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De-mystifying the terms used by antique dealers, auctioneers and specialists.
There are 106 entries in this glossary.
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Term Main definition
Acajou Moucheté

French term for spotted or fiddle back mahogany. It has a ripple pattern , similar to the veneers used for the backs of the best violins.

Various hard substances used for grinding, cutting or polishing softer substances, e.g. fused alumina.
Abbotsford Ware

Brilliantly decorated pottery in the Wemyss style, produced by the Fife Pottery's neighbour and rival, the Kirkcaldy Pottery of David Methven & Sons, in the late 1800's and early 1900's. It is most likely the two establishments used the same decorators, all the owners were cousins. However, Abbotsford does not seem to have produced the large pigs which are the best known Wemyss products. The pottery had no connection at all with Walter Scott except to prove how bankable his name still was 70 years after his death.

Abbotsford Furniture

Extravagant neo-Gothic furniture made during the 1820's and 1830's and named after Sir Walter Scott´s Scottish baronial house. It is heavy and spiky, and sometimes crudely made up from genuinely old fragments. The architect A.W.N. Pugin, while admitting he had designed such stuff for Windsor Castle said of it “All the ordinary articles of furniture, which require to be simple and convenient, are made not only expensive, but very uneasy… A man who remains any length of time in a modern Gothic room, and escapes without being wounded by some of its minutiae, may consider himself extremely fortunate.


A term used to describe a drop-down flap often seen in the French style of the secretary desk, secrétaire à abattant, concealing drawers and shelves within.


The precursor of the pocket calculator is still sometimes found built in to playpens. It is a frame with wires across it, each threaded with 10 beads. It is at least as old as the ancient Greeks (the word is Greek for cyphering table, since it can also be used to teach writing), and it was modified by the Chinese. Rather crude examples from British schools and nurseries are common enough, but elaborate ones were made by the 1600's mathematical instrument maker Robert Jole.