French Decorative Bookbinding - Eighteenth Century

Louis Douceur c. 1760
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description in French

The binding shown above is reproduced in a 1950 Paris publication entitled: Les plus belles reliures de la réunion des Bibliothèques Nationales. Paris, éditions des Bibliothèques Nationales de France, s.d. (ca. 1950), Edited and preface by - Émile Dacier. I have included Dacier's description of this binding which is said to have contained the étiquette of Louis Douceur, and a facsimile of the this is shown in the text. On a previous page we have looked at another example of a binding by Douceur with specially made tools for La Fontaine's Fables Choisies. Paris, Jean-Louis Regnard de Montenault, 1760. We see in the binding shown above some of these tools, plus a whole series of tools which appear to be very much like the tools used by Dubuisson some 10 or more years earlier. We do not see any of these tools in the Lucretius bindings and so they seem rather mysterious, either Douceur cut these tools for the Fables bindings, or they are old tools that he had not used for many years. The question is a very interesting one, as Douceur was a generation or more ahead of Dubuisson and maybe he invented this style of tools and Dubuisson decided to make something similar. The discovery of more bindings by Douceur may eventually clear up this matter. Below I am going to include a catalogue of these tools which will serve as a supplement to the catalogue of the previous page. However I would like to present first, a comparative diagram of three Douceur binding examples that derive from Fables bindings, all have been decorated with some of the special Fables tools included, however each is a distinctive style.

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Comparative Diagram 1 - Three examples of Fables bindings by Louis Douceur c. 1760
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The detail in the Sotheby's example shown above is very poor due to the fact that I can only find for the moment, the online auction information and accompanying low resolution image, this set sold for 120.000 EUR. (click to see this listing,). I think however, that these three examples may reflect the styles of different periods, with the B.N. example as a sort of retrospective 1740's style; the Sotheby's binding looks more like what we see in the Lucretius bindings i.e. 1750's; while the Christie's binding has a more Derome 1760's look.

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Louis Douceur imprint catalogue page two - Fables tools
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