Franco-American couple poured their hearts and souls into creating a library on the art of bookbinding. Covering a period from the 16th to the 20th century, their collection illustrates the variety of styles and the refinement of the techniques used by bookmaking artisans. Combining works from French, Italian and English studios, in Maroquin leather, vellum, wood or polycarbonate, adorned with a mosaic decoration, gilt-tooled, embroidered, in Japanese leather paper, covered with coats of arms or Masonic emblems, the two bibliophiles were eager to illustrate everything in the rich history of bookbinding.
16th & 17th Century French Bound Books
Great care has always been paid to book binding in France. Some forty books from this collection explore the production of various workshops which demonstrate that book binding is an art unto itself. Ranging from the Renaissance to the 17th century, the cover decorations feature a broad ornamental repertory including blind-stamped and gilt adornments, foliage and branches, tracery and arabesques, as well as a multitude of tools arranged to form large gilt motifs of abundant variety.
Standing out among these 16th-century bindings is a very elegant one attributable to Étienne Roffet, royal binder to François I of France, which contains a Latin edition of the works of Aristotle published in Basel in 1538 (lot 5).
Around 1570, a new decoration appeared, featuring abundantly adorned compartments partitioned by tracery, which came to be called “fanfare decoration” in the 19th century. A psalter published in 1586 offers an eloquent image of the extensive embellishment of these bindings, which abounded under the reign of Henri III of France (lot 17). This fanfare binding gave rise to a great posterity in the centuries to come. Such late “fanfare” bindings are illustrated here by a book bound at the workshop of Pierre Rocolet (lot 37).
In the 17th century, bindings began to be adorned with little tools and stippling in which Parisian workshops excelled, including those of Macé Ruette, Antoine Ruette, Florimond Badier, Le Gascon and Pierre Rocolet. The latter produced the binding of Priezac’s Discours Politique, featuring the arms of Chancellor Séguier (lot 36).
English and Irish Bound Books
The Franco-American bibliophile couple also loved collecting 18th-century English and Irish bindings.
To decorate a copy of the complete poetic works of Lorenzo de’ Medici, published in Venice in 1554, the English binder Roger Payne – one of the most famous of the 18th century – created a morocco binding adorned with gilt fillet decorations (lot 8).
Dating from the Georgian era, a magnificent red morocco binding on an almanac displays gilt decoration with a number of zoomorphic tools (lot 51). Among these British bindings, we should mention the spectacular mosaic binding with architectural decoration attributed to John Brindley or Andreas Linde covering the Eclogues of Virgil, published by John Baskerville in 1758. John Brindley, known for his refined creations, was the royal bookbinder to Queen Caroline, George III, and the future George IV (lot 23). Let us also mention a binding from Dublin with a gilt mosaic decoration (lot 54), as well as one crafted by the bibliophile and philanthropist Jonas Hanway, who adorned his bindings with symbolic tools (lot 55).
While 18th-century English and Irish bindings are no less admirable than contemporary French bindings, it was a Frenchman – either Nicolas-Denis Derome or Antoine-Louis Padeloup – who crafted the very beautiful dentelle binding for Henry Arundell, 8th Baron Arundell of Wardour (lot 44).
Italian Book Bindings
Among the dozens of Italian book bindings, the opening lot is a 16th-century binding on a rare Aldine edition that is very likely to be Venetian. The binding, discreetly adorned with blind fillets, is very likely to have been executed by the bookbinder to Diego Hurtado de Mendoza, ambassador of Charles V (lot 1). The book belonged to the library of Cardinal Giovanni Salviati, a great aficionado of Greek manuscripts and printed books in the Greek language.
Several bindings from this collection were produced by the famous Soresini workshop in Rome, which bound books from 1585 to 1630. The first, executed in the late 16th century and featuring the coat of arms of a member of the Chigi family, contains a copy of Cicero’s De philosophia which was printed in Lyon in 1562 (lot 10). The second was executed in the early 17th century for Cardinal Scipione Caffarelli Borghese, the nephew of Pope Paul V (lot 20). The cardinal’s coat of arms appears in an ornately bordered compartment design adorned with arms, volutes, putti and arabesques.
