The Holloway Reading Stand and Dictionary Holder

Chela Metzger recently found this very cool Victorian reading stand during a conservation project and agreed to guest blog about it.  It is almost robotic in its complexity.  There is a link to other trade catalogs digitized by the Winterthur near the bottom of this post and they can be browsed by keyword. Chela is Conservator of Library Collections, Winterthur Museum, Delaware.  Recently, she published a review of Julia Miller’s ‘Books Speak Plain’ in Bonefolder Extras.

Courtesy, The Winterthur Library: Printed Book and Periodical Collection

In honor of the long lineage of reading “devices” meant to make everything about reading easier and better, I would like to showcase the late 19th century Holloway reading stand and dictionary table. As the trade catalog’s longer title notes, this reading stand has a “dictionary holder, book rest, lamp stand and writing table”.

Courtesy, The Winterthur Library: Printed Book and Periodical Collection

The reading stand company notes that scholars and writers will find the stands of “great convenience”. While I doubt the stand could handle one of the truly behemoth unabridged single volume dictionaries found in the US by 1914.

Courtesy, The Winterthur Library: Printed Book and Periodical Collection

Courtesy, The Winterthur Library: Printed Book and Periodical Collection

I do think the reading stand would adapt well to the laptop environment, and could hold food, drink and a favorite novel at the same time. And, I suppose, a reasonably sized dictionary as well. One reading stand adapted to a reader reclining on a couch is mentioned as a useful tool for the invalid, and for those who like to read while resting. The catalog notes : “Readers and thinkers are not lazy people. Anything that will conserve their physical strength is useful.” Cleary a pre-diet/exercise world statement. And pre carpel-tunnel symdrome.

Courtesy, The Winterthur Library: Printed Book and Periodical Collection

Finally, one option is to include a gold bronze chess board with your reading stand. Note that the chess board can also support a dictionary if needed. Clearly our generation is not the first to multi-task.

I came across this wonderful catalog as part of the conservation work for the Winterthur Library’s ongoing Internet Archive project to digitize our extraordinary trade catalog collection. For a glimpse at an ongoing digitization of trade catalogs at the Winterthur library, please see:



NK2265 H74 TC Winterthur Library, Winterthur Delaware

Holloway Co. (Cuyahoga, Ohio)

The Holloway reading stand and dictionary holder: combining a dictionary holder, book rest, lamp stand and writing table

Variant title: Century Dictionary case: made expressly for holding the six volumes of the New Century Dictionary

Buffalo, N.Y.: The Company, [ca. 1892] (Buffalo: Press of Gies & Co.)

Thanks Chela!  Email: cmetzger[at]winterthur[dot]org

5 Replies to “The Holloway Reading Stand and Dictionary Holder”

  1. That’s great! I’ve come across this particular stand a few times before, but never the manual! I love the illustrations of alternate uses, etc. I picked up a more common cast iron & quarter-sawn oak rolling dictionary stand, patented in 1895, which I believe may have also been produced by Holloway. It’s a centerpiece in our library and always a good conversation starter. Thanks Chela & Jeff!

  2. From what I remember, the Century Dictionary, mentioned on the title page of the pamphlet, was a milestone of 19th-century dictionary making and one of the most important books printed by the DeVinne Press, the greatest American printer of the 19th century. Unlike the even more detailed Webster’s International which eclipsed it, the Century Dictionary was printed in multiple volumes, each of large page size but thin. This seems to chime with Chela’s comment about the stand being too lightweight to hold a mammoth dictionary. There was a good deal about the Dictionary in a biography of Theodore De Vinne that was published a few years ago, particularly about the problems involved in hand-setting type in many faces and sizes used on each page, and (back to furniture) the special type cases De Vinne designed to meet the problem.

  3. This reminds me of the clockwork reading desk that John Muir built when he was a student at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

    He wrote: “I invented a desk in which the books I had to study were arranged in order at the beginning of each term. I also made a bed which set me on my feet every morning at the hour determined on, and in dark winter mornings just as the bed set me on the floor it lighted a lamp. Then, after the minutes allowed for dressing had elapsed, a click was heard and the first book to be studied was pushed up from a rack below the top of the desk, thrown open, and allowed to remain there the number of minutes required. Then the machinery closed the book and allowed it to drop back into its stall, then moved the rack forward and threw up the next in order, and so on, all the day being divided according to the times of recitation, and time required and allotted to each study.”

    I believe it’s still on display at the State Historical Society in Madison (at least it was the last time I was there) and you can see pictures at:

  4. I have a six easels furniture and a plaque that reads “WF Halloway. CUYAHOGA FALLS OHIO”, perhaps one of those who invented for CENTURY Dictionary

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