The breakfront of this mahogany bookcase overflows with a jumble of Parminter family souvenirs: shells, beadwork, semi-precious stones and votive statues piled onto raked shelving papered with Italian gouaches and prints bought in Switzerland. It is a rare surviving 'cabinet of curiosities', of a type beloved by18th-century antiquarians. Jane and Mary Parminter used this bookcase to store and display objects collected during their Grand Tour of Europe, while family members from subsequent generations have added to the collection over the years.
A large mahogany breakfront bookcase, English, circa 1790. The upper section with a boxwood line-inlaid cornice and enclosed by four geometrically astragal-glazed doors, the central part lined with green paper and with angled pine and decoupage shelves to display a collection of shells and curios, the lower section with three frieze drawers, each having brass handles with circular rosette back-plates, above four cupboards with figured panels and enclosing oak trays, on plinth.
There is a handwritten paper label affixed to the top of the bookcase 'Geo Frend Esq. Southton, Near Kenton, Devon'. He was Jane Parminter's brother-in-law who died in 1801 and his widow in 1805. It appears that after either the first or second of those deaths this bookcase passed to Jane Parminter, since when it has been at A La Ronde and used as a cabinet of curiosities to display various items including ephemera from the Grand Tour.
Marks and inscriptions
On top, nailed to the rear of the cornice : Geo Frend Esq., Southton, Near Kenton, Devon