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Globe-Wernicke Barrister Bookcases

Barrister, or lawyer, bookcases are characterized by their stackable modular construction and glass paned lift-doors designed to keep books free of dust. The bookcases are found in as few as two and as many as seven stackable shelving units, usually in oak (plain or quarter-sawn), but occasionally in mahogany or imitation mahogany. Higher-grade units often have an Arts & Crafts flavored leading to the glass doors with beveled or colored glass accents. Separate platform bases, molded cornices and drawers are commonly found. The lift-doors featured early “roller” glass, named for its manufacturing process and distinguished by regular parallel lines of distortion and glass bubbles in the finished panes. The bookcases, some with integral desk units, were manufactured in the Sheraton, Arts & Crafts and Mission styles.

These hugely popular bookcases were the product of two innovative office furnishings companies in the late nineteenth century that together formed the Globe-Wernicke Company.

A Cincinnati businessman, Henry C. Yeiser, founded the Globe Files Company with $60,000 in 1882. Among its many office products, this company introduced the first means of filing papers vertically – the precursor of today’s filing systems – at a time when most business records were handwritten and kept in leather bound ledgers and cubbyholes. Nine years later Otto Wernicke, a German immigrant, founded the Wernicke Company in Minneapolis. He ran straight into the economic panic of 1893, which left 4 million unemployed, but he survived and moved the company to Grand Rapids, Michigan, to be near the heart of America’s furniture manufacturing center. It was during these early years that Wernicke invented and introduced what he called the “Elastic Bookcase”. In 1892 he received a patent for this “Sectional Stock-Case”, which eventually evolved into a whole system of interchangeable bookcase units of varying sizes, fold-out desk sections, bases and cornice elements

which could be combined to meet the customer’s needs and stylistic interests.

Yeiser was so impressed with Wernicke’s system that he “bought the whole company” in 1899. The combined operation was renamed the Globe-Wernicke Company and operated from a large factory in the Norwood suburb of Cincinnati. The bookcases were wildly successful with businessmen and professionals throughout the world and the company eventually opened factories or licensed operations in England, Canada, France, Belgium and Austria.

Another important business furniture company of the time was the Fred Macey furniture company in Grand Rapids. It was merged into the Globe-Wernicki Company circa 1905. This acquisition was known for two years as Macey-Wernicke, before being renamed Macey in 1907. The Macey company was the second leading maker of barrister bookcases in the early twentieth century. The two company’s products were similar and, if lacking labels, may be distinguished by the mechanism used to slide the door when it is raised; Globe-Wernicke used rollers and equalizer scissors while Macey used a geared track. Numerous other smaller companies copied the stackable system design to one extent or another.

Globe-Wernicke was forced into receivership during the Great Depression but once again survived economic hard times to emerge as an important wartime producer of wing flaps, troop seats, nacelle doors, tail cones and ship furnishings during the 1940′s. Today the name lives on as the Globe-Weis division of Cardinal Brands Inc. It’s mission remains to “make organizing easy”.

Stackable bookcase systems are still manufactured today both in the United States and abroad, some still carrying the pr

Barrister's bookcase[edit]

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A barrister requires the use of many law books and would formerly travel on circuit with a judge's court. A specialised form of portable bookcase has thus been developed to meet their needs. A barrister's bookcase consists of several separate shelf units that may be stacked together to form a cabinet. An additional plinth and hood complete the piece. When moving chambers, each shelf is carried separately without needing to remove its contents and becomes a carrying-case full of books.

As most high-quality bookcases are closed by doors[citation needed], but also to retain the books when being carried, a barrister's bookcase has glazed doors. As the shelves must still separate it's not possible to provide the usual hinged doors opening sideways and so instead they use an "up and over" mechanism on each shelf. The better quality cases use a metal scissor mechanism inside the shelves to ensure that the doors move in a parallel fashion without skewing and jamming. Many of this style, exported worldwide, were made by the Skandia Furniture Co. of Rockford, Illinois around the beginning of the 20th century.[8]

This style of bookcase was either made in a Dickensian period, or harkens back to the style of such times, so they're most commonly glazed with a leaded light and small panes of glass.

Each shelf of a true barrister's bookcase must be portable with a heavy load of books. The more robust examples have folding handles at the ends of each shelf. Modern "decorator" copies of these may look the same, but are often too lightly constructed to be carried whilst loaded, or may even be simply a single fixed case as per a normal bookcase, but with separate doors to each shelf to give the appearance of a barrister's bookcase.

oud Globe-Wernicke label.

Barrister's bookcase[edit]

Advertisement for Globe-Wernicke Bookcases of Cincinnati, Ohio (1912)


GLOBE-WERNICKE COMPANY, LIMITED (THE), Manufacturers of Office and Library Furniture, " Elastic " Bookcases, Filing Cabinets, &c. Showrooms: 44, Holborn Viaduct, E.C.; 82, Victoria Street, S.W.; and 98, Bishopsgate, E.C. Wholesale Department and Factory: 18-22, Euston Buildings, George Street, London, N.W. Hours of Business: 9 a.m. to 6.30 p.m. Established in 1897. Incorporated as a Limited Company in the same year. Directors: George Ryder Ousey (Chairman and Managing Director), J. E. Ousey, F. H. Ousey, A. Lever, W. J. Dickinson. An entirely British Company; all the ordinary shares are held by British shareholders. Entire staff English. Premises: Extensive Showrooms at 44, Holborn Viaduct, E.C.; 82, Victoria Street, S.W.; and 98, Bishopsgate, E.C. Large Manufacturing Works with electric power at 18-22, Euston Buildings, N.W. Stag Club: Football. Specialities: All kinds of Office and Library Furniture, Filing Cabinets, Bookcases, &c. Connection: United Kingdom. Telephones: No. 44 Central; No. 88 City; No. 461 City; No. 823 Central; No. 372 Victoria. Cable Address: " Globernick, London."



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