French Decorative Bookbinding - Eighteenth Century

Rare binding by Antoine Michel Padeloup, commonly called Padeloup le jeune.

click to see the actual ebay page

When I first saw this binding on eBay, I wondered if it might be a Padeloup binding even though the dentelle and spine decoration was unfamiliar. One or two tools looked like they could be from the workshop of Padeloup. This was an exciting discovery and straightaway I started looking through my reference material to try to get proof. Even though my memory isn't what it used to be I somehow remembered the large fleuron in the corners of the dentelle, and sure enough found them on Plate IV of the 1956 publication entitled Les reliures mosaïquées du XVIIIe siècle by Louis-Marie Michon, a binding that he has correctly attributed to Padeloup. I show it below compared with our eBay example, both bindings reproduced at the same scale, we can see that the eBay photo of this fleuron is better than Michon's reproduction.

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L M Michon 1956 Plate IV Padeloup binding vs eBay binding.

Michon estimated this Padeloup binding to have been executed around 1720. There was no doubt in my mind that the fleuron in the corners of both bindings, was made by the same tool, and with an identical placement in both examples I was sure that I was on the right track, even though a thorough search did not turn up another example of this fleuron. The central strapwork was also something I had seen before. Yet the dentelle and the tools used in the spine compartments seemed foreign to all other examples of bindings from this workshop. This forced me to investigate further, at one point looking for bindings that might have been made by Boyet and Padeloup. Soon after, I discovered that by an odd coincidence, there is an example of this same Senault publication in a Padeloup binding in the British Library Database of Bookbindings, and this binding is very comparable to another Padeloup binding in their database, I show both below reproduced at the same scale.

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Padeloup bindings from the British Library Database of Bookbindings example Davis538 and Davis532, images courtesy of the British Library

(please note: these images are under copyright and can not be copied or reproduced without the express permission of the British Library,
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1716 Padeloup binding vs eBay binding

Above I present another Padeloup binding that I have detailed on a previous page. I think you will see immediately what I am getting at when you add up all the similarities from this collection of Padeloup bindings. Obviously the eBay binding is the work of Padeloup even though this fact has escaped many experts including those at LIBRAIRIE BERTRAN who have been trying to sell this item for quite some time online before resorting to eBay. This is not that surprising because the main decoration of this binding in no way resembles the work of Padeloup. As I was sure this was a binding by Padeloup I was determined to try to win the auction, however as this binding is covering a rare and expensive publication by Louis Senault, bidding on this item was very risky and filled with apprehension. (See the actual eBay page by clicking on the picture at the top of this page). Granted the book itself was stained and missing a blank first page or two, good copies are selling online for up to 3000 USD, an impoverished collector may want to bid on this as it would be his only chance to get a copy at a reasonable price because of defects. This is all part of the thrill of eBay, finding something you really want and then being able to get it without it costing an arm and a leg.

I managed to get it for 278 euros, quite a bit less than what it was being offered for initially. The question is of course, what is such a binding worth? We often see references to Padeloup as one of the greatest, if not the greatest French binder of the 18th century. This alone should have placed this rare example into a different category, it could have been sold just as a binding, especially as it appears to be in reasonably good condition.

I will have to wait for it to arrive in the mail before I can go further in this analysis and present to our readers some high resolution images of the gold tooling, From there we have to try to discover if this is in fact a binding that was made and decorated initially by a different binder, to which Padeloup added the centerpieces.

click on this link to see the next page: Is it a Padeloup?

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