Involving All the Original Players, with the
Portraits by Miss Currie Showing Notable Sensitivity
(BINDINGS - COSWAY). SHELLEY, PERCY BYSSHE.
ADONAIS. A FACSIMILE OF THE PISA EDITION OF 1821.(London: Noel Douglas, 1927). 257 x 181 mm (10 1/8 x 7 1/8"). 2 p.l., 25,  pp.
AN ESPECIALLY FINE COSWAY-STYLE BINDING IN CERULEAN BLUE MOROCCO, ATTRACTIVELY GILT, BY RIVIERE & SONS (signed on front turn-in), covers bordered with solid and stippled gilt rules accented at the corners and along each side by a looping floral tool, CENTER OF EACH COVER WITH A FINE OVAL WATERCOLOR PORTRAIT--OF SHELLEY ON THE FRONT AND OF KEATS ON THE BACK--PAINTED ON IVORY BY MISS C. B. CURRIE ("Miniatures by C. B. Currie" written in cursive on front doublure in gold ink), the portraits under glass and enclosed by a gilt-stamped frame of floral and foliate tools; "Cosway Binding" and "Invented by J. H. Stonehouse" stamped in gilt on fore edges of boards, raised bands, spine compartments attractively gilt with drawer-handle and floral tools, turn-ins framed by multiple gilt rules, blue watered silk endpapers, top edge gilt (expertly rebacked, using the original spine). In a matching felt-lined buckram slipcase. Limitation page with printed and manuscript notation: "This is No. 891 of the Cosway Bindings invented by J. H. Stonehouse, with Miniatures on Ivory by Miss Currie," and signed below by Stonehouse and Currie. Covers faintly soiled, spine evenly sunned toward green, otherwise very fine, the carefully restored binding with virtually no surface wear, and the text immaculate.
The earliest--and generally considered to be the finest--Cosway bindings were executed by Miss C. B. Currie, who is known to have worked between 1912-40, usually (as here) from designs by J. H. Stonehouse. The present item is a quintessential example of a genuine Cosway binding, involving the entire original cast of collaborators--Miss Currie, Stonehouse, Riviere, Sotheran--and no doubt produced in the late 1930s. We know more or less for certain that Currie did at least 950 miniatures in her lifetime, as a Cosway binding that sold at Christie's on 12 July 2000 bore that number, and most of the examples of Currie Cosway bindings in ABPC since 1975 are numbered in the 800s. The miniatures here are very finely executed, with deft strokes and a strong, appropriate feeling of melancholy, as manifested especially in the convincing treatment of the eyes--Shelley's being at once penetrating and vulnerable and Keats' being full of disillusioned pensiveness. The binding is as attractive as a Riviere production ought to be, but its gilt decoration is restrained, in keeping with the contents. The text here is a facsimile of the original printing of the tribute of one great Romantic poet to another at the latter's death. Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) was not a close friend of the slightly younger Keats (1795-1821) but recognized his great talent and was deeply moved when Keats died at the hands of consumption in Rome, where he had travelled in search of a warmer climate. In addition to lauding Keats, "Adonais," written in Spenserian stanzas, is a denunciation of the villains--carping literary critics--to whom Shelley attributed the poet's death. It is generally considered to be one of the great pastoral elegies in English. This is a facsimile of the first edition, which was printed in Pisa (where the Shelleys lived) rather than London, so that Shelley could personally oversee the printing process. He sent copies to his English publisher, James Ollier, for distribution. According to DNB, Ollier did sell the copies sent from Pisa, "but he did not republish the poem; indeed, Ollier was irksomely unco-operative over the winter of 1821-2, leading Shelley to search, unsuccessfully, for an alternative publisher.". (ST12052)