Heralding the Way to a New World

Virginia Woolf's Writing Desk, approximately 1911

Virginia Woolf Writing Desk

Virginia Woolf's Writing Desk, shown in the library of Lisa Unger Baskin.

Photograph by Annie Schlechter

Writer and feminist Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) was at the center of English literary culture during the Bloomsbury Group era. One of the leading figures of modernist literature, her most notable works are the novels Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, The Waves and the feminist essay A Room of One's Own.

Woolf acquired this oak writing desk while she was in her teens and used it until she was around thirty years old. She specifically requested a standing desk. Standing desks were commonly used in business offices during the nineteenth century, and many writers have used them (including Charles Dickens and Ernest Hemingway).

In 1929, Woolf gave the desk to her nephew, Quentin Bell. His wife cut six inches off the legs to make it a sitting desk, and Bell, himself an artist and member of the Bloomsbury Group, painted it. The riser used in this exhibition returns the desk to its original height.

In addition to the entrepreneurial spirit shared by the desk and the books in this exhibit documenting women’s contributions to science, it is worth noting that Woolf scholars have paid particular attention to Woolf's deep interest in physics, astronomy, neuroscience, Darwinian evolution, and psychoanalysis as well as the philosophy of science.


All items in this exhibition are from the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, Rubenstein Library, unless otherwise noted.

Virginia Woolf's Writing Desk, approximately 1911