"FULL MANY A GEM OF PUREST RAY SERENE/ THE DARK UNFATHOM'D CAVES OF OCEAN BEAR": ALDINE EDITION OF GRAY'S POETICAL WORKS, IN ELEGANT COSWAY-STYLE BINDING BY SANGORSKI & SUTCLIFFE
GRAY, Thomas. The Poetical Works. London: William Pickering, 1841. Small octavo, early 20th-century full green morocco gilt, elaborately gilt-decorated spine and covers with inlaid red floral motifs and decorative centerpieces, raised bands, red morocco doublures with inset Cosway-style watercolor portrait of Gray framed with six small pearls, watered silk free endpapers, all edges gilt and gauffered. Housed in a custon clamshell box. $5500.
Aldine edition Gray's poems, beautifully bound by Sangorski & Sutcliffe in an exquisite full morocco Cosway-style binding, inset on the front doublure with a wonderful watercolor portrait of Gray.
Thomas Gray was "a gentleman of his age, who numbered among his private accomplishments the occasional composition of poetry, who wished to share with others only those poems which met his own standards of excellence, and who, except for the two Pindaric odes, was reluctant to see any of them appear in print. Among these was one, perhaps the richest in self-revelation… a poem which through many changes of taste has retained its popularity and defined the literary rank of its author. Gray's Elegy is one of the great poems of the English language; to many readers, learned and otherwise, it has stood almost for the idea of poetry itself" (ODNB). The "Aldine" edition of British poets, first brought out by the publisher William Pickering beginning in 1830, aimed to introduce scholarly editions of the classics in a smaller, more affordable format. This copy is bound by Sangorski & Sutcliffe in an exquisite Cosway-style binding. Cosway bindings (named in 1909 for renowned 19th-century English miniaturist Richard Cosway) were the brainchild of John Harrison Stonehouse, managing director of London booksellers Henry Sotheran & Company, who in 1902 struck on the idea of embedding miniature paintings in the covers of richly-tooled bindings. He engaged the famous Rivière bindery to execute his idea in accordance with his own designs. Rivière brought into its employ Miss C.B. Currie with instructions to faithfully imitate Richard Cosway's detailed watercolor style of miniature painting. These delicate and beautiful miniatures, mostly portraits, often on ivory, were set into the covers (or sometimes doublures, as here) of fine bindings and protected with thin panes of glass. Cosway bindings executed by other than the original collaborators (Stonehouse, Sotheran, Rivière, and Currie) are designated as "Cosway-style" bindings—still splendid productions—by such esteemed binderies as Morrell, Bayntun, Bumpus and, of course, Sangorski & Sutcliffe.
Minor discoloration to rear cover. An about-fine volume, splendidly bound.