1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Buffet

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BUFFET, a piece of furniture which may be open or closed, or partly open and partly closed, for the reception of dishes, china, glass and plate. The word may also signify a long counter at which one stands to eat and drink, as at a restaurant, or—which would appear to be the original meaning—the room in which the counter stands. The word, like the thing it represents, is French. The buffet is the descendant of the credence, and the ancestor of the sideboard, and consequently has a close affinity to the dresser. Few articles of furniture, while preserving their original purpose, have varied more widely in form. In the beginning the buffet was a tiny apartment, or recess, little larger than a cupboard, separated from the room which it served either by a breast-high balustrade or by pillars. It developed into a definite piece of furniture, varying from simplicity to splendour, but always provided with one or more flat spaces, or broad shelves, for the reception of such necessaries of the dining-room as were not placed upon the table. The early buffets were sometimes carved with the utmost elaboration; the Renaissance did much to vary their form and refine their ornament. Often the lower part contained receptacles as in the characteristic English court-cupboard. The rage for collecting china in the middle of the 18th century was responsible for a new form—the high glazed back, fitted with shelves, for the display of fine pieces of crockery-ware. This, however, was hardly a true buffet, and was the very antithesis of the primary arrangement, in which the huge goblets and beakers and fantastic pieces of plate, of which so extremely few examples are left, were displayed upon the open “gradines.” The tiers of shelves, with or without a glass front, which are still often found in Georgian houses, were sometimes called buffets—in short, any dining-room receptacle for articles that were not immediately wanted came at last to bear the name. In France the variations of type were even more numerous than in England, and it is sometimes difficult to distinguish a commode from a buffet. In the latter part of the 18th century the buffet occasionally took the form of a console table.