French Decorative Bookbinding - Eighteenth Century

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The binding shown above is found in the 1910 catalogue of Edouard Rahir, it is item No. 263 and I have reproduced the catalogue information about this item, immediately below it. Now when I first saw this binding several years ago I was just beginning my Dubuisson research and as the date of the book's publication is given as 1772, I realized it was not the work of Pierre-Paul Dubuisson, however some of the tools looked as though they could have been Dubuisson's. At that time i had plenty to do just working on bindings made within his own lifetime, and put this one on the back burner where it has been sitting for all this time. Now that we are researching the Etat bindings I see that this is another Etat binding. However I have been puzzeled by a few Etat tools, some look as though they might be from the Dubuisson workshop while others appears very similar but with a distinct difference which then makes you suspect that something isn't right. If the tool only looks like the original then maybe none are actually original. The logic is that Dubuisson wouldn't be using something that is a copy of his own tool. This mystery steared my away from investigating further. However as luck would have it, while I was looking through all my Dubuisson binding examples I discovered the answer to this mystery. first let us look at the suspicious imprints.


High resolution scanned detail of Rahir item No. 217.

In the enlarged detail shown above we see imprints that derive from Rahir's 1910 catalogue, item 217. This binding I have detailed previously and maintain that it has been decorated by Dubuisson with his own tools. I used a number of the imprints from this binding as the base for my intitial Dubuisson Catalogue. Mainly due to the fact that the excellent reproduction quality allows us a better view of these imprints. As mentioned before you can see in the imprint pd-1 traces of horizontal lines on the upper part of the fleuron, normally these are not visible in most reproductions. Below in Comparative diagram I show my type imprints for pd-36a and pd-36b they probably came from the 217 binding, compared with similar imprints taken from the Etat bindings. While the Etat 36a looks like a close match 36b is obviously different and this is a problem.

etat cmpt

Comparative Diagram 1 - Dubuisson imprints pd-36a and pd-36b vs Etat imprints.

However today when I was looking through all my old pages on Dubuisson I stumbled opon this page where we are looking at a binding that has been attributed by all the experts, to Douceur, and yet we see unmistakeable Dubuisson imprints, but not only are they Dubuisson imprints they contain the solution to our mystery. Below I show a enlarged detail of the pd-36a and pd-36b imprints from this binding and amazingly here we see the different 36b. This means that Dubuisson had 2 of these tools to produce an almost identical imprint. Now this to me is proof certain that some of the Etat tools derive from the Dubuisson workshop.

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Imprint detail of item No. 248, Volume 1 of La bibliothèque de feu Édouard Rahir, 1930.

Now we can look at some of the imprints from our Etat 263 specimen not omitting to consider that this binding is decorated with the arms of the then Queen of England, wife of King George III. The book itself is Le Temple de Gnide You can see the whole book on line. A search of the internet discovers that this very same treasure was sold at a Christies Auction in 2008 and on their web page about the sale you will find some interesting additional information as well as a photograph of the binding in color.The question is then who might the binder and decorater of this very special item be? Well we do not know, but if the tools are found to be coming from Dubuisson's workshop, then binder is not likely to be Derome le jeune as was asserted by the Christies experts.

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Comparative Diagram 2 - Etat imprint vx Derome le jeune imprint dj-47b.

In Comparative Diagram 2, I show the difference between the Derome imprint dj-47b that is taken from a Derome binding that I have detailed previously (see this page) and the same type of imprint from the Etat 263 binding. These distinct differences (as well as the utter lack of any of Derome's imprints) revealing that the Etat 263 specimen is not a binding that was decorated by Derome le Jeune. If you paid thousands more because you thought you were buying a Derome I am sorry to disillusion you.

