French Decorative Bookbinding - Seventeenth Century

Atelier Luc-Antoine Boyet - Jansenist Binding 1700

click on this image to see an enlargement

Les Caracteres de Theophraste...
A Paris : chez Estienne Michallet, 1700

(click on this image to see an enlargement)

I must thank Bertrand Hugonnard-Roche of the Librairie L'amour qui bouquine for sending me these photos of an excellent example of a Jansenist binding by Luc-Antoine Boyet. Descriptions of he term Jansenist binding can be found in any number of bookbinding glossaries and these are often found to contain a direct reference to Boyet:

And it was in the reign of Louis XIV., also, by sheer reaction against the leaden showiness of the fashion set by the king, that there arose the simple style of binding called after Jansen, and adopted by the sect of Port Royal. The Jansenists bound their books soberly, with no gilding whatsoever on the sides, relying on the simple beauty of the leather in which their volumes were clad and decorating only the inside border - the dentelle, as it was called, from its resemblance to delicate lacework. These under decorated books were better bound in a technical sense than those of an earlier day, however much more beautiful the older books were to the eye. The books bound by Boyet, for example, toward the end of the seventeenth century, were more solidly prepared, more carefully sewn, more cautiously covered, than those sent forth from the workshops of his immediate predecessors.

He (Boyet) is generally believed to have covered many books, with what are known as Jansenist bindings. These bindings are without any gilding, or other ornament, on the exterior, with the exception of a blind fillet; and are so called, from the severity of their style, in allusion to the sect of the Jansenists, which had then not long been formed.

While it may be that many of Boyet's bindings were fashioned in this style, they are not easily identified. This type of binding was to become very popular, and the dentelles of Boyet often imitated. Thus finding a genuine Boyet, made even more difficult. It is fortunate then that we have found this authentic example that can serve as a reference. In the enlarged image of the photo shown above we can see clearly the single blind filet framing the boards and each spine compartment as well as defining a area at the bottom of the spine where a palette would normally be applied as a decorative fill.
click on this image to see an enlargement

Inner dentelle and decorative endpapers (see papier peigne à frisons
on page 71 of, Reliures françaises du XVIIe siècle,
Isabelle de Conihout & Pascal Ract-Madoux, Paris, 2002).

(click on this image to see an enlargement)

While the exterior of this binding yields almost no clues as to the identity of the binder. the interior is quite another story. For example, the decorative endpaper, described as papier peigne à frisons by Isabelle de Conihout & Pascal Ract-Madoux in their 2002 Paris publication entitled Reliures françaises du XVIIe siècle : Chefs-d'oeuvre du musée Condé. In this work, the authors have reproduced and describe in detail 24 decorative bindings attributed to the atelier of Luc-Antoine Boyet.

On page 110 they have illustrated, under a title of "Fers du doreur de Boyet", a selection of rubbings of the more common tool imprints In this limited presentation we find; 6 large fleurons (1 - 6), 6 palettes (I - VI), 5 roulettes (A - E), and two tools (a, b) used in the construction of fans or wheels. (click on the diagram below to see an enlargement)
click on this image to see an enlargement

click on this image to see an enlargement

Enlarged roulette E rubbing vs 1700 dentelle imprint.

In the diagram above I compare the dentelle imprint taken from the photograph with the rubbing of roulette "E". Even though the dentelle is somewhat distorted in the photograph, we can see that there is a strong probability that these imprints have been made by the same tool. Although Isabelle de Conihout & Pascal Ract-Madoux provide a rubbing of this imprint they do not show the actual imprint in any of their reproductions. Nor I have not seen another example reproduced elsewhere, thus it is a rather unfamiliar "Boyet" tool that may not be recognized even by collectors. Now however the cat is out of the bag, and I suspect that from now on, such an unusually ornate and complex roulette, will no longer fail to catch our attention.

enlarged dentelle

For more information concerning this binding contact:
Bertrand Hugonnard-Roche

See also Luc-Antoine Boyet- 1693 Tool Identification

or try this page. Decorative Dentelle by Luc-Antoine Boyet

Click on this link to return to Virtual Bookbinding link to the home page of