Three Rare Book Types You Probably Didn’t Know About

You can find a lot of surprises in a collection of 27,000 books that spans 493 years of publishing, printing, and binding. Here are three of the most surprising types of rare books you can find in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room here at NSLM.

3. Presentation Copies

Howitt's Animals, by Samuel Howitt (1765-1822), a collection of proofs of Howitt's sporting etchings. Inscription (right): "The gift of Samuel Howitt, who etched them, to his friend William Edkins." A letter to Edkins (left) is pinned to the facing page.
Howitt’s Animals, by Samuel Howitt (1765-1822), a collection of proofs of Howitt’s sporting etchings. Inscription (right): “The gift of Samuel Howitt, who etched them, to his friend William Edkins.” A letter to Edkins (left) is pinned to the facing page.

Strictly speaking, a presentation copy is a book that was presented by the author as a gift to a friend or relative. Often, the gift is memorialized in the front pages of the book through an inscription of the gift. Presentation copies are usually early copies printed specifically to be given as gifts, and will bear the inscription on or near the date of publication. Many authors inscribed presentation copies in the 18th and 19th Centuries, and modern authors tend to tip in a typed and signed slip commemorating the gift.

 

2. Cosway Bindings

The Compleat Angler, by Izaak Walton (1594-1683). Chiswick: The Caradoc Press, 1905. This Cosway Binding features a portrait of Walton on ivory and under glass, all laid into a beautiful front board.
The Compleat Angler, by Izaak Walton (1594-1683). Chiswick: The Caradoc Press, 1905. This Cosway Binding features a portrait of Walton on ivory and under glass, all laid into a beautiful front board.

A book with a Cosway binding has a miniature portrait inlaid in the cover binding. Introduced and popularized in the early 20th Century, this rare binding is named for Richard Cosway (1742-1821), a British artist renowned for his miniature paintings. Books with Cosway bindings are sought after as collectibles.

 

1. Fore-Edge Paintings

Fishing Scene, Fore-edge painting, fanned to the right. The Poetical Works of Thomas Campbell, London, Edward Moxon, 1840.
Fishing Scene, Fore-edge painting, fanned to the right. The Poetical Works of Thomas Campbell, London: Edward Moxon, 1840.

Fore-edge painting is the practice of painting tiny images on the edges of book pages. The practice is nearly unheard-of in the United States, but is still practiced by a few artists in Europe today. Fore-edge painting became popular in the middle of the 19th Century, with amateur artists painting watercolors on books with expensive leather bindings. Paintings are often gilt over to hide the artwork, which only emerges when pages are turned. Check your collection! You might have a fore-edge painting and not even know it.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s