French Decorative Bookbinding - Seventeenth Century

Luc-Antoine Boyet (1685-1733)


Shelfmark davis473 - British Library Database of Bookbindings

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Please note that all images from the British Library Database of Bookbindings are subject to Copyright see also Reproductions

I discovered this important decorative binding by Boyet, while surfing the British Library Database of bookbindings. I have added Boyet's name as bookbinder to the database entry (shown below) which had not yet attributed a binder.
Shelfmark - Davis473
Held by - British Library
Country - France
Period - 17c
Cover Material -
Colour -
Decorative Technique - Tooled in gold
Style/Type - All over design
Edges -
Bookbinder - Luc-Antoine Boyet (1685-1733)
Ownership Mark - Brissac, Marie Marguerite de Cosse
Author -
Title -
Place of Publication -
Date of Publication -
Notes - For other French 17c bindings see Isabelle de Conihout & Pascal Ract-Madoux, Relieures Françaises du 17c, Paris 2002. Macchi states; the second half of the seventeenth century, Paris (?). The arms in the corners belong to Marie -Marguerite de Cossé Brissac (died October 20th, 1708) who married on March 28th 1662 François de Neufville, duke of Villeroy (Bibliothèque Raphaël Esmerian. Deuxième partie, p. 96, 100, n. 64).

Luc-Antoine Boyet, in his long career, mastered many different decorative styles, I have detailed this particular 'all over design' on another page. (click this link to see more Boyet examples of this kind). This example is particularly important because Boyet has used tools which we do not see in the other examples of this type. Further to this, the high quality of the British Library enlargement with included scale allows us to extract the more interesting imprints which will prove very useful in further comparative studies.

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The first tool I would like to point out is a large fleuron which we can call for the moment lab-16


Imprint lab-16 in colour and greyscale (small white square = 1 x 1 mm)


Enlarged detail of a 1659 centerpiece by Antoine Ruette

Comparative Diagram 1 - Boyet lab-16 imprint vs Ruette imprint ar-16 1659

In Comparative Diagram 1, we can observe that these two imprints are very similar in size and form. Both stems contain 13 beads between the bottom ring and middle ring. Boyet has used this fleuron in an identical fashion creating centerpiece structures of the same form and size. Boyet's tool although similar is easily discerned from that of Ruette as it lacks the three crowning rings.
comparative 2

Comparative Diagram 2 - Boyet lab-15 imprint vs Ruette imprint ar-15 1659

In Comparative Diagram 2, we see that Boyet's tool is a close copy of the Ruette model. Also note that Boyet has used this tool in a similar position along the sides pointed towards the center.
comparative 3

Comparative Diagram 3 - Boyet imprint lab-8 davis473 and NTM example vs Ruette ar-8 imprint

In Comparative Diagram 3, I compare the best davis473 example with a scanned example from my NTM binding these then compare well with a scanned Ruette example of the same type. The Boyet tool is not an exact copy of the Ruette model but only a trained eye could tell the difference, in size and form both tools are very similar. This later becomes one of Boyet's favorite tools.

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Comparative Diagram 4 - Boyet imprints lab-1 vs Florimond Badier fb-1 imprint

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Unfortunately there a only 4 lab-1 imprints on davis473 and none are clear or unencumbered. This is another of Boyet's favorite tools. It is smaller than lab-8 which it resembles and I have not been able to find a complete well defined example in any of the Boyet reproductions (see the enlargement of the 1692 binding below for good examples of this tool) . Boyet's model resembles in size and form Badier's tool which is a close copy of the Maitre Doreur md-1, which is the earliest example of this type. If we consider the Maitre Doreur's work as some of the earliest in a fully pointille style, this tool plays a major role from the very start and is then laterly found in the Rocolet bindings. Ruette who used a wide variety of pointillé tools never had this exact type although his ar-8 model (as per above) would have been the closest similar looking tool. If you wanted to copy retrospectively the pointillé decor, you need to have one of these tools. Boyet's example is an interesting mixture that copies the form imitating more closely the Badier model but retaining the three uppermost beads as per md-1 instead of Badiers example where we see four beads (note these beads are often seem fused in the Boyet examples, as per below, but are visable in the third lab-1 imprint of Comparative Diagram 4).

Comparative Diagram 5 - Boyet lab-3 imprints vs Maitre Doreur md-3 imprints

The lab-3 imprints found on davis473 are quite good, better in fact than any of my Maitre Doreur imprints of this same type. This is a tool which does not seem to appear in the early Maitre Doreur work and is found sparingly in the pre Rocolet period. While in the Rocolet work it appears late as per the 1659 example of Isabelle de Conihout & Pascal Ract-Madoux, (Relieures Françaises du 17c, Paris 2002, Page 58 and 59, Example No. 23). Boyet's copy of this tool is remarkably similar in size and shape and would only be detected with a magnifying glass. The md-3 examples appear to have a ring at the bottom, whereas Boyet's tool ends in a simple merger of the stems. Boyet uses this tool extensively in these "full gold" designs and it is also present in his retrospective Queen Anne bindings.

Comparative Diagram 6 - Boyet lab-7b imprint vs Padeloup le jeune pj-tb imprint

In Comparative Diagram 6 we encounter another odd parallel, I have already detailed this tool while looking at pointille bindings of Padeloup le jeune. At that time the only model that seemed similar to the Padeloup tool, that could have served as a sort of model for Padeloup's tool was Rocolet's example (shown below). That is, until now when I discover, in the davis473 binding, that Boyet was using an almost identical tool, decades ahead of Padeloup. Look closely at pj-7b you will find it is a very close match with lab-7b, almost an identical copy. However on closer examination it would appear that Boyet's tool is actually a combination of both the left and right spirals in a single tool. The provisional designation of lab-7b will therefore, at some point, have to be changed.


Comparative Diagram 7 - Esmerian Models vs actual imprint specimens.

There are many more important tools that we could examine in this davis473 binding, however for the moment I have touched on some of the major items. This is but a small first step towards examining the diversity of Boyet's tools. My impression, my guess, is that this may be an early Boyet, wherein he is following in the path of the classic masters of pointillé. the Maitre Doreur, Florimond Badier and Antoine Ruette. Boyet then goes on to elaborate on this design which becomes more complex and dense, although employing a less varied selection of tools, such as in this 1692 example.


Paris, Antoine Dezallier. 1692 In-12 (150 x 92 mm)

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