French Decorative Bookbinding - Eighteenth Century

MM Binder - 1785 (MS 1546)

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Instructions données à Lapeyrouse pour son voyage de découvertes autour du monde
Louis XVI, 1785.

photos ©Bibliothèque Mazarine.

(click to see an enlargement).

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."

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Comparative Diagram 1 - imprints from MS 1546 vs BnF, RLR, B-182
(click to see an enlargement).

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!

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Comparative Diagram 2 - imprint mm-60 (from MS 1546) vs Derome imprint dj-60
(click to see an enlargement).

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.

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Comparative Diagram 3 - imprint mm-12 (from MS 1546 doublure) vs Derome imprint dj-12
(click to see an enlargement).

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.

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Comparative Diagram 4 - Derome imprint dj-22 vs mm-22 imprint (from MS 1546) vs Derome imprint.
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Comparative Diagram 5 - 1880 illustration from Marius Michel vs Dubuisson and Derome imprints.
(click to see a 600dpi enlargement).

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!

Click here to see the next page.

click this link to see similar recent MM Binder pages MM Binder - 1768 Office de la quinzaine de Pasque

click this link to see more MM Binder pages Atelier MM binder, fl. 1770-179?

click here to see the INDEX of all the pages from 2017.

click here to return to the HOME page.

see below links to previous work

Atelier I B 31/10/2014

Icons of the Renaissance 06/02/2014

Atelier au trefle 22/12/2014

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

the last Padeloup fanfare?

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.

Virtual Bookings, created by L. A. Miller return to the Home page of VIRTUAL BOOKBINDINGS