The Leistler Bookcase: a 19th-century masterpiece described as “a cathedral in wood“

 
 

The Leistler Bookcase is a massive, historic bookcase made out of oak and produced in 1850-51 by the Austrian company Carl Leistler & Son in Vienna, Austria.

The designer of this masterpiece of Austrian Gothic furniture was Bernardis di Bernardo, who was assisted by Joseph Kranner. It was sculpted by Anton Dominik Fernkorn and carved by Franz Maler.

Leistler Bookcase, today at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. Photo Credit

 

Crafted by the Austrian firm Carl Leistler & Son. Photo Credit1 Photo Credit2

 

The design is by Bernardis di Bernardo, who was assisted by Joseph Kranner. It is made out of oak. Photo Credit1 Photo Credit2

 

It was sculpted by Anton Dominik Feinkorn and carved by Franz Maler. Photo Credit1 Photo Credit2

The makers of the bookcase, Carl Leistler & Son, included this masterpiece in their display at the Great Exhibition held in London in 1851 which embodied Prince Albert’s vision to display the wonders of industry from around the world. It was the first in a series of World’s Fairs, exhibitions of culture and industry that became popular in the 19th century.

At the time, the Leistler firm’s exhibits were described as “a massive, bold and masculine in design, and well adapted to a palace.”

This impressive work of art was gifted to Queen Victoria by the Austrian Emperor Franz Josef. Photo Credit

The bookcase was shown at the Great Exhibition 1851 in London. Photo Credit

It was described as a “cathedral in wood“. Photo Credit

The Illustrated London News described the piece as “the stately carved bookcase, by Leitner, which claims special attention for its elaborate and ambitious design and the careful workmanship bestowed upon it.

This bookcase was made as a present from the Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria, the longest-reigning Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary, to Queen Victoria.”

It was installed first in Buckingham Palace and later in Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh. Photo Credit

It was installed first in Buckingham Palace (and used by Prince Albert) and later in Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh.

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In 1923, King George V (1865–1936) donated the bookcase to the University of Edinburgh who gave it to the Victoria & Albert Museum in 1967.