A Beautiful and Immaculate Cosway-Style Binding, with a Softened and Exquisite Portrait of Milton by Miss Currie


(London: George Bell & Sons, 1898). 220 x 128 mm. (8 5/8 x 5"). xiv, 206 pp., [1] leaf (colophon). No. 5 OF 100 COPIES on Japanese vellum.

SUPERB DARK BLUE CRUSHED MOROCCO BY SANGORSKI & SUTCLIFFE for Henry Sotheran (stamp-signed on turn-ins), covers with French fillet borders, elaborate cornerpieces with floral spray and massed small tools, upper cover with MINIATURE PORTRAIT OF MILTON UNDER GLASS, WITHOUT DOUBT BY MISS C. B. CURRIE, the painting enclosed by a brass frame surrounded by gilt tooling, raised bands, spine compartments with double fillet frames, fleuron cornerpieces, gilt lettering, gilt-framed turn-ins, light blue moiré silk endleaves, all edges gilt. In a velvet-lined blue buckram clamshell box. Frontispiece and title page in decorative red frames, 63 illustrations by A. Garth Jones, 28 of them full-page. Ray, "England" 303. ◆AN IMMACULATE COPY, INSIDE AND OUT.

Beautifully designed and in exemplary condition, this is a fine example of a Cosway-style binding, featuring the polished and elegant painting of Caroline Billin Currie. The so-called "Cosway" binding, with painted miniatures inlaid in handsome morocco--either inside or (as here) on the outside of the front cover--apparently originated with the London bookselling firm of Henry Sotheran about 1909. In that year, G. C. Williamson's 1905 book entitled "Richard Cosway" (which celebrated the career of this leading Georgian and Regency miniature painter) was remaindered by Sotheran and presumably given this special decorative treatment in order to boost sales. The name "Cosway" then was used to describe any book so treated, whatever its subject. The finest miniatures on Cosway bindings were executed by Currie (1849-1940), who is known to have created such paintings for Sotheran's from 1910 until her death, usually from designs by J. H. Stonehouse, and typically (though not in the present case) for bindings executed by Riviere. Not present here is an inserted leaf acknowledging Currie's work--something normally seen with Cosway bindings featuring her miniatures; but she has a distinctive deftness to her brush strokes and a recognizably refined execution that are clearly present here. (And, as helpful corroboration, a note on the front free endpaper states that this is her work.) Here, she has produced a sympathetic portrait based on William Faithorne the elder's 1670 engraving. Currie has softened the expression of Faithorne's severe Puritan, who gazes imperiously down and away; our Milton, his long hair touched with gray, looks straight at the viewer with kindly pale blue eyes, patient, understanding, and empathetic to suffering. Apart from the binding, this is a handsomely illustrated deluxe printing, done on luxurious paper, of Milton's so-called "minor" poems, which are minor only when compared to such a monumental achievement as "Paradise Lost." They span his entire career, from "On the Morning of Christ's Nativity" (1628)--generally considered to be his first great poem--to "Samson Agonistes" (1671), perhaps his last work. From his university days, we have "L'Allegro" and "Il Penseroso," which contrast a sociable, joyous life with one devoted to pensive contemplation (Milton's personal preference); then, from his later years, we have the touching "On his Blindness," a meditation on patience and forbearance. Also included are "Lycidas," "Comus," and the sonnets that some consider second only to Shakespeare's. Artist Alfred Garth Jones (1872-1955) tells us in his preface that "he has striven to keep to what he conceives to be the Miltonic spirit," eschewing excessive ornamentation to embrace the "sanity and severity of Milton's writing." Ray notes his emphasis on the "more intellectual side of the poet," which he finds to be particularly complementary to "Il Penseroso" and "Samson Agonistes." The present copy is essentially unchanged from the day it left the Sangorski & Sutcliffe workshop.

Price: $8,500.00