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Buffalo, NY mahogany desk with tambour lid, ca. 1900

-Southampton Antiques (www.southampton.com)

Definition: a flexible roll-top door or lid that's made of narrow wood slats, glued either horizontally or vertically in parallel formation onto a heavy piece of fabric, traditionally canvas. The edges of the fabric are set into grooves within a piece of furniture. When raised or moved, the fabric rolls around a hidden cylinder, causing it to "retreat" into the top or sides of the piece. Tambours were invented in France - the word is French for "drum" - around the 1760s. They're most commonly seen in roll-top desks, but also appear in other sorts of case furniture, such as cabinets or wash stands, as well as night tables and even laptop writing desks.

Pronunciation: tam-boor

Example: Good-quality roll-top desks have two handles on either side of the tambour, to help you pull down the often-heavy lid with ease.

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