‘You should never judge a book by its cover’, as the saying goes, but there is a certain category of books where the design and quality of binding is all important to collectors.
Books bound by Captain Charles Elsden Gladstone (1855-1919), a Commander in the Royal Navy, are a prime example of this category, where the elaborate design hand-tooled into the binding is the driver of the value, rather than the text printed inside.
Three of Captain Gladstone’s books, signed with his initials CEG, are set to be offered at Cheffins Fine Art on 4th July at the specialist Book sale, having been in his family for over 100 years.
A 1910 Club Members’ edition of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, a translation of the Persian mathematician, astronomer, and poet, is perhaps the most elaborately decorated of the three and has an estimate of between £700 - £1,000.
In keeping with the subject of the text itself, the leather binding takes on the look of a Persian prayer rug with its arched niche, and a tree of life motif is central on the front of the book.
Because the design is so intricate and the decoration entirely created using individual hand tools, no two designs are ever the same which increases the value when the design is particularly eye-catching to collectors and the book is in very good condition.
Very little is known of Captain Gladstone beyond his time in the Royal Navy. At a previous sale where other examples of his books had appeared for auction, some regular book buyers had commented that the leather tooling work was too good not to be by a professional binder, though there is no family information to suggest that the work is not all by his own hands - a true accolade for Gladstone!
Charles Ashton, book specialist and a director at Cheffins Fine Art, said: “I have sold many of these types of books over the years, where the book title itself isn’t rare, but the decorative and elaborate design to the binding has always made them very sought after by collectors, as miniature works of art.
“A number of those were also signed by Captain Gladstone, and the three books making a first appearance at public auction soon, are particularly fine examples of his work and I expect there to be a lot of interest.”