Napoleon and the Fair Sex by Frederic Masson
Napoleon and the Fair Sex
Frederic Masson, 1894

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.


 

 

Related Video

See our video on What is a Cosway Binding? Play Video

 

 

Examples of Cosway Bindings:

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Pride & Prejudice
Jane Austen

1923, red morocco, hand-painted miniature of Jane Austen

 

Life of Napoleon Bonaparte by William Milligan Sloane
Life of Napoleon Bonaparte
William Milligan Sloane

1896, burgundy morocco; Sloane was a Princeton professor

The Prisoner of Chillon by Lord Byron
The Prisoner of Chillon
Lord Byron

1816, bound by Sangorski & Sutcliffe with portrait of a youthful Byron

The Life and Adventures of Oliver Goldsmith by John Forster
The Life and Adventures of Oliver Goldsmith
John Forster

Sangorski & Sutcliffe binding with inlaid miniature portraits

The Old Régime, Court, Salons & Theatres by Lady Catherine Charlotte Jackson
The Old Régime, Court, Salons & Theatres
Lady Catherine Charlotte Jackson

1880, bound by Bayntun, from the library of W. A. Foyle

Evangeline by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Evangeline
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

1903, olive brown morocco binding done by Riviere & Son, with a total of 14 very fine Cosway-style miniatures

A Caveat for France translated by Edward Aggas
A Caveat for France
translated by Edward Aggase

1588 - bound 1913 by Riviere and Son in red goatskin with large inlaid portrait miniature of Henry IV on ivory
Psyche, with other Poems by Mary Tighe
Psyche, with other Poems
Mary Tighe

1812, front cover inset with rectangular miniature portrait of Psyche with the casket and butterfly by Miss C.B. Currie on ivory under glass

Adonais by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Adonais
Percy Bysshe Shelley

1927, a facsimile of the Pisa edition of 1821, bound in cerulean blue morocco by Riviere & Sons, with two portraits

The Story of Emma, Lady Hamilton by Julia Frankau
The Story of Emma, Lady Hamilton
Julia Frankau

1911, bound by The Chelsea Bindery, with twelve vignette miniature portraits surrounding one larger of Horatio Nelson

Mary Queen of Scots in Captivity by John Daniel Leader
Mary Queen of Scots in Captivity
John Daniel Leader

1880, by Bayntun-Riviere, tooled in gilt with impressions of thistle and leaves on long stems, and a miniature portrait of Mary Queen of Scots
The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club by Charles Dickens
The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club
by Charles Dickens

1837, inlaid blue morocco flowers with a finely executed miniature of Dickens on ivory under glass
Life of William Shakespeare
Life of William Shakespeare


1898, cover boasts large oval miniature by C.B. Currie, and gilt floral corner ornaments with onlaid red morocco gilt roses.
Josephine, Empress and Queen by Frederic Masson
Josephine, Empress and Queen
Frederic Masson

1899, Set into the inner front cover is an exquisite 2.25 inch round color miniature of Josephine by Derval, with own brass filigree frame
The Complete Poetical Works of Percy Shelley
The Complete Poetical Works of Percy Shelley

1904, contemporary red morocco binding by Bayntun, spine gilt in compartments, upper board with oval miniature of Shelley under glass
Sonnets from the Portuguese by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Sonnets from the Portuguese
Elizabeth Barrett Browning

1915, Recent green morocco by Bayntun-Riviere, with original portrait miniature of Browning mounted behind glass
The Court of the Tuileries from the Restoration to the Flight of Louis Philippe by Lady Catherine Charlotte Jackson
The Court of the Tuileries from the Restoration to the Flight of Louis Philippe
Lady Catherine Charlotte Jackson

1883, finely bound by Bayntun in rich brown crushed morocco, and a panel set with green faceted stones and tooled gilt flowers
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
David Copperfield
Charles Dickens

1850, bound by Bayntun with a miniature of a young Dickens
A Selection From the Works of Alfred Tennyson
A Selection From the Works of Alfred Tennyson


1865, by Riviere in full dark blue crushed morocco with silk endpapers and a miniature of Tennyson on ivory
Orley Farm by Anthony Trollope
Orley Farm
Anthony Trollope

1862, bound in green morocco by Bayntun, miniature of Trollope
Sir Edwin Landseer R.A. by James A. Manson (ed.)
Sir Edwin Landseer R.A.
James A. Manson (ed.)

1902, Nine miniatures on the front cover depict eight hunting dogs around a stag; the miniature on the back cover is a portrait of Sir Edwin Landseer.
Exercice du Chrétien
Exercice du Chrétien

1774, binder is unknown but came 130 years prior to J.H. Stonehouse, and as such, this anonymous visionary actually developed the concept.
The Water-Babies by Charles Kingsley
The Water-Babies
Charles Kingsley

1885, Covers with gilt triple fillet border, with a fine rectangular miniature portrait of Charles Kingsley

Madame de Sévigné, Her Correspondents and Contemporaries
Madame de Sévigné, Her Correspondents and Contemporaries

1873, Two volumes. The front doublure of each volume is set with a very fine oval portrait miniature, in Volume I of Madam de Sévigné and in Volume II of her daughter, Madame Grignan.
Henry Irving: A Record and Review by Charles Hiatt
Henry Irving: A Record and Review
Charles Hiatt

1899, Elaborate gilt work to spine which is divided by hubs into six compartments. Same gilt work to front panel with oval portrait of Henry Irving

What is a Cosway Binding?:



 

More Rare and Collectable Book Treats



Collectible Color Plates: Color Your Shelf Lovely in Leather: Easton Press Illuminated Manuscripts