French Decorative Bookbinding - Eighteenth Century

Pierre-Paul Dubuisson (fl 1746-1762) - Decorative Tools

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Shelfmark davis545 - British Library Database of Bookbindings

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Please note that all images from the British Library Database of Bookbindings are subject to Copyright
see also Reproductions

The binding shown above is found in the British Library Database of Bookbindings. This binding has been attributed to Derome le jeune, however a comparative study of the gold tooled imprints reveals that the tools used the create this beautiful dentelle à l'oiseau were those of Dubuisson.

Below are the Database details for this binding, and it interesting to note that even though this binding has been attributed to Derome, a mention is made of Dubuisson's 'Bat' wing tools.

Shelfmark - Davis545
Held by - British Library
Country - France
Period - 18c
Cover Material - Goatskin (includes morocco, turkey etc)
Colour -
Decorative Technique - Tooled in gold
Style/Type - Dentelle
Edges -
Bookbinder - Derome le Jeune
Ownership Mark -
Author -
Title -
Place of Publication - Venice
Date of Publication - 1584
Notes - Macchi states; last quarter century. Born on October first 1731, Nicolas-Denis (le jeune) succeeded his father in 1760. He was the most expensive, but skilful craftsman of his time; always in demand so that he had to be helped by other binders, which explains the variable quality of his bindings. He adopted the à la dentelle decoration. He introduced on his covers the celebrated fer à l'oiseau (bird) motif for which he became famous but which he did not invent. He died in 1788. Derome le jeune and his family, signed with different tickets (R. Devauchelle, La reliure, p. 139; P. Ract-Madoux, Essai de classement chronologique, p. 382-389).S. de Ricci, French signed bindings, p. 91-91, n. 45, p. 120-121, n. 60, p.126-127, n. 63, p.128-131, n. 64). 'Bat' wing tools such as those in the corners were used by Pierre-Paul Dubuisson, active in Paris towards the mid XVIII th century. It appears generally in the corners and along panel-stamps borders adopted for Royal Almanachs decoration. A similar example is reproduced in Y. Devaux, Dix siècles, p. 196.

In the last few pages I have explained how I have proceeded in the collection of Dubuisson imprints, from a few isolated imprints, I have been able to track down the majority of Dubuisson's tools.

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Comparative Diagram 1 - Dubuisson imprints (shown at their actual size)

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In Comparative Diagram 1, I have catalogued many of the Dubuisson imprints. We can now show where these inprints occur in the British Library specimen davis545.

545 detail

Comparative Diagram 2 - Dubuisson dentelle à l'oiseau, (enlarged detail from davis545).

Looking at Comparative Diagram 2, the reader might be tempted to think, that with something so obvious how is it possible that this binding was attributed to Derome? When I discovered that there was a major problem in the attribution of these so called Derome dentelle à l'oiseau bindings, I realized that I would now have to make a similar sort of search and study of the Derome tools. I was lucky to find some excellent reproductions of Derome's work and in the next few pages, we will look at the Derome imprints. However I would like to present first another comparative diagram.

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Comparative Diagram 3 - Dubuisson imprints (numbered) vs Derome imprints (without numbers).

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In Comparative Diagram 3, I show the Dubuisson imprints with their assigned numbers, below these I show the Derome imprints which are un-numbered. All imprints are at the same scale. Click on the link to enlarge this diagram to 300dpi. Now you will understand why there has been a problem identifying these bindings!. Derome has a virtually identical tool for every major Dubuisson tool with but few exceptions. Who copied who? Dubuison was a full generation ahead of Derome. Dubuisson died in 1762, this was near the beginning of Derome's career. Dubuisson's early plaque bindings from the mid 1740's already show the bat wing beginnings to this art of highly stylized and elaborate dentelles. If now history has given the name of Derome to these exotic dentelle masterpieces of the 18th century, it may be forgetting the creative genius of the man who made it all happen.

click on this link to go to the next page: Derome le Jeune

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