What is a Barrister Bookcase? A Guide to This Classic Furniture Piece

Barrister bookcases are a type of modular bookcase that have been around for over a century. They are known for their distinct design, which consists of a series of stacked, glass-fronted storage compartments. Each compartment has a door mechanism that opens outward and then slides up and over the top of the shelf, similar to a roll-top desk’s tambour top that slides open.

The barrister bookcase was originally designed to hold law books, but today they are used for many different purposes. They are a great piece of furniture for someone who has a lot of collectibles or any items that they want to be seen and protected in their house. They are also an easy to assemble, attractive way to display your book collection. Moreover, a great addition to your home office as well.

Barrister bookcases are unique in how they function by using two poles to support them. Each shelf of a vintage barrister bookcase has a handle, transforming it into a durable carrying case for the contents. They are a beautiful, oversized, and roomy bookshelf with sturdy construction that is not just for the living room.

Definition of a Barrister Bookcase

A barrister bookcase is a type of modular bookcase that is made up of several shelf units that stack together to form a cabinet. Each shelf becomes a separate carrying-case for books, with up-and-over glass door mechanisms. This design makes books portable within the individual units.

Barrister bookcases are also known as lawyer’s cabinets. They were originally designed for use in law offices and courtrooms, but they have since become popular in homes, public and university libraries, offices, schools, and bookstores.

The bookcase is unique in its construction and function. It uses two poles to support the shelves, which are designed to be stacked on top of each other. This modular design allows for flexibility when your library of books outgrows its original shell.

The shelves of a barrister bookcase are typically made of wood, and the doors are made of glass. The glass doors protect books from dust and damage, while also allowing for easy viewing of the book titles. The doors also have a decorative element, with their up-and-over design adding a touch of elegance to the bookcase.

Overall, a barrister bookcase is a beautiful, oversized, and roomy bookshelf with sturdy construction that is not just for the living room. It’s an easy to assemble, attractive way to display your book collection. Moreover, it’s a great addition to your home office as well.

History and Origin of Barrister Bookcases


Barrister bookcases have a rich history that dates back to the 19th century. These modular bookcases were initially designed to protect valuable legal books owned by barristers. Over time, they became popular among the general public due to their unique design and functionality.

Early Beginnings

The first barrister bookcase was designed by an American lawyer named Henry C. Yeiser in 1868. Yeiser’s design featured a stackable bookcase with individual compartments that could be easily moved and rearranged. This design allowed barristers to easily transport their books from one court to another.

Around the same time, the Globe-Wernicke Company in the United States began producing modular bookcases that were similar to Yeiser’s design. These bookcases were made from high-quality wood and featured glass doors that protected the books from dust and damage.

Modern Evolution

In the early 20th century, barrister bookcases began to evolve. Manufacturers started using different materials, such as metal and plastic, to produce more affordable versions of these bookcases. The design also changed, with some bookcases featuring sliding doors instead of hinged glass doors.

Today, barrister bookcases are still popular among book lovers and collectors. They come in a variety of styles and sizes, and can be found in both traditional and modern designs. Some bookcases even feature built-in lighting to showcase the books inside.

In conclusion, barrister bookcases have a fascinating history that spans over a century. From their humble beginnings as a tool for barristers to their modern evolution as a stylish and functional piece of furniture, these bookcases continue to be a beloved addition to any home or office.

Features of a Barrister Bookcase

Barrister bookcases are a unique style of modular bookcase that are popular among collectors and book lovers. Here are some of the key features of a barrister bookcase:

Unique Design Elements

One of the most distinctive features of a barrister bookcase is its modular design. Unlike traditional bookcases, which are typically one large unit, barrister bookcases consist of individual shelves that can be stacked on top of one another. This modular design allows for greater flexibility, as you can add or remove shelves as needed to accommodate your growing collection of books.

Another unique design element of barrister bookcases is their glass-fronted doors. These doors not only add a touch of elegance to the bookcase, but they also serve a practical purpose. By keeping your books behind glass, you can protect them from dust, moisture, and other potential hazards.

Functionality and Use

Barrister bookcases are not just stylish; they are also highly functional. Because of their modular design, they can be used in a variety of ways to suit your needs. For example, you could use a barrister bookcase to:

  • Display your book collection: The glass-fronted doors of a barrister bookcase make it easy to show off your books and add a touch of sophistication to any room.
  • Store other items: Barrister bookcases can also be used to store other items besides books. For example, you could use one to display your collection of figurines or other small objects.
  • Create a bar: With its multiple shelves and glass-fronted doors, a barrister bookcase can be the perfect place to store your favorite spirits and glassware. You could even add some lighting to create a cozy bar area in your home.

Overall, barrister bookcases are a versatile and stylish addition to any home. Whether you’re a book lover or just looking for a unique piece of furniture to add to your decor, a barrister bookcase is definitely worth considering.

Choosing a Barrister Bookcase

When it comes to choosing a barrister bookcase, there are a few things to consider. Here are some factors to keep in mind:

Considerations for Purchase

  1. Size: Barrister bookcases come in various sizes, so it’s essential to measure the space where you plan to put it to ensure that it fits. Also, consider the number of books you have and choose a bookcase that can accommodate your collection.

  2. Style: Barrister bookcases come in different styles, including traditional, modern, and vintage. Pick a style that will complement your existing decor.

  3. Material: Barrister bookcases can be made of different materials, including wood, metal, and glass. Consider the durability and maintenance requirements of each material before making a purchase.

  4. Price: Barrister bookcases can vary in price, so it’s crucial to set a budget and stick to it. Keep in mind that a higher price does not always mean better quality.

Care and Maintenance

  1. Dusting: Regularly dust your barrister bookcase with a soft cloth to prevent the buildup of dust and debris.

  2. Cleaning: Use a mild cleaner and a soft cloth to clean the glass and wood surfaces of your barrister bookcase. Avoid using harsh chemicals that can damage the finish.

  3. Avoid Sunlight: Direct sunlight can cause fading and discoloration of your barrister bookcase. Keep it away from windows or use window coverings to block out the sun.

  4. Avoid Moisture: Moisture can cause damage to the wood and metal components of your barrister bookcase. Keep it away from humid areas and avoid spilling liquids on it.

By considering these factors and taking proper care of your barrister bookcase, you can enjoy its beauty and functionality for years to come.

Leave a Comment