Little appears to be written historically regarding the adjustable folio stand.
Apparently, it was introduced in the late 18th century
to accommodate the larger manuscripts, drawings, maps, and prints of the time.
John Andrews, ‘British Antique Furniture’, Pl. 663, makes such a reference.
However, most adjustable folio stands are dated from c1820, forward.
By 1820, a press had been developed to enable printing considerably
larger images than previously known, in what is called an Elephant Folio.
Elephant Folios range up to 23 inches in height;
Atlas Folios, up to 25 inches; and Double Elephant Folios up to 50 inches.
Robert Havell’s first edition of John James Audubon’s Birds of America,
published 1826 and 1838 in the Double Elephant size,
contained engravings on pages measuring 39.5″ x 26.5″,
(as the engraving “White Heron” below).
‘White Heron: Ardea Alba, Linn. Male, Spring Plumage’
c.1 v.4 plate 386, Robert Havell, 1837, 25.2” x 38.3”
Adjustable folio stands - particularly the George IV and William IV examples -
are completely delightful to the eye - elegant and restrained, open and airy.
They are designed to operate similarly - and simply -
having two adjustable (hinged) rectangular trellis-work rests,
each connected to a turned handle bar and open framework
that catches within notches on the ratcheted legs,
enabling the rests to vary from upright and parallel, to an open and level -
providing both protection, and viewing at any desired angle.
Today these stands can perform the identical function for which they originated :
storing and displaying favorite unmounted paintings, drawings, prints, maps, and folios -
additionally displaying the huge colorful crayon drawing just brought home by your
6-year-old - far too nice (and far too large) for the refrigerator door.
What pride for the 'future artist'!
An additional note regarding Gillows :
This George IV folio stand is ‘attributed to Gillows’,
one of the premier British cabinetmaking firms, from 1730 until the late 20th century.
Their furniture is always of the highest quality,
often referred to as ‘prestigious’,
and just as often with some small unexpected ‘over-the-top’ element.
Much - but not all - of Gillows furniture was signed.
Fortunately, they also maintained excellent archives and sketch books,
now in the Westminster City Libraries, London.
This attribution was made on the basis of similar attributions,
as well as the following illustration in the Gillows ‘Sketch Book’ :
Gillows ‘Sketch Book’, Pl. 307, Folio Stand, 1820