French Decorative Bookbinding - Seventeenth Century

Atelier Macé et Antoine Ruette

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1645 dated binding by Antoine Ruette

The binding reproduced above is found in a 2004 Christie's auction catalogue (Collection Michel Wittock, Lundi 8 Novembre 2004), Click here to see the item's description (#233). The Christie's experts attribute this binding to Antoine Ruette and point out that the date of the inscription is 1645. They mention 2 other similar bindings listed by Esmerian (Tableau IV - Antoine Ruette) and that one of these is found in Esmerian's catalogue (1972, II, no. 36). It is another work by Terence, les Comoediae , published in Paris in 1602 by Adrien Perier. This volume carries the same inscription but is dated 1644. Fortunately I have found this binding reproduced in another auction catalogue*, and show it below in Comparative Diagram 1, along with another binding from Esmerian's catalogue, No. 5 which he attributes to Mace Ruette. The Christie's experts note that Antoine was still doing bindings in the style of his father 6 years after his father's death in 1638. They also mention the fact that Esmerian thought that Mace Ruette died in 1644. I don't know what proof we have now that he actually died in 1638 and our experts do not say. They also mention Esmerian's Mace Ruette example No. 5 where we find the same small flower with 5 petals,

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Comparative Diagram 1 - Mace Ruette binding (Esmerian 1972, II, No. 5)
and 1602 Terence les Comoediae (Drouot, Paris 2004, lot 127).
(Click to see an enlargement.)

We have addressed this problem to a certain extent on another page where I have presented another Ruette binding Les Homélies du Bréviaire Paris: chez Pierre Rocolet, 1640. This binding is found in H.M. Nixon's book entitled Broxbourne Library, London, 1956, item no. 66. I show it again here along with Comparative Diagram 2 where we see gerbs from the 1645 Terence (233 shown above) and the 1640 Homélies binding.

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Les Homélies du Bréviaire
Paris: chez Pierre Rocolet, 1640.

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Comparative Diagram 2 - Ruette gerbs - 1645 vs 1640.
(Click to see an enlargement.)

Although we don't now for certain when the Homélies binding.was executed, we do know that it was made after 1638 and that the same tools and mode of design are present. Nixon attributed the work to Macé Ruette and there are many of his tools here. However, the one major difference is the use of these particular spiral tools. Raphaël Esmerian studied the tools of Mace Ruette carefully as he fully explains in the second part (Deuxième Partie) of his 1972 catalogue.** In his table of Mace Ruette tools we do not see the two main spirals that make up the gerbs shown in Comparative Diagram 2 (mr-35a and b, mr33a and b), we can find them in Esmerian's Annexe C and Tableau IV, where they are attributed to Antoine Ruette (see Comparative Diagrams 3 and 4).

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Comparative Diagram 3 - Antoine Ruette - Spiral tools - Raphaël Esmerian 1972, II, Annexe C
(Click to see an enlargement.)

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Comparative Diagram 4 - TABLEAU COMPARATIF.... Esmerian, 1972, II, Annexe C.
(Click to see an enlargement.)

In his 1972 Volume II appendix (2eme Partie-Annexe: 12 Tableaux symnoptiques sur la reliure au XVIIe siècle) Esmerian created a synoptic table (Tableau) for each of the more important French 17th century binders specialized in the pointillé decor. In Tableau IV we find, illustrated type models of imprints deriving from the more important decorative tools of ANTOINE RUETTE 1640-1669. These are shown without any codification, which means they are hard to reference in a work such as this. To simplify matters I have given each a number, prefixed with "ar" for Antoine Ruette. The imprints are numbered in the order in which they were presented in the tables. These numbers do not equate to any sort of classification system but are rather, a simple cataloging of imprints. There are many Ruette imprints that were not included in Esmerian's Tableau IV, these will have to be elaborated on yet another diagram.

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Comparative Diagram 5 - codification - Tableau IV- ANTOINE RUETTE 1640-1669
Esmerian, 1972, Vol. II. (Click to see an enlargement.)


Comparative Diagram 6 - Esmerian imprint type model (ar-35a) vs 1645 and 1640 imprints
(enlarged to 600dpi)

In Comparative Diagram 6, we can see the limitations of the Esmerian illustrated model, compared with the actual imprints, the models can never be trusted for a true imprint identification. Fortunately the relatively high quality of these catalogue reproductions allow us to see the individual pointillé segments of these imprints providing an almost infallible identification of this tool. If this imprint can be found on a pre 1638 binding, it may turn out to be a Mace Ruette tool, for the moment it remains an Antoine Ruette tool, This is a very important distinction in our research into the question of who did what... separating the Mace Ruette work from that of his son Antoine.

*Pierre Berge, Vente - Mauuscrits et très beaux livres anciens, Drouot Richelieu Paris Vendredi 25 juin 2004.

**Bibliothèque Raphaël Esmerian, Georges Blaizot and Claude Guérin, Paris. 1972-74. 6 volumes, uniformly bound in pale blue-green cloth with gilt titles. Auction catalogues for the sale in Paris, with an indroduction by Jacques Guignard. Profusely illustrated, many tipped in plates. One of the most impressive collectons ever offered at auction: (1) 1er Partie: Manuscits a peintures & Livres des XVe et XVIe siècles - Illuminated manuscripts and Books of the 15th & 16th centuries, some with the arms of Francois Ier, Henri II, Catherine of Medicis, Diane de Poitiers, Henri IV and others. 186pp, 126 lots + index, (2) 2eme Partie: Reliures de quelques ateliers du XVII siècle & Livres en divers genres du XVIIe et XVIIIe siècle - Bindings from several workshops of the 17th c, and Books of divers types of the 17th & 18th c, some with arms of Anne d'Autriche, Louis XIII, Louis XIV, Louis XVI, Mme de Maintenon, Marie-Antoinette, Marquise de Pompadour, Duchesse de Polignac, Cardinal de Richelieu and other notables. 183pp 168 lots indexed. (3) 2eme Partie-Annexe: 12 Tableaux symnoptiques sur la reliure au XVIIe siècle - 12 Analytic Tables on 17th c Bindings. A tabulation of the work of various bookbinding workshops and artists with their known production, marks, devices and stamps. Unpginated. (4) 3eme Partie: Livres illustres du XVIIIe siècle - Illustrated books of the 18th c including unique examples of books with original drawings and extremely rare examples of etchings, proof impressions and collatoral editions, as well as beautiful bindings. Large number of tipped in plates based on the original drawings and etched or engraved reproductions. 105pp 107 lots indexed (5) 4eme Partie: Livres illustres du XIXe siècle, receuils de dessins origaux de David, Isabey; Goya; Faust de Delacroix, albums de lithographies par Daumier, Gavarni, Isabey & receuils de dessins de mode - Illustrated books of the 19th c., with original drawings by David, Isabey; Goya's Caprichos, Tauromachie & Proverbios; Redoubte's Roses; Goethe's Faust illustrated by Delacroix, Lithographs by Daumier, Gavarni, Isabet; Fashions of the time. 123pp 125 lots indexed. (6) 5eme Partie: Livres illustres modernes (1874-1970), receuils de dessins originaux d'Erte, Garbier, Steinlen, Legrand, Lepere, Laboureur, etc., Livres de peintres de Braque, Bonnard, Chagall, Derain, Dufy, Denoyer de Segonzac, Laurencin, Maillol, Manet, Matisse, Miro, Picasso, Rouault, Signac, Toulouse Lautrec, Villon; et tres belles reliures. - Modern Illustrated books including some with original drawings; Livres d'artiste and beautiful bindings. 147pp 142 lots indexed.

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