that Roentgen had a mechanic in his employ.
Why have a mechanic? Well, as soon as the key is placed into the lock and turned, it immediately becomes apparent. This is no ordinary writing desk. A series of gears, pulleys, springs, and weights controls a variety of hidden compartments and other unusual features. The smoothness of the way in which each compartment opens or transforms is remarkable considered there are no electric motors or computers at all. This secretary has more in common with a well-made watch than that thing your computer’s sitting on.
H/T: The Met