Bookcase/steamer trunk

I generally have little use for couture in all its incarnations, but Vuitton's combination steamer trunk and portable* library skewers me like an arrow. Nice old steamer trunks aren't cheap, but I'm still guessing you could find one, retrofit it and reproduce the effect without the stupid Vuitton wallpaper that covers the exterior and have something even better.

Louis Vuitton’s bookcase trunk

* In the sense that a small army of porters could carry it)


  1. Honestly…. while i don’t like this particular example. I wouldn’t mind seeing someone go to the trouble of making a not-kitch example piece.

    1. Restoration Hardware has a couple of lines they’ve been making for the past couplefew years that might be up your alley.

  2. Portable libraries (bibliotheque portative–fr.) have quite a lengthy history, albeit as an aristocratic prerogative. Very popular in both England and France during the 18th and early 19th century, they often saw use on the European Grand Tour, and were also fairly commonplace among military and naval officers (who were frequently very well educated, at least in England).

    I have seen specimens with nearly two hundred slim bound tomes (Bell’s British Poets were popular for the purpose, as well as various classical texts) sometimes in two cases. Often these cases themselves are in book form, leather-bound over wooden boards, (with marbled paper linings much like a book’s end-papers, in the instance of one example I recently handled).

    Surviving examples are quite rare, and often tend to be worn–they saw hard use. Sometimes the bindings (books and case) were very elaborate indeed). Louis Vuitton is somehow not inappropriate (at least old Vuitton) and I am not at all surprised to learn that the firm custom-made such libraries for real in the dim and distant past (the firm dates, I believe, from the 1850s). I’m not a hundred percent certain this example was built for the purpose, but could well be, although–thank heavens–it does not have its quota of LV monogrammed books.

    1. Also, the porters who hauled around traditionally-sized steamer trunks  used hand-trucks or other wheeled carts to do it – they’re too heavy even without being full of books.

    2. Louis Vuitton is somehow not inappropriate

      They didn’t make anything but luggage for their first half-century, I believe.  But then, Abercrombie & Fitch were safari outfitters.

  3. A friend who was a Peace Corps volunteer in the mid 60’s told me about a “library of paperbacks” that she was given in some sort of box. I can’t find any online example to anything official, but it would be interesting to track down, including the titles included.

  4. Cory, surely you are partial to a little “couture” with your doll !

    I realise that taste is subjective but what is it you find so “stupid” about the classic LV Monogram Canvas design? I think it is rather tasteful.

    1. A nice single malt will keep you warm in your tent for about 20 minutes. A retinue of porters lasts all night long.

  5. My paternal grandparents had a 1920s Vuitton the took to Egypt (it still has the real stickers on it from hotels) that landed with me for awhile and that I spruced up and so I’ve had a chance to really look at the workings on these. 

    Vuitton trunks from back then were EXTREMELY well made. Practically bullet-proof when closed – the modern equivalent of a Pelican case. Better made than all of the following dozen or so vintage steamer trunks I’ve owned. I even moved it across country as checked baggage (can you imagine doing that now?) when I was in college because I needed some way of transporting it. Oh the forms they made me sign! 

    So while Vuitton may now be more about the LV and class and wealth and status, when they were used for gallivanting around the world by wealthy people they were at least ALSO a very robust bit of kit. 

Comments are closed.