E. Cobham Brewer 18101897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
A shelf over a fire-place, originally used for drying clothes.
Around the spacious cupola, over the Italian fire-places, is a ledge to which are affixed pegs, on which postillions hung their wet clothes to dry. We call the shelves over the fire-places mantel-pieces, but we no longer hang our mantles on them to dry.Memoirs of Col. Macaroni.