French Decorative Bookbinding - Eighteenth Century

Nicolas Denis Derome - Derome le jeune 1783

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Paris, 1783.


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The reproduction of the quarto sized binding shown above is found on Plate 48 of Édouard Rahir's 1910 Catalogue, LIVRES DANS DE RICHES RELIURES. This is item number 294 and it is described on page 76.

294 text

This decorative binding by Derome le jeune is perhaps one of the most important reproductions in Rahir's catalogue. In the description of the binding we discover that it has been "signed" Derome le jeune, thus it is fairly certain that the elaborately tooled imprints found here, derive from Derome's own tools.

In W. Y. Fletcher's 1895 book entitled BOOKBINDING IN FRANCE we find this list:
Derome's signed tickets

While there have been cases of counterfeit étiquettes, I think that in this case such a forgery would be most unlikely. The catalogue description of this item informs us that this edition of LES ADVENTURES DE TÉLÉMAQUE was a special printing by order of the king to serve in the instruction of his son, the DAUPHIN LOUIS-JOSEPH, first son of Louis XVI. The King presented to the DAUPHIN this particular copy, which bears his personal coat of arms. With an item of such an exceptional provenance one can hardly doubt the authenticity the binders ticket! Note also, the estimated 1910 price for this item was over 30.000 USD (estimated equivalent value in dollars for the year 2007) compared to say only about 1500 - 1800 USD for a Dubuisson plaque decorated Almanach.

I have scanned this plate (48) at 600dpi and extracted the important tool imprints. Fortunately the reproductions in Rahir's catalogue are of a very high standard, far better than many 'modern' publications. Click on the link below to see the detailed enlargements.

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click on this link to see a 300dpi enlargement

Derome's tools

Comparative Diagram 1 - Enlarged imprints from Rahir 294.

Derome's small tools

Comparative Diagram 2 - Enlarged small tool imprints from Rahir 294.

When I first started looking for these exact imprints in other bindings, I was hard pressed to find a single one. The only evident tool found on another binding is the enlarged example shown below.

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click on this link to see a 600dpi enlargement

comparative diagram

Comparative Diagram 3 - Corner detail from Diehl's PLATE 44 and enlarged Rahir 294 corner imprint.

In Comparative Diagram 3, I have reproduced a corner from Edith Diehl's PLATE 44, Binding by Derome le jeune. Diehl's reproduction is a lot smaller than the original so the quality of the detail is limited. However while searching Google Images for anything 'Derome' I discovered an illustrated example of Derome's work, at It is found in Famous Book Binders - Padeloup and Derome, (taken from Bookbindings Old and New by Brander Matthews, 1895).

Derome Border

I imagine that this illustration is from Matthews book, we see that the corner fleuron in this illustration is a closer match to the Rahir 294 example.

One cannot help but notice that the style of the 294 binding differs from the typical Derome dentelle bindings, also there is an abundant use of small floral tools, not observed in other Derome bindings. Perhaps Derome had these tools made late in his career and they were used on only a few bindings.

click on this link to go to: Derome - according to the Experts.

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