Antoine Ruette - Finishing Tools - 1669

Esmerian No. 37

La Practique des Vertues Chrétiennes - Rouen 1669

After discovering a connection between the tools of Antoine Ruette and those of the Atelier des Caumartin, namely the favorite Ruette ROLL II, I decided to continue researching the Ruette tools and started with this important 1669 Ruette binding (shown above) found in Esmerian's Catalogue (No. 37). This binding is the last example listed on Tableau VI of Raphaël Esmerian's 1972 publication Douze Tableaux Synoptiques sur La Reliure au XVII eme Siècle.

Esmerian Tableau VI

Antoine Ruette was born the 5th of February 1609, and received the freedom of the Guild of St. Jean in the quality of a stationer, on the 9th of July 1637. Son of Macé Ruette he succeeded his father as Binder in Ordinary to Louis XIV, perhaps in the year 1638 but certainly by 1644, and appears to have been succeeded himself by Claude le Mire in 1664. By this time Ruette was in his mid 50's and worked at least another 5 years. He would have been near 60 when he produced this binding for the Duchess of York. Esmerian seems no fan of Antoine Ruette, describing his work as "mediocre, with only a few rare bindings of acceptable quality. In this regard I wish to present another binding example, executed by Antoine's father, Macé Ruette. This is a 1633 binding, executed by a legendary master of the craft.

click to enlarge

Binding by Macé Ruette, 1633. (click to enlarge)

(Example #8, from Isabelle de Conihout & Pascal Ract-Madoux, Relieures Francaises du 17c, Paris 2002, page 26.)

Compare carefully this 1633 binding to that at the top of the page executed by Antoine in 1669, at the age of 60! Certainly the work of a master craftsman of no small order. The work of Antoine Ruette is only beginning to be recognized. With a thorough comparative study of his tools, many more of his precious bindings will finally find their rightful place. In this regard, I have discovered yet another important binding in the BLDB (c46h7) which I will detail in a following page; however, let us first return to comparing Antoine's 1669 binding with that of his father in 1633. We see that they both use an almost identical outer Roll. It is this very roll that is a key to the Caumartin connection. At first sight these rolls look identical; however, under magnification, and compared together at correct scale, we see that the older roll is smaller proportionally.

Comparative Diagram 1 Mace vs Antoine

Comparative Diagram 1 - Macé Ruette roll vs Antoine Ruette ROLL II.

click to enlarge

Here are all the extracted Macé roll imprints, click to enlarge to 600 dpi.

Mace roll breaks

Here is an enlarged detail from the previous image: it shows that the imprint is partly composed of short identical roll sections. This is not seen in the ROLL II imprints which are in a continuous track, 82 mm in length. Notice the break in a large roll illustrated by Edith Diehl in her 1946 publication Bookbinding Its Background and Technique. A roll this size, which appears to be about 9 cm in diameter, could have a continuous track of about 25 cm!

Edith Diehl 1946 Fig. 168, page 336.

You might wonder why I am dwelling on this detail. In my examination of the imprints of ROLL II, I searched for just such kinds of breaks, joins or overlaps to see if I could determine the beginning or ending point. I have not yet found for certain such a beginning and ending; this kind of search, however, lead to my next discovery.

Comparative Diagram 2 1669 vs Caumartin

click to enlarge

Comparative Diagram 2 - 1669 Ruette ROLL II vs Caumartin Breviarium c. 1685, click to enlarge

I was also hoping to find the same flaw discovered in the imprints of the Caumartin (Breviarium) binding (click here to see the details). However, Esmerian's published photo of this binding (No. 37) is of a low resolution; enlargements yield only blurred results that are lacking the fine details which may expose flaws of that type. So I needed to find some kind of larger detail like breaks or joins. Here I was very lucky indeed, for I discovered a broken leaf in the 1669 roll that was large enough to be detected in a number of calculated locations. This break I recognized as matching the same defect in the ROLL II imprints of my Breviarium!

In the Comparative Diagram 2, I have matched up the rolls to show these details, click to enlarge. This was a wonderful find... this broken leaf is not seen in the 1659 ROLL II imprint and thus must have occurred later, while there are yet other breaks in the Breviarium imprint not seen in this 1669 example, obviously they occurred after 1669. Here then we have the second confirmation that my Caumartin Breviarium has been tooled with the same tool that Antoine Ruette was using in 1669. Also we can now be sure that the Breviarium binding was made at a later date than the publication date of 1647. All the evidence considered it now seems likely that the Breviarium binding derives from the second part of the Atelier des Caumartin activity (as defined by Esmerian i.e. post 1685, see his Tableau VII)

Comparative Diagram 3 1669vsCaumartin

We can now proceed to a look at the various other tool imprints on the 1669 (La Practique des Vertues Chrétiennes) binding. Only a few of these imprints are found on Esmerian's Tableau VI - ANTOINE RUETTE 1640-1669 even though the binding is pictured in his Catalogue (No. 37)... see imprints 3, 10, 23 and possibly 18. I have extracted all the tool imprints, including those found on the Doubler. Click on the diagram below to see an enlargement... the extracted imprints are not perfect but still sufficiently detailed to permit identification.

click to enlarge

Comparative Diagram 4 - Tool Imprints from Antoine Ruette 1669 Binding vs Esmerian models (click here to see all the Esmerian Tableau VI models - page 1, page 2.)

click to enlarge

Enlarged front board - click to enlarge

click to enlarge

Enlarged Doubler - click to enlarge

Click on this link to visit Virtual Bookbinding

Go to Digital Alchemy return to the home page of