We might also mention another cardinal and bibliophile, Cardinal Francesco Barberini – the nephew of Pope Urban VIII – who was also a patron and eminent collector. A mosaic binding featuring his coat of arms (lot 31) demonstrates the elaborate nature of the contents of his library, purchased in 1903 by Pope Leo XIII.
Last but not least, let us mention an exquisite binding with neoclassical decoration featuring the cypher of the sculptor Antonio Canova which contains a singing manual penned by the singer Anna Maria Pellegrini Celoni.
In an effort to establish a complete panorama of the art of binding, the collectors concluded their array of antique books with examples from the 19th and 20th centuries. In the late 19th century, the Japonisme fashion brought to France by Carayon (lots 82, 85-86, 91-94, 98 and 101) and the Arts & Crafts movement (lot 97, a binding by Johanna Birkenruth) rejuvenated the art of binding, while Zaehnsdorf and the Bindery Club maintained a more classical style (lot 96).
Among the great names in 20th-century binding, the collection includes creations by Pierre Legrain (lot 106), his son-in-law J. Anthoine-Legrain (lot 105), and Pierre-Lucien Martin (lots 99, 111, 120). The banded binding executed by Jean de Gonet on a copy of L'Art du relieur doreur de livres is a true technical achievement, and indeed is the largest that he produced using this complicated technique (lots 59 and 122). The airbrushed polycarbonate bindings with articulated hinges crafted by Friar Edgard Claes are completely atypical in bookbinding creation (lots 124-125).
Selections by the bibliophile’s wife also helped bring a feminine touch to the collection, which includes several bindings by women such as Germaine De Coster and Hélène Dumas (lots 107 and 119), Madeleine Gras (lot 109), Monique Mathieu (lot 123), Lucie Weill (lot 115), Hedwige Gendebien (lot 121), Louise Lévêque (lot 110), and even Anita Conti (lot 108).
Our two aficionados – who loved books in every form and appreciated a variety of binding styles – collected books bound in the Japonisme style ((lots 82, 85-86, 91-94, 98 and 101), others inspired by the Chinese decorative arts (lot 102), a rare binding painted to imitate Oriental lacquer (lot 72), Masonic bindings (lots 58, 70 and 71), shagreen bindings (lot 45), wooden bindings (lots 81 and 59), bindings adorned with shells or embroidery (lot 79), plastic bindings (lots 124 and 125) and miniature books (lots 69, 73 and 74). The library even includes forged works produced in the 19th century to imitate Renaissance bindings: Hagué tried to pass off a book as being from the library of Charles IX (lot 9), while another forger added an “Apollo and Pegasus” medallion to an authentic binding in order to claim its provenance from the Farnese family (lot 7). This collection of bindings is completed by a curious didactic poem that the bookbinder Lesné dedicated to his art (lot 76), as well as one of the very first bookbinding manuals, Dudin’s L'Art du relieur doreur de livres (lot 59).
Many of these books have formed part of prestigious libraries, as attested by the coats of arms, monograms and emblems that adorn them, as well as the bookplates and other marks of provenance that appear within them.
A precious illumination from the book of hours attributed to Alexander Bening that belonged to Louis Quarré was once part of the prestigious Northwich collection (lot 2).
Among the great bibliophiles of the 16th century featured in this collection are: Thomas Mahieu, with a macabre binding featuring silver decoration executed in 1589, the year of the decease of Catherine de’ Medici and Henri III (lot 18); the Italian humanist and bibliophile Gian Federico Madruzzo (lot 6); Giorgio Trivulzio, whose Basel edition of Aristotle’s work was bound by Roffet; Pierre Duodo; Marguerite de Valois (lot 16); and several great Italian names, including the Chigi family (lot 10), Scipione Caffarelli Borghese (lot 20), and Carlo Carafa (lot 22). In the centuries that followed, these precious books came into the hands of eminent collectors such as Charles Fairfax Murray, Robert Hoe, Henri Beraldi, John Roland Abbey, Cortlandt F. Bishop, and above all Raphael Esmerian, who specialised in decorated bindings. The provenances are also derived from the autograph inscriptions which add significance to the books: Victor Hugo (lot 82), Gustave Flaubert (lot 87), Sarah Bernhardt (lot 89), Alain-Fournier (lot 103) and Albert Camus (lots 112 to 118).