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Comparative Diagram 3 Dubuisson imprint pd-4-3 vs Etat 263 imprint

Beause of the rise in popularity of the so called dentelle à l'oiseau, the particular tool used, the fer à l'oiseau by each binder might be seen a sort of signature, you could recognize your favorite binder by his bird, and in the case of this Etat 263 binding we are treated to one of Dubuisson's original tools. In Comparative Diagram 3 I show a Dubuisson fer à l'oiseau imprint pd-4-3, you can see this imprint on a binding that I have detailed on another page, this is another real Dubuisson binding and he was using this same tool some 20 years earlier and it appears now on the Etat bindings 10 years after his death. Probably we will find more of Dubuisson's imprints on the 263 binding, such as the imprints shown in below in Comparative Diagram 4, my type specimens are not as good as these imprints from Etat 263 so really it is very hard to say if these tools are the same. However careful measurement and overlay diagrams can eliminate doubts, while high definition scans can reveal irrefutable proof.

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Comparative Diagram 4, Dubuisson imprints pd-33a and pd-33b vs Etat 263 imprints

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see below links to previous work

the last fanfare

Atelier I B 31/10/2014

Icons of the Renaissance 06/02/2014

Atelier au trefle 22/12/2014 most recent page

Atelier Royal 1518 - 1524 09/11/2014

Unraveling G. D. Hobson's book on fanfares 27/11/2014

16c fanfare on eBay 23/11/2014

another Padeloup binding on eBay 07/12/2014

Rare Padeloup binding on eBay 15/11/2014

Pierre-Paul Dubuisson's work attributed to Derone le jeune 23/10/2014 (unfinished work now finished)

Pierre-Paul Dubuisson's work attributed to Douceur 22/10/2014 (an under contruction page finished at last)

Louis-Marie Michon - the 1956 Disaster 19/10/2014 (an unfinished page finished at last)

Louis XII Dolphins motif 03/02/2014

Aristophanes Binder 1543 02/02/2014

Atelier des reliures LOUIS XII - Atlas Catalan 12/01/2014

Atelier des reliures LOUIS XII - FRANÇOIS Ier - Linacre bindings 05/01/2014

Atelier des reliures LOUIS XII - FRANÇOIS Ier c. 1500-1520

Atelier des reliures LOUIS XII - FRANÇOIS Ier - Chronology 16/01/2014

Atelier des reliures LOUIS XII - FRANÇOIS Ier - Inventory - binding No. 29 19/01/2014

Atelier des reliures LOUIS XII - FRANÇOIS Ier - Inventory - binding No. 39 19/01/2014

Atelier des reliures LOUIS XII - FRANÇOIS Ier - The mysterious disappearance of François Tissard d'Amboise 23/01/2014

Atelier des reliures LOUIS XII - FRANÇOIS Ier - The Simon Vostre fiasco 18/01/2014

L'Atelier Simon Vostre 1486-1521 01/01/2014

L'Atelier de Pierre Roffet 1511-1533 - TOOL CATALOGUE 26/01/2014

L'Atelier de Pierre Roffet 1511-1533 27/12/2013

Pierre Roffet - fleur-de-lis binder 28/12/2013

Fleur-de-lis Binder 1525-1540 27/11/2013

Du Saix Master 02/12/2013

Atelier Étienne Roffet 1538-1549 12/12/2013

Atelier Jean Picard 1538-1547

Imitative Binder c.1540 15/12/2013

Salel Binder 1540 17/11/2013

Atelier Ruette 1606-1669 INVENTORY

Atelier Macé Ruette 1606-1644

Atelier du Maitre Doreur 1622-1638

Atelier Antoine Ruette 1638-1669

Atelier des Caumartin 1652-1715

Atelier de Charenton 1670-1685

Atelier Luc-Antoine Boyet 1685-1733

Atelier Antoine-Michel Padeloup. dit Le Jeune 1685-1758

Atelier Louis Douceur 1721-1769

Atelier Pierre-Paul Dubuisson 1746-1762

Atelier Nicolas-Denis Derome, dit Derome le Jeune 1761-1788

Atelier Jean-Pierre Jubert, 1771-1793?

Atelier MM binder, 1770-179-?

A word of Caution

Even experts are sometimes wrong, before you spend thousands on a book, please do your own research! Just because I say a certain binding can be attributed to le Maitre isn't any kind of guarantee, don't take my word for it, go a step further and get your own proof. In these pages I have provided you with a way of doing just that.

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