The name comes from "liseuse" which is the feminine form of "liseur" in French. This is often translated as "reader" but it is used normally to describe a person which really likes to read, while a simple reader is called "lecteur" or "lectrice" in the feminine gender. This is one indication of many of the original market for such desks.
The Liseuse is an antique desk form which was popular in France during the 18th century and produced again in the first part of the 19th century. It was copied in several continental countries and in the United Kingdom.
Many Liseuses are polyvalent pieces of furniture with a double or triple use. Geared towards an 18th century feminine market for the most part, they often have drawers made specially for storing toilettry and cosmetics in addition to the drawer or drawers containing paper, quill, ink and other writing implements.
See also the list of desk forms and types.