Part of the Furniture: The Library of John Bedford

Contact Details:

Brotherton Gallery, Leeds, LS2 9JT


Leeds Inspired

Part of the Furniture: The Library of John Bedford

9th January 2024 - 21st December 2024

Rare and beautiful books chart the evolution of furniture design over the centuries and the journey from drawing board, to workshop, to home.

Selected from the world-leading library of antiques dealer John Bedford, ornate patterns by a renaissance pioneer, designs by Chippendale, Sheraton, Pugin and Morris, elaborate trade cards, colourful catalogues, drawings and manuals show how ideas and trends took shape, gained influence, and were eventually revived as fashions came full circle.

Upholsterer and furniture dealer Daniel Thorn might be less of a household name, but his personal sketchbook of designs for drapery, curtains and furniture is a lively working record of the looks of the late-18th and early-19th centuries.

Other highlights include the only complete coloured copy of ‘The ladies amusement’, an 18th century book of decorative designs made to cut out and paste. Henry Lawford’s gloriously garish 1855 fold-out sofa catalogue sweeps away clichés of dismal Victoriana in a colour-lithographed riot of puce, lavender and pea-green.

The exhibition also celebrates Bedford’s life, his vast knowledge and his generous legacy to the University of Leeds, which enabled the extension and refurbishment of The Brotherton Research Centre and the establishment of The John Bedford Fellowship, in addition to the donation of his dazzling library.