CATALOGUE OF PORTRAIT MINIATURES.
(England: ca. 1910). 392 x 287 mm. (15 3/8 x 11 1/4").  leaves, with text in an attractive italic hand, all separated by tissue guards.
SUMPTUOUS OLIVE GREEN STRAIGHT-GRAIN MOROCCO, ELABORATELY GILT, BY ZAEHNSDORF (stamp-signed on front doublure and with their exhibition stamp on rear turn-in), covers with densely stippled floral roll border enclosing a large frame formed by drawer handle tools and floral tools on a stippled ground; central panel with large cornerpieces rampant with flower tools, circlets, volutes, and much stippling; raised bands, spine compartments heavily gilt in a similar style, gilt titling, RED MOROCCO DOUBLURES with opulent dentelle frame, surrounded by gilt-tooled green morocco turn-ins, red watered silk endleaves with gilt edging, all edges gilt. WITH 76 BLACK & WHITE PHOTOGRAPHIC REPRODUCTIONS OF PORTRAIT MINIATURES BY RICHARD COSWAY, ANDREW PLIMER, AND OTHERS mounted and enclosed by hand-painted burnished gold frames, EACH PORTRAIT WITH HAND-ILLUMINATED TITLE in red, blue, green, and burnished gold. Verso of front endleaf with book label of Thomas Agnew & Sons, Old Bond Street Library. A bit of wear to front joint, a little rubbing to extremities, occasional mild rumpling to head or tail of vellum leaves, isolated small marginal smudges, otherwise a fine specimen, the vellum creamy and bright, the illuminations shining, and the binding quite sound and lustrous with gold.
Composed of vellum leaves, this is a unique, luxurious catalogue of a miniatures collection, with delicate script, lovely illumination, and a stately binding by one of London's foremost workshops. State-of-the-art photographic reproductions of mostly 18th century miniatures are juxtaposed here with calligraphy and illuminations harking back to Medieval bookmaking. Each portrait is surrounded by a gold frame, and accompanied by a hand-written description with an illuminated title, giving biographical details of known subjects and a physical description of the miniatures whenever they are labelled simply "Portrait of a Lady" or "Portrait of a Gentleman." The scale of this production--which is nearly twice the size of most illuminated manuscripts of the early 20th century--and the splendor of the binding point to a patron of considerable means, likely either the proprietors of, or a client of, the Agnew art dealers. The Agnew firm began as a printseller in Manchester in 1817, but over the course of the 19th century became one of the principal British galleries under the leadership of the founder's son William. A London branch opened in 1860, and the Bond Street flagship in 1875. William Agnew (1825-1910) did much to foster the careers of British artists Holman Hunt, Frederick Leighton, and Edward Burne-Jones, and his clients included Henry Tate, whom he encouraged to found the celebrated Tate Gallery. The binding here is a superb example of the work of the Zaehnsdorf firm, long a top-ranked English bindery. Born in Pest, Hungary, Joseph Zaehnsdorf (1816-86) served his apprenticeship in Stuttgart, worked at a number of European locations as a journeyman, and then settled in London, where he was hired first by Westley and then by Mackenzie before opening his own workshop in 1842. His son and namesake took over the business at age 33, when the senior Joseph died, and the firm flourished under the son's leadership, becoming a leading West End bindery. Over the years, Zaehnsdorf employed a considerable number of distinguished binders, including the Frenchman Louis Genth (who was chief finisher from 1859-84), and trained a number of others, including Roger de Coverly and Sarah Prideaux. A family-run business until 1947, the Zaehnsdorf bindery continued to produce consistently attractive and innovative designs executed with unfailing skill. It is generally understood that the firm reserved the use of its oval stamp showing a binder at work (seen here) for their finest bindings, including those entered in exhibitions. (ST14374)