Tuckerman, Henry T. The Character & Portraits of Washington. New York. 1859. Published by G.T. Putnam, 115 Nassau Street, NY. Extremely Fine. The stunning beauty of the binding would be hard to over-describe. Simply opening the custom matched box to reveal the front cover of the book is enough to give one pause-perhaps <em>breathtaking</em> is truly the proper descriptor. The binding itself is a magnificent example of the bookbinders art by one of the worlds finest bookbinding firms of the 20th century, Sangorski & Sutliffe of London, whose imprint is found on the inside front cover. The firm was founded in 1901 and this binding is probably from the mid to late 1920s. The library at Trinity College, Cambridge, owns a volume of "Poems and Song of Mary Queen of Scots" that was created and decorated by Alberto Sangorski, and bound by the firm "around 1925-26." Both books are bound in the same dark blue full Morocco leather and have similarities in the cover ornamentations suggesting they were done about the same time. The volume at Trinity College has been in the library there since 1931.This might be the finest binding ever seen in numismatic circles. The exquisite gold gilt ornamentation is incredibly ornate, with floral ornaments at the four corners of the front cover, in four of the six sections of the spine, and at the four corners of the back cover. Those at the corners are accented by red and green leaf and berry elements. Multiple thin gilt borderlines connect the corner elements, framing fields of stars and rosettes on both sides. The tiny stars are in silver, the rosettes in gold and red. On the front cover, a large oval gilt floral wreath, with a red and blue GW monogram at the base, dramatically frames an ornamented inset of brown leather and gilt, featuring a genuine gold oval George Washington funeral medal shell by Jacob Perkins (Musante GW-75, Baker-169). The inside covers are detailed in brown leather, and small closed cuts behind the funeral medal suggests that it might have been removed for examination at some point, or more likely added as a substantial upgrade to another decorative piece that had been in this position originally.Concerning the medal offered with this lot, it is this piece that draws the eye of the numismatist, and particularly the collector of Washingtoniana, as it is one of the prized rarities of the specialty. The typically seen funeral medals by Jacob Perkins, with their funeral urn motif on the reverse, have long been a favorite of collectors for their direct ties to the first president. They were produced for distribution at or just in advance of the civic funeral processions for Washington in Boston, in 1800. They, along with rarer specimens featuring the skull and crossbones reverse motif, are generally seen in silver or white metal, while rare occasions such as in our sale of the Norweb Collection of Washington medals have produced examples in gold. The gold oval shells are much rarer than their round counterparts. According to Russell Rulau and George Fuld, just eight examples are known in gold. Neil Musante, writing in his landmark reference, <em>Medallic Washington</em>, specifically mentions this one which was probably unknown to Rulau and Fuld. Being inset into this beautiful binding and obviously of superb quality, it is a special one indeed. Some are holed, bent or otherwise damaged as they are quite thin and susceptible to anything other than careful handling. This one appears superbly preserved with gently prooflike fields and sharp details. Small breaks in the thin shell over the letters D IN T of WORLD IN TEARS are probably as made. According to a contemporary advertisement reproduced by Musante, these were intended to be used by ladies, ideally inset into lockets, and were offered for sale at $2.50 each. Some were certainly set into lockets, as Musante includes images of two examples in his book. While the viewers first impressions of this fine book are created by the lovely custom case, the spectacular binding and rare gold medal, the interior is just as impressive. The text of the book discusses, as the title suggests, the character of Washington, and features many varied and rare engravings within. The interior is remarkably clean, with the occasional tiny foxing spot or gentle discoloration from one of the plates, but overall the pages are clean and bright. The gentle embossing from the printing process is still evident in the pages of text. The page ends are nicely gilt.Perhaps the best basic description of this volume comes from the publishers own note, found on page 5:<em>The Essay on the Character of Washington here republished, is from a volume issued two years since; * that on the Portraits was originally prepared for "Putnams Monthly," and a portion of it is included in the Appendix to the Fifth Volume of "Irvings Life of Washington;" numerous corrections and important additions have since been made, and the new interest in the subject awakened by the popular Biography just completed, and the national subscriptions for the purchase of Mount Vernon, has induced the publisher, with the authors co-operation, to bring out this complete and illustrated edition. </em><em></em><em>*Essays, Biographical and Critical, Boston: Phillips, Sampson & Co., 1857</em>The <em>Character of Washington</em> portion of the book includes at least 20 engraved illustrations of Washington, some printed on bound-in cards and others affixed to same. There is an engraving of Mount Vernon, and also an original remainder receipt for the fundraising efforts that led to the eventual purchase of Washingtons home and its salvation for posterity. The illustrations of Washington include those of famous artists such as Charles Wilson Peale, Jean Antoine Houdon, Rembrandt Peale, Gilbert Stuart and others. The <em>Portraits of Washington </em>section includes more than 50 engravings and prints of Washington, a couple of Martha Washington, and a couple of the Tomb (one a full-page and in color). Many of these are large and impressive and were from very limited runs, occasionally with details pasted on the verso of the plates. The Appendices include three more portraits and a pasted-in oak leaf that we presume came from the property at Mount Vernon.When this was last sold publicly, a decade ago, it included an original hand-written letter by George Washington, bearing his autograph signature. That letter is no longer associated with the book.This is a truly magnificent volume on the first president, a work meant to honor him, published at a time when interest in him was perhaps as great as it has ever been since days surrounding his death, in 1799. It is quite remarkable to have the opportunity to study this book as a follow-up to our landmark sale of the William Spohn Baker Collection of Washington medals in November 2019. Baker was perhaps the leading scholar on Washington in the late 19th century, and collected more than 1,000 engraved prints of the man (as well as a vast library) alongside the more than 1,000 medals that we had the pleasure to present in our November sale. While we did not have the chance to see what must have been a magnificent collection of engravings assembled by Baker, this volume is a bit of a teaser as to what that collection would have included. It is a window into the nature of scholarship on Washington of the period and an illustration of the way he was remembered little more than a half century after his death. For the present day collector of Washington medals, it is an incredible record that speaks to the sentiments that sparked the vast series of medallic issues bearing Washingtons portrait that are so enjoyed and sought after today. From Heritages sale of August 2010, lot 1143.