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Part of the Furniture: The Library of John Bedford

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.

John Bedford began his career in the world of antiques with a stall in a Kensington antiques market in the 1960s, and went on to dominate the trade in London. The knowledge he accumulated through buying and selling furniture, and building his library, in turn helped to shape the study of furniture history. On his death in February 2019, Bedford left his fine collection of rare books, manuscripts, artworks and objects to the University, where it joined the renowned Art and Antiques Market Collections.

A Celebration of John Bedford

Join us on Tuesday 6 February to see the exhibition, discover more about John Bedford and raise a glass to his memory from 5.30pm, with welcome speeches at 6.15pm. Book your free ticket online here

A Victorian furniture catalogue with colourful sofas laid out in a grid design
A Victorian furniture catalogue with colourful sofas laid out in a grid design
A Victorian furniture catalogue with colourful sofas laid out in a grid design