Decorative Finishing Tools of the Sixteenth Century

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Paulus Aemilius. De rebus gestis Francorum. Paris, 1548

"Book binding in black morocco with gold stamps and decorated with a lacquer-like paint in the colours red and white. The binding was made in Paris between 1550 and 1555 either by Claude de Picques or by Jean Picard. The binding is decorated on the covers and the flat spine in a pattern of transecting ribbons, built up entirely of loose lines, arches and stamps" Koninklijke Bibliotheek - National library of the Netherlands Foreign book bindings

colour restoration

I have attempted to restore the missing colour in this binding. I have used blue instead of white as the enlarged photo shows traces of blue in with the white. Also I have observed a number of red and blue painted bindings whereas white seems uncommon. I think that possibly the colour blue has not survived four and a half centuries and only a whitish reside remains. The restored colour gives one a better idea of the design of this cover. Perhaps bound by Claude de Picques as the threequarter of a circle tools suggest.

Three quarters of a circle tool impresions

I have extracted the above imprints from binding examples found in The British Library - Database of Bookbindings the example on the right derives from a very interesting book...

click on this image to link to an enlargement
(actual size) is its database entry:

Shelfmark - c66b7
Held by - British Library
Country - France
Period - 16c
Cover Material - Goatskin (includes morocco, turkey etc)
Colour - Olive
Decorative Technique - Tooled in gold, Painted
Style/Type - Semis, background of small tools
Edges - Bookbinder - Picques, Claude
Ownership Mark - Charles IX, King of France (1550-1574)
Author - DIONYSIUS, Saint, called the Areopagite
Title - [Works]
Place of Publication - Paris
Date of Publication - 1562

Notes - Macchi states; third quarter century, Paris, bound for Charles IX by Claude de Picques as the threequarter of a circle tools suggest. See Burlington Fine Arts Club, Exhibition of bookbindings; p. 47, Pl. LVII, on Demosthenes, Orationes, Lutetiae, 1570, owned by the earl of spencer; W. Y. Fletcher, Foreign Bookbindings, pl. XXXII; H. P. Kraus, New York, Catalogue 125, p. 40, n. 37; National Library of Luxembourg (Bibliothèque nationale de Luxembourg, Exposition. Reliures historiques et artistiques, p. 16-17 on text Opera quae extant (latina & graece), Paris, Guill. Morelius, 1562, shelfmark Rés. Préc./L.P. 121- Bibliothèque nationale de Luxembourg, Reliures des XVIe et XXVIIe siècles, p. 172-173, n. 71) too. Typical for French Renaissance bindings, the threequarter of a circle tool (see C.19.g.7., C.24.c.19., C.66.b.7., Davis 375) and for the King's cypher, the crowned interlaced "C" (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris, Trésors de la Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal, p. 84-85, n. 157 bis: L. Gruel, Manuel, 1887, p. 23-24, Reliure aux armes et au chiffre de Charles IX).

To fully appreciate the importance of this binding and its relation to Picques we must again turn to "An Essay in the History of Gold-Tooled Bindings" by Herbert P. Horne London 1894.

"...we must turn to the books of Charles IX., who succeeded his brother in 1560, not only for a new manner, but, also, for a new style. This style, which was adapted from the medieval device of the' semis,' the repetition of some given figure over a field at regular intervals, continued in use upon the books of the royal libraries, during the following century: and it is in the invention of this style, that French gilding first appears to free itself from the traditions. of Italian Art. A remarkable binding tooled in this way covers a book, which was placed in the library at Fontainebleau, by Katherine de Medicis, in memory of Henri II., and 'which is reproduced by M. Gruel, in his Manuel. The' semis,' with which this book is ornamented, consists in the repetition of two crowned cyphers, the one formed by the C of Charles IX., the other of the K of Katherine repeated and reversed. The Binder in Ordinary to Charles IX. was Claude Picques, as appears from a Psalter published by him in 1559, which bears the following imprint: 'Apud Claudium de Picques liguatorem Reg. in vico S. Jacobi, sub signo D. Trinitatis.' Earlier, in 1557, he was working for Katherine de Medicis [Bib!. Nat. MS. fro 10396.]: and his name occurs again as ' Relieur de Roy,' in 1568, in the Traim de la Peste, of Ambroise Pare, at which time he was still living in the Rue Saint Jacques. The earliest examples of royal bindings ornamented with the' semis,' in the British Museum, are those executed by Nicolas Eve, for Henri III., who succeeded his brother in 1574. "

We see therefore that it is entirely likely that the binder of this book was Claude de Picques, and confirms his use of the threequarter of a circle tool in his bindings. (The threequarter of a circle , christened by G. D. Hobson (Maioli, Canevari and others, p. 44, fig. 3)

I have found another almost identical example of this binding in a Christie's auction catalogue (June 1997)
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(actual size)
I have included above the actual catalogue notes on this book which, as you can see is an expensive item. they have refered to the threequarter of a circle tool as "hatched Lobed tool" and more importantly, point out the observations by Annie Charon-Parent and Anthony Hobson, that the tools of Gommar Estienne passed into the hands of Claude de Picques.

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SIMONETA, Bonifacius. De Christiane fidei et romanorum pontificum persecutionibus
Bâle, Nicolas Kesler, 1509
In-folio (307 x 208mm)
60 000 / 100 000 €

The book above is from yet another auction catalogue, following the Gommar Estienne lead above I tried a number of searches with google, finally on "Gommar Estienne Fontainebleau" I came up with this pdf Catalogue from Shown here at about 50% of its actual size, this binding turns out to be very important in our attempt to identify binders/guilders by their tools.

The Binding is described as c. 1550, decorated with interlacing ribbons painted in black and azure tools, on the upper board we find the name of the author, title of the work and the ex-libris of Jean Grolier: Jo Grolieri et amicorum on the back, Jean Grolier's device: Portio me domine sit in terra viventium This binding once attributed to Claude de picques has been more recently and more scientifically attributed by Anthony Hobson to the King's Binder Gommar Estienne: one of a number of binders that Grolier employed in the mid 1550s. The SIMONETA is one of 26 bindings which Hobson has attributed to Estienne and appears on his list published in Renaissance Book Collecting (Cambridge, 1999, p. 228).

Although the catalogue image is 'low res' there is enough definition to make out an important tool, the imprint of which is found on many bindings attributed to Picques. This takes us then full circle to the Picques Tools page.

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Click on this link to visit Virtual Bookbinding

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