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Modernist Gerald Summers Book Units
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Design, Ethnographic & Ancient Art

Modernist Gerald Summers Book Units

Probably the most versatile modular unit ever designed

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Modernist Gerald Summers Book Units

Gerald Summers (1899 - 1967)

Designed 1934

Made by "Makers of Simple Furniture" ( 1931 - 1940 )

Registered Design No. 796529

White tinted birch plywood

In 1934 Summers achieved a 'Mondrian' like perfection with his design for these L-shaped book shelves. They can be placed in a huge variety of combinations and with their asymmetric internal dimensions and exciting external silhouette they are quite unlike any other modular design before or since; yet as always they conform to Summers' interdependence of form and function.

The most innovative designer in Britain in the 1930's Gerald Summers' significance is only now being appreciated as emphasis has heretofore been placed upon the achievements of European and Scandinavian designers and because 'Makers of Simple Furniture' was a small company, producing mainly to order, without the publicity machine of larger workshops.

Originally offered through Heals, Harrods and select department stores in the US, examples of Summers' designs are now held by the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Vitra Design Museum in Germany.


Purchased c. 1935 by Cecil Handisyde Architect*

Thence by descent

U.K. Private Collection

Museums & Exhibitions:

Victoria & Albert Museum: Summers work is now included in the new 20th Century Furniture Galleries which opened at the V & A in November, 2012

The Geffrye Museum, London have two book units in their collections.

Museum of Modern Art, New York 2014 Exhibition: The Magic of Plywood

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Vitra Design Museum

Thirties British Art and Design before the War organized by the Arts Council of Great Britain, London 1979

'Constructivism in Art & Design' Crafts Council Gallery, London 1988


The Design History Journal 1992 Vol.5 No.3 - precis of Masters' thesis by Martha Deese, Metropolitan Museum New York

Gerald Summers: Furniture For the Concrete Age Dunn and Mantz pub. 2012

1000 Chairs Charlotte and Peter Fiell, Cologne 2000 p.232

Design for Today 1934

100 Masterpieces Vitra Design Museum

Furnishing the small Home published London and New York 1930's by the Studio Ltd.

A History of British Design 1839-1970 Fiona McCarthy pub. 1972

Bent Wood and Metal Furniture 1850-1946 University of Washington Press edited by Derek E. Ostergard

*Cecil Handisyde was one of a team of architects who designed the Lansbury Estate in London which was built as the 'live architecture' element of the 1951 Festival of Britain exhibition.

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