Seventeenth Century Finishing Tools - France

Atelier du Maitre Doreur

click to enlarge to 600dpi

Detail from the binding of Alonso Chacon's Historia utriusque belli Dacici a Traiano Cesare gesti, Rome, 1616. (See Esmerian Tableau III, this binding is attributed to the Maitre Doreur, "vers 1623")

Shown above is the detail of a small section of the Chacon binding which Raphaël Esmerian has attributed to the Atelier du Maitre Doreur, with a date of execution sometime near 1623.
Here in the small space of a few centimeters we see collected most of the tools that will identify the Maitre Doreur's work for the next decade or so. We have, on the previous page, looked closely at the imprints md-1 and md-8b. On this page we will tackle some of the others also comparing these with the tools used by Florimond Badier which are nearly identical.

Comparative Diagram 1

Comparative Diagram 1 - Imprint md-2 1623 vs 1634

Comparative Diagram 2

Comparative Diagram 2 - Imprint md-2 1623 vs Badier fb-2

In comparative Diagram 1, we see the same Maitre Doreur tool imprint md-2. In the 1623 example you will notice a small dot has been placed inside the lower ring, this is an added dot and not part of the original tool as it is not present in the later imprints and not always perfectly centered in the 1623 imprints however this small detail gives us then an idea of the fastidiousness of this worker who has ensured that each md-2 imprint has an accompanying dot, this lower segmented ring is barely one millimeter in diameter (the white square = 1mm x 1mm).

In Comparative Diagram 2, I show an extracted 1623 md-2 imprint compared with a 1650 Florimond Badier imprint. The Badier tool is close to the same size shape and form however can be identified by its open center. The Badier tool is a finely executed copy of the Maitre Doreur original, and is to the unaided eye quite identical especially when a accessory dot is added into the center of the imprint which is often the case. This then gives us some idea of the ability of the workers of this period to duplicate their tools, or to imitate the tools of others. The md-1 tool compared with its Badier copy is another example where the tools are quite indistinguishable to the un-aided eye. Remembering the fact the even imprints from the same tool on a single binding can often show a wide amount of variation i.e. thick or blurred imprints compared with barely visible light or partial imprints. In the detailed image at the top of this page you can observe the differences in the quality of the imprints, some are thick and barely show their segmentation while others are delicate and finely detailed. Probably there are many variables that can affect or modify the art of Gold tooling, ranging from the quality and hardness of the leather to the temperature of the tools.

Comparative Diagram 3

Comparative Diagram 3 - Esmerian imprint models (from Annexe C)

Detail from Esmerian No. 16

Detail from Esmerian's Atelier du Maitre Doreur example No. 16

In Comparative Diagram 3, we can see that again the Esmerian Maitre Doreur imprint model does not match well the actual imprint, as per the example above, taken from Esmerians first Maitre Doreur example (No. 16 page 20). Here even though the photo is not high resolution we see clearly that the central fleuron is crowned with a ring surmounted by 4 dots, in his imprint model Esmerian has only 3 dots, with a large dot replacing the ring. On the other hand his Badier imprint model is much closer to the actual imprint.

Comparative Diagram 4

Comparative Diagram 4 - Esmerian imprint model - Florimond Badier fb-1 vs bead model vs imprint from Esmerian No. 22 Badier 1640

I must include here Esmerian's Florimond Badier imprint fb-1. This is a remarkable copy of the Maitre Doreur original md-1 tool. In Comparative Diagram 4, I show Esmerian's model (a) then a bead model (b) which I have reconstructed over the Esmerian model, however, following closely the actual imprint (c). We can see that Esmerian's model deviates widely from the actual imprint, Esmerian shows a non existent ring in the lower stem which is composed of only 6 dots, we can see even in the poor quality of the enlargement taken from Esmerian's Badier example No 22, that there are many dots in this stem, I have counted at least 11, but have found no sign of a lower ring, which I think may be just the meeting of the stems in six dots. I could find better enlargements, however chose this one as it shows clearly 4 dots surmounting a larger dot (which is actually a ring, see Diagram 5) which crowns the fleuron in the same fashion as that of imprint md-2 (and fb-2). This is an important detail as it is the only really obvious difference between it and the Maitre Doreur original md-1 which has only three upper dots. You can see a good example of these three md-1 dots in the center of the detail at the top of this page, you will also note that it would be very difficult to otherwise distinguish between these two tools

Comparative Diagram 5

Comparative Diagram 5 - Maitre Doreur vs Florimond Badier

In Comparative Diagram 5, I show two rather similar resolution imprints, which is about as good as you can get from typical photographic plates, however there is enough detail here to demonstrate the differences. The Badier fb-1 imprint is larger than the md-1 and may be even larger than I have shown here as Esmerian did not give any exact measurements of his binding examples, or include scales in his photos. You can observe in these images that both fleurons are crowned with rings surmounted with dots, md-1 has only 3 upper dots, fb-1 has 4 and this is a certain way to distinguish between them. High resolution scans would of course expose many other important differences.

Thus with these noted variations in two important early imprints, from tools which were the cornerstones of many of the Maitre Doreur and Badier bindings, anyone with a good magnifying glass can now differentiate between the works of these two highly important and controversial 17c binders. Not forgetting that after 1638 the original early tools of the Maitre Doreur passed into the hands of Pierre Rocolet, and are found repeatedly on the Rocolet bindings for perhaps another decade.

Proceeding now, we shall look at one more early tool. While the imprint md-3 does not appear in the 1623 Chacon binding, md-4 is very present.

md-4 samples 600dpi

Comparative Diagram 6

Comparative Diagram 6 - Esmerian model md-4 vs composite model

I have had to invent a few details on the composite model of md-4 however it is a bit closer to the real imprint than the Esmerian model. Esmerian shows only nine dots making up the inner stem of this fleuron, and indeed in some cases it looks as though there are only nine, the last few dots failing to be imprinted (see example 'c'). However in other cases we can count up to perhaps as many as twelve, the last few often appearing fused. Esmerian shows a large dot at the base of this fleuron however it is in fact a ring as one can see within the few samples I have chosen above.

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