Technology Face-Off


Art Nouveau Sliding Bookrack with Mucha-Inspired Muses (LEO Design)


Technology—and the corporate campaign to exploit it—transforms and adapts to satisfy the "needs and opportunities" of the times.  Sometimes a "face-off" ensues: as technology marches forward, new businesses blossom and grow while other businesses wither and fall-away.  Over the last 150 years, industry has responded (multiple times) to the way society reads and collects information.

Let's close-out the month of March with this interesting bookrack, made shortly after the Turn-of-the-Twentieth-Century.  Before the Industrial Age, there were very few people in the Middle Class.  There were a handful of land and factory owners and a mass of people who worked for them.  Though people were taught to read, only the wealthy could afford to collect many books.  A private library was only within reach of the most privileged, and they likely had a room devoted to shelves of books.  Working people might have a small collection of books: a Bible, some popular poetry, maybe a cooking book.  Up to and throughout much of the Nineteenth Century, a bookrack, such as the one shown here, might be sufficient to hold a family's modest book collection.  It could be placed on a table, upon a shelf, or on a desk (providing quick access to reference books).

As the Industrial Age lifted more and more families into the Middle Class—and people had discretionary income (for the first time) to spend on "non-essential" luxuries—book-owning became more commonplace.  This new development lead to the "Golden Age of Bookends" (1910's through the 1930's).  Before this period, the mass-production of bookends was not profitable (since so few people had books, thus did not require bookends).  But, as bookends became widely useful, small book racks like this tapered-off in popularity.  Today, bookracks like this are most useful atop a small bookcase (to highlight a special sub-collection of volumes) or on a desk where it can hold a small selection of frequently-used reference books.

This Art Nouveau bookrack "slides" open and closed (expanding and contracting from 8.5 to 15 inches).  The two women—hair entangled in an Art Nouveau "whiplash" design—were clearly inspired by the Czech artist Alfons Mucha (1860-1939).  Mucha was a distinct and important voice in the Art Nouveau movement.  His most famous works were graphic illustrations used in poster-making, advertising and decorative applications.  His posters, including theatrical advertising, command high prices at auction today.  In his later years, he produced a cycle of twenty monumental paintings called The Slav Epic, in which he charted the long history of the Slavic People.  He presented this work to the Nation in 1928, ten years after Czechoslovakia's independence.  The cycle is currently displayed at Moravský Krumlov, the Renaissance Era castle (two hours southeast of Prague).  Click on the photo above to learn more about the bookrack.


Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (

We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques ( or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (

Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248