French Decorative Bookbinding - Eighteenth Century

Dubuisson's work attributed to Douceur.

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(click on this image to see an enlargement.)

The binding shown above is a reproduction found in Volume 1 of La bibliothèque de feu Édouard Rahir... , Paris: Francisque Lefrançois, 1930. Edouard Rahir died in 1924, after his death his collection of books was sold in a series of auctions from 1930 to 1938. The six volume catalogue of these auctions is unsurpassed in its quality and quantity of excellent reproductions. I do not know who expertised the catalogue items, perhaps it was Francisque Lefrançois himself. I show the description for this item (#248) below where it is stated that this binding was "probably the work of Douceur". Every "expert" who described this same volume in future auctions including Esmerian (Cat. II #117) repeated this attribution to Douceur.


comparative diagram 1

Comparative Diagram 1 - Dubuisson tool imprints vs Item 248 imprints.

In Comparative Diagram 1, I have assembled Dubuisson tool imprints along with selected imprints from Item 248. There can be no doubt that these imprints all derive from the tools of Dubuisson. Thus all attributions of the decoration of this binding to Douceur are INCORRECT!

Let us now proceed to a more recent catalogue item wherein we find another quite similar set of bindings. The images reproduced below are of item #89 in the 2009 ALDE auction catalogue Bibliothèque du vicomte Couppel du Lude (Hotel du Louvre lundi 23 novembre). I have also reproduced the auction description for this item.

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The historic importance of these bindings, is inestimable. Within the item description we are told that these bindings were made as each volume became available between the years 1755 and 1759. The first two volumes contain the tickets of Bonnet and the last two the tickets of Padeloup. This is quite strange considering that the last volume did not appear until after Padeloup's death in 1758, his ticket may be inside but Padeloup himself never placed it there. Also the experts admit that they are unable to say who decorated these bindings, they mention Bonnet, Padeloup, Douceur, and Dubuisson. They have reproduced the first Volume alone in an enlargement as well as the 4 volumes together, where we can see the decoration of the front board of volume 4, as well as that of the spines. Most if not all of the gold tooling appears to derive from the tools of Pierre-Paul Dubuisson as will be shown in the Comparative Diagrams below.

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Comparative Diagram 2 - Dubuisson imprints pd-30a and 30b vs Imprints from Item 89,
vs Douceur imprints d-30a and d-30b vs Derome imprints dj-30a and dj-30b.
(shown at 200 dpi click to enlarge)

In comparative Diagram 2, I have assembled some important examples of an imprint that Dubuisson made so famous that Derome copied it. Douceur also had a tool of this kind however it cannot be seen on any of these bindings which are so often erroniously attributed to him. The imprints found on item 89 match the Dubuisson imprints.

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Comparative Diagram 3 - Dubuisson imprints pd-32a and 32b vs Imprints from Item 89,
vs Derome imprints dj-32a and dj-32b vs MM bunder imprints mm-32a and mm-32b.
vs Jubert imprints jj-32a and jj-32b (all shown at 200 dpi click to enlarge)

In Comparative Diagram 3, I show at the top the Dubuisson imprints from tools he may have been using long before 1755. The imprints from item 89 match the Dubuisson imprints, below this are imprints from binders who copied Dubuisson's tools even decades afterwards they were using these tools in the same fashion as established by Dubuisson.

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Comparative Diagram 4 - Dubuisson roulette vs Item 89 (shown at 200 dpi click to enlarge)

In Comparative Diagram 4 we see a Dubuisson roulette that is officially recognized by the Bibliotheque National on this page. I discovered some years ago a full page dedicated to this fabulous Dubuisson plaque binding with this roulette somewhere on the Bibliotheque national site, however it now appears to be no longer available. Fortunately I have previously documented it further here

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Comparative Diagram 5 - Dubuisson imprints pd-31a and pd-31b vs Item 89 imprints
(shown at 200 dpi click to enlarge)

In Comparative Diagram 5, I show examples of Dubuisson's pd-31 imprints. The colored examples are from actual scans of a Dubuisson binding found in the British Library Database of Bookbindings, shelfmarked Davis541. Here we see additional small tools used by Dubuisson in the same way and density. To see more details on Davis541 and the tool imprints of Pierre-Paul Dubuisson see this page. The tool used in the corners of the spine panels shown here on Volume 2 is the same tool as can be seen in the same position of the spine panels of Davis541.

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