Book Collecting Guide

Cosway Binding: Beautifully Bound Books

Hand-painted miniature pictures bound into well-crafted covers - cosway-style binding is a beautiful art, but it has almost nothing to do with Richard Cosway.

“Cosway Binding” describes a leather-bound book binding inset with detailed miniature paintings on either the cover or inside cover, or both. They are called such after renowned English miniaturist Richard Cosway, although he was long in his grave before the first examples of this bindery method were released.

Right around 1903, J. Harrison Stonehouse, the managing director of London’s Henry Sotheran Booksellers, created these fine quality books for collectors and connoisseurs. Part of the great success of his Cosway binding method was due to the great skill of his in-house miniaturist, Miss C. B. Currie, who is estimated to have painted several thousand incredibly detailed miniatures on ivory for over 900 bindings before her death around 1940.

The competing publishing houses quickly began to reproduce this binding style as it proved to be quite popular, but these are considered “Cosway-style” bindings, as they cannot compare to the original releases by Sotheran.