Seventeenth Century Finishing Tools - France

Atelier du Maitre Doreur - 1630
actual size

NOVUM TESTAMENTUM. Graece. Ex. Bibliotheca Regia. Lutetiae, Ex officina Roberti Stephani typographi Regys, 1549. 2 volumes in-16, maroquin rouge.

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

On the previous pages we were examining the binding of Alonso Chacon's Historia utriusque belli Dacici a Traiano Cesare gesti, Rome, 1616. A binding which Raphaël Esmerian has attributed to the Atelier du Maitre Doreur, with an approximate execution date of 1623 (Annexe A, Tableau III, No. 3). Pictured above is another Maitre Doreur example from Esmerian's Volume 2, No. 15 (Annexe A, Tableau III, No. 7) this binding is dated approximately to 1630. In comparison with the earlier Chacon binding we see in these two much smaller volumes, some additional tools not found on the Chacon binding
additional tools 1630

Perhaps the most interesting of these new tools is the addition of another small spiral form, this motif seems to have been very popular and was copied by other binders. Macé Ruette would appear to be the first with this motif in a pointillé format, if Esmerian's 1622 date is correct for the Macé Ruette binding pictured in his Volume II, No. 4 Officium Beatae Marlae Virgins (published in 1622).
Comparative Diagram 1

Comparative Diagram 1 - Maitre Doreur imprint md-14a and b (abm = approximate bead model) and actual imprint, vs a 1622 Macé Ruette tool of the same general plan but larger, also similar but much later and smaller, Macé Ruette tools from 1638.

1622 Mace Ruette detail

Enlarged detail from the Macé Ruette 1622 binding of Officium Beatae Marlae Virgins

Macé Ruette used these small spiral leaves as filler and as attachments in some of the first recorded examples of this type of decorative gold tooling, known as pointillé. In the above example we see that Ruette mixed pointillé style tools with some standard solid tools attaching these spiral leaves as extensions to this small vase. Esmerian's illustrated model of this vase is over 12mm in height, thus we can see that the attached spiral leaves are quite large compared with the Maitre Doreur md-14a and b which are only about 4 mm. across

We can also observe that Macé Ruette, by the end of his career, was using a smaller set of these tools as well as a 12 mm spiral, these are very much more like the Maitre Doreur tools, in size and shape. This brings us to the sticky issue of whether or not Macé Ruette was in fact Le Maitre Doreur, In their 2002 publication, Relieures Françaises du 17c, Isabelle de Conihout & Pascal Ract-Madoux, suggest that there is strong evidence to support such a theory... so strong in fact that they do not present any bindings in their work attributed to the Maitre Doreur. I am hardly in a position to question their expert opinion however there are a number of unsolved riddles that present themselves if we were to accept that Macé Ruette and the Maitre Doreur are one and the same person. In these next few web pages we will look at the tooling imprints of Macé Ruette. However I would like to just point out that the tools of Maitre Doreur which we have been examining in the last few pages, do not merge with those of Macé Ruette, you cannot point to any example of a tool used by Macé Ruette being found in the bindings described by Esmerian as being from the Atelier du Maitre Doreur. Also we must remember that Esmerian himself should have been the first to have signaled any evidence that could support such a theory, yet he did not. Thus I must remain skeptical of theories which appear to go against a lot of hard evidence. What we could imagine however is perhaps, that Macé Ruette ran two different well separated workshops each had a different complete set of decorative tools, no tools but some materials were perhaps exchanged between these two workshops and possibly a long standing assistant guilder carried out the work in the 'other' shop. Note that Macé Ruette died in 1638 a fact not known by Esmerian, however Esmerian notes a cessation of Ruette's activity in 1638. and coincidentally Esmerian also lists the Atelier de Maite Doreur as ranging from 1622 - 1638.

cmpt 2

Comparative Diagram 2 - Early examples of pointillé (magnified), although these two examples look similar, the Maitre Doreur work has been enlarged 50% more than the Ruette example.

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

From the above diagrams we can see that there are significant differences in these early tools (click to enlarge). Mace Ruette's tools are larger, their pointillé segmentation is about 4 cuts per 2 millimeters where as the Maitre Doreur tools have about 5 cuts per 2 millimeters. The Maitre Doreur's large spirals are stylistically different, lacking the tight inner spirals seen in the Ruette tools. However, the Maitre Doreur small spiral tools appear more aligned stylistically with the Ruette tools. Thus we could say that The maitre Doreur had his own tools as well as some tools similar to those of Mace Ruette however in all cases these are significantly smaller than the Ruette examples. Moreover it can be observed that Mace Ruette did employ some tools very similar in size and form to those of the Maitre Doreur however this occured near the end of his career. In a debate such as this chronology plays a critical roll, Isabelle de Conihout & Pascal Ract-Madoux, have suggested that all the early 1623 Maite Doreur examples cited by Esmerian may in fact date to the late 20's. (and are possibly the work of Macé Ruette?)

Comparative Diagram 3

Comparative Diagram 3 - Maitre Doreur vs Macé Ruette (1638 binding Esmerian Volume II, No. 7.

I will just note here two other major Ruette Maitre Doreur, differences that I have noticed in the few examples that I have been able to find. Macé Ruette did not always layout his strapwork around centers, centers such as seen in the small Maitre Doreur bindings at the top of this page, often stamped with the imprint md-15. Such centers seem a standard necessity in strapwork/fanfare/ pointillé bindings (see Isabelle de Conihout & Pascal Ract-Madoux, Example 8, page 26.) While the Maitre Doreur does not seem to have possessed a set of tools that seem so indispensable to all other binders this being the typical scroll wings. We see however that the imprints md-7a and md-7b functioned exactly as scroll wings. (postscript note - after spending some considersble time extracting imprints from early Macé Ruette bindings, I have discovered that Ruette often made spiral like arrangements from separate small tools, this leads me to think that spiral tools developed at some later stage possibly later than or around 1630. I would not be surprized if the Maite Doreur spirals are also from this period... this however is pure speculation on my part, what is needed is a good chronological fix on the more important early bindings.)

md-7a md-7b

Comparative Diagram

Comparative Diagram 4 - Maitre Doreur md-7a and md-7b vs Atelier Florimond Badier fb-7a and fb-7b (1637 examples from Esmerian Badier Example No. 20 see also No. 21 and No. 22.)

In comparative Diagram 4, you will notice that it is again very difficult to differenciate between the Maitre Doreur md-7 and the Badier fb-7, once you put them together in a single diagram the differences are more apparent however, in size and form and usage these tools are so similar that even an expert will have a tough time identifying them correctly... this is perhaps one of the reasons why almost every expert has been fooled.

Click on this link to go to the next page Macé Ruette - Relieure 1606-1638

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