Covers, Rare

A Book By Its Cover: Queens of England

Submitted by Matthew Gengler on

With its inset landscape painting and tooled leather, Queens of England: a series of portraits of distinguished female sovereigns, drawn and engraved by eminent artists, with biographical and historical sketches by Agnes Strickland is a treasure to behold. The style of cover is particularly unusual. Associate Curator of European Painting Cory Korkow explains that, "bindings incorporating miniatures are called "Cosway" bindings after one of the most well-known British portrait miniaturists. Richard Cosway worked in the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries, and was known for his glamorizing portraits. The miniatures found on Cosway bindings were painted much later and in a different style, but take the name of the illustrious miniature painter regardless." This cover features a child playing with her dog in the shade of a tree. A large estate and with a shining flag are visible in the background. Closer examination reveals that fragments of mother of pearl are delicately inserted then painted over, contributing to the book’s ornate cover. The sturdiness of the leather binding compliments the delicacy of the painting. Strickland’s famous survey of the lives of the queens of England was extremely popular in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, and thus a perfect candidate for this luxurious binding. Interestingly, historians now know the important role the author's sister Elizabeth played in both researching and writing the book. This fact is highlighted in numerous places online, but is not mentioned in the book.