The Table in the Tracing the Origin of the Design Period Known as Early American Colonial FurnitureThe History of the Origin of the Design Period Known as Early American Colonial Furniture

Here again we have inherited words from north and south. In the tracing of the origins of the style known as early American colonial furniture it would have been better, perhaps, had we kept to the northern name "bord", which is Swedish today for "table", and had not adopted the French word "table", for a board is a flat piece of wood, whereas a table may be any flat surface, and a "tab" or "tablet" may be any small flat surface. With regard to the northern derivation, we still speak of a "festive board", while a number of people who gather round a table to do business is called a Board, and the room is a Board Room. Table is used in the same way by Tennyson, who makes the dying King Arthur say, "But now the whole Round Table is dissolved", meaning actually the knights who had gathered around the table. The importance of the table, and of its most important purpose in the service of meals, is shown in its use in "boarding-house" and in the term "bed and board". It is interesting to note the varied uses of " board" - there are notice boards ; chess, dart, draught and backgammon boards ; ironing and drawing boards ; there are blackboards which may not be wood at all. The word " bench", which in woodwork means a stretch of level boards, has come to mean the table-like space upon which a craftsman works, while its French form "banc" has an interesting story. The trestle tables at which money changers sat in market-places were "bans" and have given the name to the buildings in which money business is transacted, and to the bankers, or people who carry on the business.

Although tables of all kinds must have been well known in Roman Britain, the invading Northmen seem to have made a clean sweep and to have adopted nothing, and the table began once more its development from the very beginning, the board or plank. Some special kinds of table developed from the chest which in its turn again was a child of the plank.

The main purpose of the table to the early Saxons and English was merely a convenience from which to eat. Benches ran around the halls in Saxon and Norman England. When the time came for eating, trestles were placed before the benches and long boards upon the trestles. The boards were narrow and the eaters sat in safety with their backs to the wall while the food was served from the other side. When the meal was over the boards were cleared and table tops and trestles were taken away. Later on the table top was widened and forms were provided for sitting on the other side as well. This method of seating for meals is used to this day in the dining halls of many colleges and schools.


Plate XXIX
The Table in the Tracing of the Origins of the Style Known as
Early American Colonial Furniture

Finnish Trestle Supports

Finnish Trestle Supports

Trestle at Penshurst

Trestle at Penshurst

Renaissance Pillar

Renaissance PillarRenaissance Pillar

Renaissance PillarSupports from a Single Trunk

Supports from a Single TrunkSupports from a Single Table

Supports from a Single TableFrench Renaissance Table

French Renaissance TableTable and Form from an Oxford College Hall (Mid-Seventeenth Century)

Table and Form from an Oxford College Hall (Mid-Seventeenth Century)

 

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