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COMPARATIVE IMPLEMENTOLOGY

French Decorative Bookbinding - Eighteenth Century

Pierre-Paul Dubuisson and Jacques-Antoine Derome


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Thoinan 1893, page 172 and Planche XXVII,
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In the history of French book binders one author has far surpassed all others in thoroughly detailing the period 1500-1800. His work is the one reference to which all experts turn. His book is so often quoted that I hardly need mention his name, or rather his nom de plume of Thoinan. Ernest Roquet's masterwork entitled Les Relieurs Français (1500-1800). Biographie Critique et Anecdotique Précédée de l'Histoire de la Communauté des Relieurs et Doreurs de Livres de la Ville de Paris et d'une Étude sur les Styles de Reliure. first appeared in 1893, in 650 numbered copies. Today these books are relatively rare and fetch a high price.

Now to return to our story of the previous page. I must refer to Thoinan's brief history of Jacques-Antoine Derome, who was the father of the more famous Nicolas-Denis Derome, better known as Derome le Jeune. Jacques-Antoine was also a well known binder, however Thoinan points out that he may have only been a binder and not a "doreur". Thoinan notes that another researcher (M. Guiffrey) discovered an inventory taken of the affairs of Jacques-Antoine Derome upon his death. In that inventory there is no sign of any decorative tools (fers a dorer). Thoinan suggests that he may have employed a "doreur" for the decorative finishing. More specifically Thoinan provides us with an illustrated reproduction (Planche XXVII) that is of a binding signed by Antoine-Jacques Derome, but possibly decorated by the 'doreur" in question. This is an exciting possibility that few seem to have taken seriously. Thoinan'd Planche XXVII is a hand drawn reproduction and we find a better copy of it in the 1880-1881 work of Marius Michel La Reliure Française Depuis L'invention De L'imprimerie jsuqu' à  La Fin Du XVIIIe siècle. Below I have reproduced these two reproductions side by side, I have reversed Thoinan's reproduction to a white on black format.


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Comparative Diagram 1 - Marius Michel Planche XVIII vs Thoinan Planche XXVII.
(click on this image to see an enlargement).

Our next important reference comes from a 2007 Sotheby's auction catalogue, Bibliothèque littéraire Marcel de Merre, Paris 5-6 June 2007. The first item shown in this catalogue is a 1757 Amanach Royal, with a full page color reproduction. I have reproduced both the item description and the color reproduction below. The description of this item is very interesting, It is described as being attributed to Jacques-Antoine Derome. However Sotheby's "experts" note that this item was previously acquired by the famous collectioner Robert Hoe, who reproduced it in his book 176 Historic and Artistic Bookbindings, Hoe mentions that this binding contains Dubuisson's ticket. However Louis-Marie Michon, (Les Reliures Mosaiquéres du XVIIIe siècle, Paris 1956) changed the attribution to Jacques-Antoine Derome due to the presence of le fer "au trident". Here is the huge mistake of Michon not relizing that Jacques-Antoin Derome did not decorate his bindings, and that the fer "au trident" must therefore belong to Dubuisson. I do not have Michon's book, however he obviously was an expert of some renown, an expert that Esmerian was taken in by.


item description

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Sotheby's 2007 item #1 Almanach Royal 1757,
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We see now how this error spread but let us get back to some solid proof that Jacques-Antoine Derome empolyed Dubuisson as 'doreur' for his bindings such as the example shown in Thoinan's Planche XXVII, and that the fer "au trident" is actually a Dubuisson tool. First I would like to compare le comparable as the French say by proposing that we look at another similar binding that has been decorated by Dubuisson. This has been reproduced in Rahir's 1910 catalogue and this reproduction is better than any similar reproduction that you can find today. This is item 171g in the catalogue and Rahir states clearly that this is a binding by Dubuisson.


item description

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Rahir, 1910, pl.33, item #171g - Almanach Royal 1756, attributed to Dubuisson.
(click on this image to see an enlargement).

Below I have reproduced a number of examples of the so called fer 'au trident" these have not been reproduced at exactly the same scale and yet we can see that this is Dubuisson tool catalogued as pd-7 on a previous page (click to see a copy of this catalogue). While it may be that two different but similar looking tools were employed here, variations observed could also be due to differences in the hardness of the leather and or the application of the tool itself. Even if two tools were used, both would belong to Dubuisson.

The imprint from Rahir item #217 is at an accurate 600dpi scale. The binding of item #217 has certainly been decorated Dubuisson, as the book is his own 1757 publication, about Armorial design. The decoration of this binding contains the armorial elements and arms of the Queen, all very likely to be of Dubuisson's own design.
On the next page we are going to examine closely the other gold tooled imprints found on Thoinan's Planche XXVII, for although Michon singled out the fer "au trident" it is not perhaps the best representative tool, some of the others are far easier to identify.





Comparative Diagram 2

Comparative Diagram 2 - Dubuisson imprints pd-7 (fer "au trident")

217 description

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Comparative Diagram 3 - Rahir #217 vs Sotheby #1 (note the identical use of the fer "au trident")
(click on this image to see an enlargement).




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