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seeing „a folding ladder‟ in a letter he sent from Bergen, Germany in 1788 (Jefferson‟s Ladder, 2009). From collapsible, hinged cylindrical poles28 to intricately articulated table variations there seemed to be no end to the cabinet-makers‟ ingenuity. But how practical were these designs and, did the pursuit of something new eventually lead to a compromise of design that rendered the Metamorphic Library Chair a „conversation piece‟ rather than a serious piece of library equipment?


3.3 The Compromises of Dual-Purpose Design


Multi-functional furniture rarely satisfied all of the customer‟s needs with equal panache. Sofa-beds had been around since the middle of the eighteenth century but, just as today, they failed to replace the sofa or the bed for sitting or sleeping. Early advertisements for Library Steps hinted at these compromises by describing their designs as „firm, safe and solid as a rock‟ (Agius & Jones, 1984, p. 60). The safety of the Library Step designs being offered was clearly an issue and Campbell makes sure to point out the advantages of a handrail in his table-based design on a paper label he attached to his Library Steps. On the label, he clearly states that the steps with handrails can be made „...of any height, which for use, ease, elegance, & safety, exceed anything of the kind‟ (Gilbert, 1996, p. 134). For Library Steps to be useful they must be easy to move around but, despite the addition of castors, many metamorphic tables remained clumsy and difficult to manoeuvre. The Regency period variation of the Metamorphic Library Chair appeared delicate, but it was still a substantial piece of furniture weighing upwards of twenty-six pounds (12 kg). The addition of brass castors, an option that appears to have been offered by most cabinet-makers, made it easier to reposition the chair but wheeled steps would be totally unsafe on the wooden floor of a library.


The chair-based Library Step design also limits the number of steps that can be concealed. All of the Metamorphic Library Chairs inspected during the preparation of the dissertation contained four steps – three at and below the seat level and an additional step sitting precariously a few inches above the seat height in the open position. During the early 1800s the height of an average male was five feet and nine inches (1.7m). The Metamorphic Library Chair would therefore provide access to books stored at an elevation of no more than ten feet (2.5m), possibly lower due to the absence of a handrail. With bookcases rising to ten feet or more, titles on the


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