|When I first started researching the French decorative bookbindings of the 18th century several years ago, I started with the work of Pierre Paul Dubuisson, I homed in on everything Dubuisson and catalogued every imprint I could find. In looking for references to Dubuisson I discovered Marius Michel's book La Reliure française depuis l'invention de l'imprimerie jusqu'à la fin du xviiie siècle, written in 1880, Michel was perhaps the greatest expert on French Bookbinding in his time, he himself was a famous bookbinder and artist, so I was very interested to read what he had to say about Dubuisson... below I have copied his text on Dubuisson (you can find it for yourself here from Wikisource). Below this is a Google translation of it.|
|Le dessinateur héraldique Pierre-Paul Dubuisson fut aussi relieur-doreur, et à la tête d'un des grands ateliers du temps ; la marque qui se trouve sur un volume de la bibliothèque de M. le baron de la Roche-Lacarelle (Daphnis et Chloé, in-4°, aux armes de madame de Pompadour) en fait foi. Mais n'eussions-nous pas eu cette preuve, il était facile de se rendre compte qu'il était l'auteur de la plus belle collection de fers du dix-huitième siècle, en examinant avec un peu d'attention les armes composées par lui et tirées sur un grand nombre de volumes. Les supports, les ornements qui les accompagnent se retrouvent dans ses fers ; même disposition, mêmes combinaisons, même rendu. Ses dentelles sont belles ; on peut en juger par la reproduction que nous donnons à la reliure d'un manuscrit que possède la Bibliothèque Mazarine : Instructions données à Lapeyrouse pour son voyage de découvertes autour du monde. Le maroquin de l'extérieur est vert, de ce ton un peu bleuâtre particulier au vert du dix-huitième siècle ; celui de l'intérieur est rouge, et la dentelle qui orne le contre-plat est aussi très-importante.|
|A designer of heraldic arms Pierre-Paul Dubuisson was also binder-gilder and tool maker, and at the head of one of the great workshops of the time; his ticket on a volume in the library of Baron de la Roche-Lacarelle (Daphnis and Chloe, in 4 °, with the arms of Madame de Pompadour) is proof of this. But had we not had this proof, it was easy to realize that he was the author of the finest collection of armorial guilding tools to be seen in the eighteenth century, easily seen by the numerous armories designed by him that are on found a great many bindings. The structure of the armories and the ornaments that accompany them are based on his tools; same layout, same combinations, same rendering. His dentelles are beautiful; we can judge by the reproduction that we give to the binding of a manuscript that the Mazarine Library possesses: Instructions given to Lapeyrouse for his voyage of discovery around the world. (see PLANCHE XXII) The morocco from the outside is green, in that a little bluish tone peculiar to the green of the eighteenth century; that of the interior is red, and the dentelle adorning the inside of the boards is also very important.|
When I first tried to read this years ago it was not clear to me if Michel was saying that the binding he shows in PLANCHE XXII was made by Dubuisson, still today I am mystified by all this as Michel would have known that Dubuisson died 13 years before this binding was made? (click here to see Michel's own notes found in the back of his book where he states that Dubuisson is said to have died at the age of 55 on the 15th of June, 1762.) One thing however is certain, the dentelle, the style and the imprints copy very closely the work of Dubuisson, we could say it is from the school of Dubuisson. However as I felt that we still did not know who made this binding, I needed a way of referring to him and so named him MM binder. A good documentalist would be able to find, in the accounting ledgers of the Louis XVI's spending, just how much he paid, and to who, for this luxury binding.
Due to the fact that this is a large binding it could not have been reproduced full size not even on a double page, thus it would be hard to make comparative diagrams with this reproduction, especially as you see it on Wikisource. Recently I found a way to get a better resolution of Michel's plate, however as he mentions that there was also an important dentelle on the inside of the boards, (a doublure), I was considering flying to France just to see it. The world has been waiting nearly 200 years to see this spectacular binding with doublure, the pinnacle of the Dubbisson school of elaborate dentelles. However now, thanks to the Service Bibliothèque numérique et Conservation in the Bibliothèque Mazarine, we see for the first time, actual photos of this treasure conserved in the Bibliotheque Mazarine as "MS 1546."
|There is something more important to all this than just seeing at last this marvel, there is a very similar binding in the Bibliotheque Nationale de France, the gold tooled imprints are the same as you can see in Comparative Diagran 1, this is the same binder, the MM binder. However the BnF has attributed this binding and the imprints to Derome le jeune. This is proof positive that today even the greatest experts do not recognize the difference!|
|In Comparative Diagram 2, we can easily see that there is a difference between the mm-60 and the dj-60 encadrements, normally we do not have to go any further than presenting this diagram to know that MS 1546 was not made by Derome le jeune. However it may be instructive to show some further proofs.|
|In Comparative Diagram 3, we are looking at corner tools, these imprints are virtually signatures, a binder will often use the same corner tool for long periods, it is the first thing to look for in any binding as an inticator of the binder's identity. Here we see that there is a distinct difference in the fact that the MM imprint has a cross clearly cut in this central dot, shown with a red arrow in Derome's example, which is a ring with a dot inside.|
|I can see now that Marius Michel was a big fan of Dubuisson, in Comparative Diagram 5, I have reproduced an illustration from his book, with the caption stating "a 18th century tool from the school of Dubuisson" (my translation). On the next page a fantastic new discovery, the identity of the MM binder is revealed at last!|
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|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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