Sixteenth Century Finishing Tools - France

Catalogue des reliures françaises estampées à froid, XVe-XVIe siècle, de la Bibliothèque Mazarine

By Denise Gid


I have already made hundreds of references to this work of Denise Gid. I have the greatest admiration for her efforts in producing these two volumes that are the result of what must have been a labor of love, otherwise no one could have undertaken such a vast project. Individual rubbings of nearly 700 decorated bindings from the 15 and 16th century with every imprint catalogued in a separate volume and every binding cross referenced to similar bindings found in major libraries throughout France, literally thousands of references and unlimited research possibilities. Really I have no idea how she could have done it, it means examining and recording thousands of bindings. Her work stands as the most important reference to the early blindstamped bookbindings of France that has ever been published. In our work here which concerns the atelier of Louis XII and François Ier we find within Gid's catalogue a number of examples that are clearly from this atelier. However I did not find any examples of bindings from the atelier Simon Vostre. The only examples that can be found of bindings that might be seen as deriving from the atelier of Simon Vostre have been cataloged by Denise Gid in another of her books entitled: Les reliures à plaques françaises by Denise Gid and Marie-Pierre Laffitte. Published 1997 by BREPOLS in Turnhout.

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This work contains a catalogue of 240 rubbings of the most important plaques from the late 15 and early 16 century, more impressive is the collection of references that accompany each plaque rubbing, effectively detailing probably more than 1000 plaque bindings. it is another amazing and invaluable source of information. Here we find a handful of references to bindings that contain books printed or edited by Simon Vostre. Here we can perhaps find the famous atelier Simon Vostre bindings.

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I have copied these references (shown above). The dark numbers indicate the number of the plaque rubbing, followed by referenced bindings with similar but not necessarily identical plaques. When there is only a dark number. or if the referenced binding is the first in the list, then it is the binding that has served for the rubbing, Below I show the 140 rubbing along with the 177 rubbing, both have the same list of references, because bindings that were decorated with these plaques are found with the plaques on opposite covers. (see an example below)

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By good fortune and extensive searching with Google, I finally found an actual photograph (low resolution) of an atelier Simon Vostre binding. I found it by searching 'Simon Vostre' and 'plaque' after researching Vostre plaques in Gid. By a lucky coincidence it just happens to have the same plaques as the ones shown in her catalogue. I show it below with a description. If you can find several bindings that are decorated with exactly the same plaque and they all contain books from the presses of Vostre, than we might imgine that we have discovered at last, bindings that have actually been made by the atelier of Simon Vostre. We can also observe that this atelier specialized in plaque bindings for a prolonged period and produced many that I suspect looked quite similar the one shown below.

For the moment, and after several pages of researching this issue we still have not found a single shred of evidence to support the theory Jacques Guinard, who has claimed that the atelier of Simon Vostre produced the gold tooled bindings described by Emile Dacier as les reliures Louis XII.

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Atelier Simon Vostre c. 1506

(HORAE B.M.V.) Ces p[ré]sentes heures à lusaige de Rome . . . ont esté i[m]primées pour Symon Vostre Libraire. Large Vostre device on title; 17 (of ?) full-page illustrations; each text page within woodcut historiated border, including Dance of Death sequence in borders on h1r-i5v. [90] (of [98]) leaves, including almanac for 1506-20; lacks last 8 leaves. Bâtarde type, 26 lines. Small manuscript initials and paragraph marks alternately in red and blue throughout. 8vo, contemporary Parisian binding of limp leather with 4 repetitions of scrollwork panel stamp on front cover, and 4 of panel stamp of St. John the Baptist on rear cover, some edgewear, spine worn, ends chipped, 2 small imperfections at bottom of front cover; light dampstaining in upper margins at beginning and in upper outer corners toward end; gilt edges, gauffered to repeating lozenge pattern. Paris: Simon Vostre, [1506?]

Uncolored copy, apart from the initials, and unlike most Parisian editions from this period seen on the market, printed on paper, "which from its more fragile nature renders such copies scarcer than those on vellum" (Davies, Fairfax Murray/French, page 272). The panel stamps seem to have been customarily used together, and most of the examples cited by Gid and Lafitte are found on books from the press of Simon Vostre. Bohatta 829; Brunet V, 1587 (64); Gid & Lafitte, Les Reliures à Plaques Françaises 140, 177.

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