Atelier des Caumartin - Raphaël Esmerian Catalogue

Plate 1

Plate 1 - Caumartin finishing tool imprints

In his comprehensive catalogue entitled: Douze Tableaux Synoptiques sur La Reliure au XVII eme Siècle, Raphaël Esmerian does not present a classification system for these tools. He provides illustrations of a wide range of important examples from each binder, without numbering or typology. These 'illustrations' do not appear to have been made from rubbings, but are more like graphic facsimiles based on type models, and have been presented at true 100% scale.
To simplify matters I have numbered each imprint in the order in which they were presented in Esmerian's Table VII

Table VII tools


comparative diagram

Comparative Diagram 1 - Breviarium imprint vs Esmerian example

We see in the Comparative Diagram 1, an actual imprint compared with an Esmerian type model which I assume to be representing the same tool. After a close examination of this imprint, I noticed that the termination of the secondary spiral branches are not symmetrical (a and b). The right branch has an additional dot which then makes it appear as though terminating in the same direction as the opposite branch. This small detail, or unique feature, enables a quick identification of this type (12). Esmerian's Type model however does not copy this feature, but terminates in a more symmetric fashion, as one might expect. Therefore, I suspect that Esmerian's illustrated examples are approximations rather than photographic copies or scans. This is not surprising as one encounters numerous technical problems in trying to produce similar results with actual specimens. Thus in Plate I, pictured at the top of the page, I have presented the Esmerian type models (as per the catalogue, in black on a white background) as well as one or two actual specimens of each type, these retain the same type number if they approximate well the type model; if they show similar characteristics, but are different then I have given them variant number (i.e., type 5 and variant type 5-2). If the variant seems to be a preform or possibly early model, I have numbered it as 'variant-1' (i.e., the example of imprint 6, and early variant 6-1. Of note: this work is a preliminary numbering only and not a true classification.

tool 6

Comparative Diagram 2 - Imprints vs Esmerian example

This imprint is curiously similar to the 6-3 imprint which I have detailed previously as an example exhibiting a unique feature with which it can easily be identified. In both examples the right antenna joins the body (see below 'a') whereas the left joins the wing (see below 'b'). Esmerian's type model appears to indicate also this feature however, note the number of points that compose the right antenna. We can see them clearly in both imprints, being only six in number, the Esmerian model has double this amount. One must then allow for the fact that the Esmerian Models are not exact copies of the original imprints.

tool 6 detail

Imprint 6 - Unique features

If you are thinking that I am some sort of fanatic on minute details, you are right but as you will see by the Comparative Tables below, there is a good reason behind it. These tables have been compiled by Esmerian in his *Annexe C - TABLEAU COMPARATIF DE QUELQUES FERS difficiles à différencier* This title, roughly translated is *COMPARATIVE TABLE OF ASSORTED TOOLS difficult to differentiate* This collection of tool imprints spans most of the seventeenth century as well as the beginning of the eighteenth, starting with Macé Ruette and ending with Antoine-Michel Padeloup. Thus, for over a century, very similar looking tools were being used and/or copied. As in the previous century, the French binders and guilders appear keen to imitate the popular decorative fashion of the period.

click on this table to see an enlargement

Esmerian Annexe C - Comparative Tables.

A close inspection of this table (click to enlarge) reveals that it is no simple matter to differentiate between certain of these tools; hence, the ability to identify unique features will greatly aid the Comparative Implementologist in his research. On the next page I will return to a further examination of the Caumartin imprints and the associated Esmerian models....
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