I have extracted these 4 examples made by the same tool, from 4 different bindings, the images are from photographs of varying quality and lighting. I have noticed that even on a single binding the imprints of the same tool can look quite different. This could be due to a multitude of reasons which I will not dwell upon just yet, the point is rather that if one is trying to establish the identity of a binder by a comparative study of gold tooling, he must be aware of the variables possible even within impressions made by the same tool. This kind of work would be made a thousand times easier if working with scanned images in resolutions of over 300 dpi. Identifications could be made with a greater degree of certainty.
This is a 300 dpi image, it is not a scan but gives a better idea of the kind of detail needed to identify tools. Below we shall examine two bindings by Jean Picard, these rare bindings can be identified by the presence of tooling not seen on other examples.
For a long time the binding pictured above, was thought to have been made by Claude de Picques, Royal binder from 1559 to 1572, however a comparative study of the gold tooling shows it to be in fact, the work of Jean Picard.
J. Picard, bookbinder of remarkable talent, signed a contract with Editions Aldines in June of 1540 and within the next three years made 215 or more, bindings for Jean Grolier.
#71 French Binding (Paris) interlacing design (Reliure parisienne à rubans entrelacés), very likely made between 1543 and 1547, it is one of series of 17 (with fers azurés) made by Jean Picard for Jean Grolier.
NICOLAUS I., pape, Antiqua et insignis epistola Nicolai Papae I ad Michaelem Imperatorem Augustum
Leipzig: Melchior Lotter, 1536 4o
Dimensions of the binding: mm 204 x 148 x 20
Provenance: Jean Grolier
This Binding from Paris, is as the previous example another of the 17 (with fers azurés) made by J. Picard for Jean Grolier between 1540 and 1550. Jean Grolier, Treasurer to the King of France during the period of the Italian Wars, 1494 to 1525, must be considered as one of the most famous Bibliophiles of all times.
#72. Reliure parisienne à losange-rectangle, exécutée dans le deuxiéme quart du XVIe siècle pour Jean Grolier
DONATO BOSSI, Chronica. Series episcoporum et archiepiscoporum Mediolanensium
Milan: Antonio Zarotto, 1492 fol.
Dimensions de la reliure: mm 338 x 222 x 37
Provenance: Jean Grolier
Searching through all the available online images of Picard Bindings, I have not yet found another example of this strange "caterpillar". The impression is only about two centimeters in length, and composes of a curvaceous, undulating solid outer border enclosing an inner field delineated by a series of parallel incisions approximately .5 mm apart. This type of tool is known as an azured tool:
"A finishing tool with closely spaced parallel lines cut diagonally across its surface - so called from the use of heraldic illustrations of thin horizontal lines to indicate the color blue. The tool appears to have been introduced in France in about 1545"
Commonly referred to as azured or hatched tooling, this style of decoration was very popular from about 1550 onwards and can be found in use in Italy as well as England.
I have not isolated the individual tools in this comparative diagram, which demonstrates how closely matched these two impressions are. Made by two very similar, yet different tools. One must wonder why these craftsmen would go to such lengths to emulate each others tools, or are they in fact trying to copy yet another? A third possibility comes to mind, which is that these tools were made by another toolmaker who supplied both Picques and Picard with azured tools