Ever seen a book with a Cosway binding? Here are a handful of rare and collectable books offered for sale by AbeBooks sellers featuring these stunning bindings. Cosway bindings are traditional leather bindings with miniature paintings inset into the covers. These beautiful bindings are named after Richard Cosway, the acclaimed English miniaturist portrait painter from the Regency era.
Born in Devon, Cosway was a prodigy and exhibited his first work at the age of 20 in 1762. He painted many members of the British Royal family and his subjects also included various English and French aristocrats. He married the Anglo-Italian artist Maria Hadfield and together they were the glamour couple of the Regency art world. Cosway died in 1821 but many of his miniatures can be seen in Windsor Castle.
The earliest Cosway bindings were created by Miss CB Currie who is known to have worked between 1912 and 1940 from designs by JH Stonehouse, Sotheran’s manager.
However, Cosway did not invent this style of binding. These bindings were not introduced until the early 20th century and were probably invented by the legendary bookselling firm of Henry Sotheran, or at least popularised. Examples of similar bindings have been seen earlier, however, such as in this example of Exercise du Chretién , from 1774. The binder is not known, but both the book and the binding significantly pre-date Henry Sotheran and C.B. Currie, and the binding does include inlaid miniature portraits.
For more reading about Richard Cosway, check out Richard and Maria Cosway: A Biography by Gerald Barnett or Richard & Maria Cosway: Regency Artists of Taste and Fashion – the 143-page catalogue associated with a 1995 exhibition at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery – or even Richard Cosway RA by George C Williamson.
Quantity on rare books extremely limited; copies on display may sell quickly.
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1923, red morocco, hand-painted miniature of Jane Austen
1896, burgundy morocco; Sloane was a Princeton professor
1816, bound by Sangorski & Sutcliffe with portrait of a youthful Byron
Sangorski & Sutcliffe binding with inlaid miniature portraits
1880, bound by Bayntun, from the library of W. A. Foyle
1903, olive brown morocco binding done by Riviere & Son, with a total of 14 very fine Cosway-style miniatures
1812, front cover inset with rectangular miniature portrait of Psyche with the casket and butterfly by Miss C.B. Currie on ivory under glass
1927, a facsimile of the Pisa edition of 1821, bound in cerulean blue morocco by Riviere & Sons, with two portraits
1911, bound by The Chelsea Bindery, with twelve vignette miniature portraits surrounding one larger of Horatio Nelson
1885, Covers with gilt triple fillet border, with a fine rectangular miniature portrait of Charles Kingsley