Sixteenth Century Finishing Tools - France

Fleur-de-lis Binder

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Comparative Diagram 1 - Fleur-de-lis imprint 1 vs rubbing (Nixon 1965) and assorted examples (click on this image to see a 1200dpi enlargement)

At the web site of the Bibliothèque nationale du France you can find some excellent digital images of important bindings by famous French binders. As I was looking through their collection of bindings by the Fleur-de-lis Binder (Relieur à la Fleur-de-lis), I noticed a strange anomaly. On the previous page were were discussing corner fleurons as a way of identifying a binder, and the Fleur-de-lis Binder has a special corner fleuron that you might imagine as being quite east to recoqnize. However when I enlarged the images with the specialized zoom at the BnF site, I discovered something unusual. Of the four bindings that they have chosen as representative of this binder (see list below) the second binding in the list is decorated with a corner fleuron that closely resembles but is not the real thing. It is shelfmarked LESOUEF R-274 I show it in Comparative Diagram 1 along with Nixon's 1965 rubbing of the type model (EF. 18) and other assorted examples of this fleuron.

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BnF Relieur à la Fleur-de-lis examples.

The BnF have described the Fleur-de-lis Binder as non identified and named by agreement (convention) after one of his characteristic fleurons (FdL 1) further stating that this binder may be affiliated with the workshop of Etienne Roffet. They reference the 1965 work of Nixon, p,9-14 (No.s 10-18), pl. B (fleurons EF. 12-25) and X-XVIII bindings. Below I have reproduced page 9 of Nixon's 1965 book, here we find some important details concerning the Fleur-de-lis Binder.
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Bookbindings from the library of Jean Grolier : a loan exhibition,
Nixon H. M. The British museum, 1965, page 9.

I wanted to find the connection to Roffet and so we must read carefully Nixon's text on this, he mentions his binding number 10 as a key link to Roffet's binding of the Estienne Bible. On binding 10 we find two tools which he has classified as EF. 1 and EF. 2. I have reproduced Nixon's rubbing of these tools below and as we have been studying Roffet's bible binding, we will be rather disappointed to discover that these tools are not in evidence, unless perhaps on the spine. Seriously though they do not even seem of a quality that would be suited to the Roffet Bible. (Fast forward with this link to discover the source of these fleurons and the Roffet connection).
EF 1 and EF 2
Comparative Diagram 2 - Nixon 1965 rubbings EF. 1 and EF. 2. Plate B.

The next important item is his binding No. 12, (shown below) in the reproduction of this binding we see it listed as: 12. BAYFIUS, 1536. 8vo. MAJOR J. R. ABBEY. However when I checked the Sotheby catalogue I found a different binding, this was the Bayfius of Major Abbey (see below, Lot 115). After reading the Sotheby description, I gather that Nixon's binding 12 is in fact the Grolier copy of De re vestiaria mentioned in this text.

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Fortunately this very binding, Lot 115, can now be found in the British Library Database of Bookbindings, shelfmarked as Davis366, and so we get to see a much better reproduction of it, along with a scale so we can resize the image to it's correct dimensions and recover imprints at their true size.

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(click on this image to see a 300 dpi enlargement)

Davis366 from the British Library Database of Bookbindings
Image courtesy of the British Library.

(Please note this image is under copyright and can not be copied or reproduced without the express permission of the British Library,
for more information click here)

The next binding by the Fleur-de-lis Binder, is Nixon's example number 15 (shown below). Here at last we see the corner fleuron (Nixon's EF. 18) that gave this binder his name. Thus returning to Comparative Diagram 1, at the top of the page we see an example taken from this binding No. 15.

On the next page we will examine the tools found on these two certain Fleur-de-lis bindings, looking for any clues that might lead us back to Etienne Roffet.

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15. LIVY, 1521, 8vo. BRITISH MUSEUM (Nixon 1965 PL. XV).

(click on this image to see a 300 dpi enlargement)

See the next page Fleur-de-lis Binder and Etienne Roffet.

information about the author return to the home page of VIRTUAL BOOKBINDING