Interior Ideas

February 25, 2017

Spotlight On: A Long History of the Shelf

5 min. read on:

Shelf Day is on the horizon. Get to know a bit about the history of this indispensable piece of furniture and find yourself in awe of the shelf.

Today, shelves are most often considered to be a functional item, for storage and that is all. But, imagine a time when shelves held your most prized possessions – a papyrus scroll or freshly printed book from Gutenberg’s press – and imagine that history. In preparation for Monday’s Shelf Day, we’re providing you with some insight into that awesome piece of furniture.

Our lives have changed dramatically since the times of our ancestors – today, we thumb into tiny screens instead of scribble with quills onto scrolls. But, even if we read less books, store less papyrus scrolls at home or whatever your preferred pre-Kindle method of consuming the written word was – what has not changed is the special place shelves have in our homes. So, let’s take a moment to reach back into history and find out a bit more about the shelf.

Shelves, as we know them today in their most common household form, descend from the aumbry, little cupboards in the backs of Christian churches that medieval scribes would store their sacred religious writings in. This, of course, is hundreds of years (if not thousands) ahead of some of the world’s first documented bookshelves, which date to 544. These book cases were popularized amongst under the Song Dynasty when the emperor ordered mass printing of Buddhist scriptures.

Before the invention of Gutenberg’s printing press in 1440, books were hand-written and kept in boxes and they were carried to and fro by scholars. After the printing press democratized the availability of books, more people were able to afford the written word and needed places to keep their new treasures. Over time, large libraries were built at the greatest universities (Bodleian Library at Oxford University dates to the 16th century) and the world’s love affair with bookcases and home libraries began.

Today, in the modern era, as electronic devices slowly replace the written, shelves start to serve a different purpose, holding a wider array of items than just book. Think about it, when was the last time you plucked a book off your shelf to really read? Most likely, you’re keeping other valuable things up on those wooden slats. As your storage needs become more diverse – less standard book sizes, more fit-to-whatever-I-need-to-store sizes – you probably need non-standard solutions for your home. Never fear, you don’t have to succumb to standardized shelves any longer.

The future of the shelf is perfect-fit to your needs, your space and your things. Tylko even goes one step farther, featuring augmented reality so that you can see your shelf in your home, before you get it there. That means you can take care that it will not only fit whatever non-book item you need to keep on it (records, trophies, pots and pans, to name a few), but it will also fit your space to the T.