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Canterbury Music Rack

Canterbury Music Rack View Interactive Version ]

A new form introduced in the last quarter of the eighteenth century in England was the canterbury, a music rack divided "into two or three hollow topped partitions" to hold music books.1 The highly portable canterbury, with casters and a "hand hole," could be easily lifted or rolled along the floor. Thomas Sheraton, who popularized the form in his publications, suggested that they be slid under the pianoforte. Jefferson's very musical family would have found a canterbury practical for storing their large collection of almost entirely secular sheet music.2

In spite of the fact that Virginia Randolph Trist was not inclined to practice, she and her sister Ellen Randolph Coolidge were the most gifted musicians among Jefferson's grandchildren. Virginia and her husband Nicholas inherited the canterbury.

The origin of Jefferson's canterbury is not known. It features four compartments on the top and a shelf on the bottom. The legs and horizontal members are turned. The top corners of the rails are ornamented by finials.

Artist/Maker Unknown
Createdca. 1800
Object TypeFurniture and Lighting
Dimensions22 x 12 3/4 x 15 1/2 in.


  1. Thomas Sheraton, The Cabinet Dictionary, 127.
  2. Helen Cripe, Thomas Jefferson and Music, 81.

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