(London: Privately printed at the Chiswick Press, 1906-08). 385 x 285 mm. (15 1/4 x 11 1/4"). Four volumes. No. 3 OF 20 COPIES PRINTED ON VELLUM, for private circulation only.
IN MEMORABLE COSWAY-STYLE BINDINGS of original stiff vellum over boards, silver bosses and cornerpieces on upper cover, two silver clasps, flat spine with gilt titling, SLATE BLUE MOROCCO DOUBLURES, elaborately inlaid and gilt, INSET WITH A TOTAL OF 23 MINIATURES PAINTED ON VELLUM, the front doublures inset with a group of miniatures, the rear doublures with one large miniature, slate blue watered silk endleaves. In the original green cloth slipcases. WITH 398 PLATES reproducing miniatures, 133 OF THESE IN COLOR, some heightened with gold. Verso of front free endleaf with small morocco bookplate of Lessing J. Rosenwald and with book label noting Rosenwald's gift of the item to the Library of Congress; deaccession stamp at the foot of the page. Spines a little soiled, otherwise A SUPERB SET with virtually no signs of use.
This is a breathtaking production that perfectly represents the beauty and high aesthetic standards of the collection it catalogues and, by extension, the almost unimaginable luxury of Morgan's Gilded Age. Along with a great many treasures of various kinds, Morgan (1837-1913) collected the finest obtainable examples of the rarest and best work done by the early masters of the miniature, and the superior delicacy and general quality of the collection is obvious from the first page of this impressive catalogue. According to the Morgan Library website, "during the last two decades of his life—from the 1890s until 1913—Morgan spent some $60 million on art (about $900 million today). From the beginning, it was clear that Morgan's collecting tastes could only be described as encyclopedic—what he amassed in such a short period encompassed virtually the full range of artistic and human achievement in Western civilization, from antiquity to modern times. . . . 'No price,' he was once reported to have said, 'is too high for an object of unquestioned beauty and known authenticity.'" The exterior of the bindings here is elegantly antique and appealing as such, but it is the lavish doublures that approach the spectacular, being all the more striking as a surprise, a lovely jewel hidden in a relatively plain box. The rich, creamy vellum text leaves lend a touch of decadence and sensual pleasure, while the attractive plates bring to life J. P. Morgan's unsurpassable collection. Our Cosway-style binding, with its profusions of inlaid miniatures, is particularly apt. Around 1909, the London bookselling firm of Henry Sotheran had remaindered biographies of miniaturist Richard Cosway (whose works are represented in this volume) adorned with special decorative bindings in which the main feature was a painted miniature inlaid in handsome morocco. The name "Cosway" was thereafter used to describe any binding in that style. The earliest Cosway bindings were executed by Miss C. B. Currie, who is known to have worked between 1912-40, usually from designs by J. H. Stonehouse. This copy was in the superb collection of illustrated books assembled by Sears chairman Lessing J. Rosenwald (1891-1979) and bequeathed by him to the Library of Congress. Not surprisingly, copies of this work, especially those printed on vellum, appear very infrequently in the marketplace. (ST13189)
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PJP Catalog: 74.232