|  By Luke Baker

Imperial's 20th anniversary of books and bindings

July 6, 2009  |  Bibi Mohamed's 35 years of experience in the field of fine and rare books make her a go-to dealer for discriminating book collectors and bibliophiles. At her Madison Avenue gallery, Imperial Fine Books, she strives to aid both experienced and novice collectors in building a library and tracking down volumes they may be missing from their collection.  Mohamed, who started her career in the field at J. N. Bartfield before going freelance and subsequently opening her own shop, is as passionate about books as her clients are. She is also a member of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America, the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers, and the Art and Antique Dealers League of America.

Mohamed's inventory is extensive, spanning literature and poetry, history and Americana, Judaica, children's books, and publications concerning music and sports. Imperial Fine Books also specializes in restoring, rebinding, and cleaning leatherbound books. Their bindery, which has the largest collection of hand tools in the United States, creates custom leather or cloth bindings—ranging from basic hand-tooled leather to extravagant "jeweled" bindings of mosaic-like patterns of applied leather to "Cosway" bindings inset with miniature paintings or ivories—and archival boxes and slipcases in period styles for storage and presentation.

In May Imperial Fine Books celebrated its twentieth anniversary, and to mark the occasion Mohamed has organized a series of themed exhibitions that showcase rare and first edition titles in her holdings, many with masterful bindings executed in the shop's bindery. 

* In June the gallery displayed classic children's titles such as an 1865 first edition of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and its 1871 sequel, Through the Looking-Glass; a first edition of Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book, originally published in 1894; and four first-edition volumes of A. A. Milne's timeless tales of Winnie the Pooh, published between 1924 and 1928.

*July's exhibition celebrates sporting life with first edition titles on angling, horseracing, and golfing.

* August's installation focuses on the theme of music, and will feature a folio book of musical instruments with 50 color plates by William Gibb from 1888, as well as a four-volume set of The Standard Symphonies written by George Uptown and published in 1899.

* September's exhibit highlights Judaica with The Works of Josephus, a two-volume set from the 1800s, and The History of the Jews, a six-volume set by Graetz from 1894.

* From October to December, a special selection of Cosway-bound books will commemorate the centennial of this unique binding method, named for the celebrated English miniaturist Richard Cosway (1742-1821) and first pioneered at Henry Southeran's esteemed London bookshop.  Mohamed's exhibition Portraits of Excellence: Miss C.B. Currie and Cosway Bindings will explore the work of Currie—staff painter at Southeran's firm—whose virtuosic miniatures became synonymous with the most exclusive of Cosway bindings and helped fuel the craze for the style in the early 1900s.

Future exhibitions will present the gallery's collections of literature, Americana and illustrated titles, as well as some of Mohamed's own favorite books.

Now through July 31, Imperial Fine Books will be offering a 10% discount on book binding and repair services, another reason to visit their retail store and gallery located at 790 Madison Avenue, 2nd Floor, New York, NY.

Images from above: a leather bound and gilded set of The Writings of Herman Melville;  a jeweled binding on the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam translated by Edward Fitzgerald; Ivory Cosway portrait bindings on first edition Charles Dickens' Pickwick Papers; a library project executed by Imperial Fine Books. Courtesy of Imperial Fine Books.

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