French Decorative Bookbinding - Eighteenth Century

Pierre-Paul Dubuisson (fl 1746-1762) - Plaque in-12

Comparative Diagram 1
Comparative Diagram 1 - duodecimo plaques (in-12), Rahir 955 (1756) vs Rahir 213 (1755)

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I have detailed each of these bindings separately (click to see 955 or 213). It is fortunate that there are two examples of this same plaque (in-12) in the Rahir Catalogues. While most other examples of Dubuisson's plaques are larger, in-8 or octavo, a size adapted to the Almanach Royal. Item 955 is reproduced in the Rahir 1936 catalogue at full size, or perhaps a fraction larger, while item 213 is shown in the 1910 catalogue at a reduced size, I have reproduced both here at the same scale with a plaque dimension of 16.12 x 8.62 (measured through the centers) the scale may have to be re-calibrated it the plaque turns out to be smaller/larger. There are a number of Almanach specimens in the British Library Database of Bookbindings, these have been photographed with a ruler placed beside them, thus fairly accurate measurements are possible. A quick survey of these indicates that the octavo sized plates are all more or less 19 cm by 12 cm give or take 2-3 mm.

In Comparative Diagram 1, we can observe that there are some small differences, apart from the central coat of arms. In as much as both of the examples are comparatively early, and published only a year apart, they may provide some very important clues to the work of Dubuisson, being quite possibly from his own workshop. Most examples of Dubuisson's plaques are found on volumes published and bound after his death in 1762.

Comparative Diagram 2

Comparative Diagram 2 - Small tooled additions to Dubuisson's plaque decoration

In Comparative Diagram 2, we see two enlarged, (and rotated) details taken from the middle of the left side of each binding. These imprints have been made by individual small tools, they are decorative additions that are not part of the plaque imprint. If Dubuisson decorated these bindings himself these small tools may provide a means to identifying his work. Note also the small five petal fleuron (b), this imprint is about 2 mm in diameter.

Comparative Diagram 3

Comparative Diagram 3 - 955 Roulette vs 213 Roulette

In Comparative Diagram 3, we see two very similar looking roulettes, these have been reproduced at the same scale, and are therefore two distinct tools of the same design but different proportions. One might be tempted to call this a drawer handle roulette. A very similar roulette can be seen on item 184 b which is an example that may be very early (1747) see also 184 e.

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Comparative Diagram 4 - Rahir 955 vs Rahir No 232

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In Comparative Diagram 4, we can appreciate the difference between the 955 duodecimo and the folio sized 232. When I first saw this amazing folio reproduction, I wondered it might have been done by Dubuisson. You will notice in the catalogue information for this item (shown below) Rahir states that this binding "should be the work of Dubuisson or perhaps Douceur."

No 232 text

Comparative Diagram 5

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Comparative Diagram 5 - Rahir 955 imprint vs Rahir No 232 imprint

While I was preparing this page, and pondering the idea that this unique imprint found in the 955 binding may be found elsewhere, and then found it almost immediately on the Rahir No 232 folio! this was an amazing discovery. In Comparative Diagram 5, we see that there is a very strong possibility that these two imprints were created with the same tool. Note also the outer roulette on the 232 binding it is another, still larger example of the drawer handle roulette.

Below I show another important early example, a 1753 Almamach royal, that is displayed at Gallica (Gallica, bibliothèque numérique de la Bibliothèque nationale de France) which is the online digital section of the Bibliothèque nationale de France. I have detailed this binding on the 184 e page, however would like point out here the use of two different drawer handle roulettes on this binding.

drawer handle roulettes

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