Rare 18th-Century Book Commode Heads to Auction

Book Commode? Yes, ye olde toilets trimmed with an outer “book” wrapping, either to obscure or at least to accessorize, were a thing in the eighteenth century, particularly in France. This example, which heads to auction in New York on March 4, is constructed of wood and features iron hinges, clasps, and latches. When collapsed, it appears to be just another folio-sized leather-bound book, complete with spine label reading Historia Universalis. But a quick construction of parts reveals a 20 x 18 x 14.5-inch pop-up stool and the necessary hole. A chamber pot would be been placed within.

“All bathroom humor aside, surviving examples of these book commodes are actually quite rare. This example remains in functional condition with some wear to the exterior leather covering and thankfully little or no sign of wear to the interior,” according to Heritage Auctions.

The bidding opens at $1,500.

Last month, Atlas Obscura published a short history of book toilets, featuring another specimen currently for sale with Daniel Crouch Rare Books. As book conservator and author of Blook: The Art of Books That Aren’t, Mindell Dubansky explained to AO, it’s not clear whether book toilets were recycled from pieces of real books or from binders’ waste (sigh, pun intended).