After sharing pictures of a few miniature books with sterling silver covers on Facebook I was asked about what is inside such beautiful books. While I’m no expert, having just recently acquired the four at Booksby, I’ll do my best to lay some groundwork that you, kind reader, can use for further research.
The books are all bound in red or black morocco leather with elaborate gilt stamped spines with the silver relief clipped over the front cover or riveted to it. The relief is of .925 sterling and is hallmarked, as is all English silver, with the grade (standing lion for .925), year stamp, city of manufacture, and the silversmith’s mark. The text is printed on the finest, thin India paper and range from several hundred to over a thousand pages. All measure about 2 1/4 x 1 7/8 inches. Most if not all the titles were also bound in suede, cloth, vellum, and leather without the silver. The three primary publishers are: Oxford University Press, Eyre & Spottiswoode, and William Clowes & Sons. Most of these books seem to come from the first decade of the 20th century.
There are several titles you will find with this treatment. The most commonly encountered is The Book of Common prayer. Along with this you may find: Hymns Ancient & Modern, The Poetical Works of Alfred Lord Tennyson, The Poetical Works of Longfellow, The Royal Bijou Birthday Book, and the Handbook of Practical Cookery, as well as miniature notebooks and address books. The Book of Common Prayer comes most often with a relief of “Five Angels” after a painting by Joshua Reynolds, but there are almost two dozen other covers for this title alone. Longfellow and Tennyson both sport fine portraits of the respective poets, Cookery has a cauldron suspended over a fire and the Birthday Book has a wonderful beer garden scene, among others.
In the literature of miniature books, Bondy makes mention of them on pages 120-121, 139, and 167-168. Bromer/Edison doesn’t say a lot about them but has two spectacular photos of almost three dozen different covers on pages 58 and 80-81.
You can find these in dealer’s catalogs or at auction for just under one hundred dollars to several hundred dollars, depending on condition and rarity. I’ll put more photos inside & out and descriptions of the four I have in the gallery in the next few days.