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(Paris: Chez J. Gay, 1864). 185 x 111 mm. (7 3/8 x 4 1/4"). 2 p.l., 295 pp. No. 291 OF 300 COPIES on vergé paper (and eight on Chine paper).
BEAUTIFUL INTRICATELY GILT, INLAID, AND ONLAID TERRA COTTA CRUSHED MOROCCO BY CUZIN (stamp-signed on front turn-in) covers bordered by multiple decorative gilt rules, onlaid dark green morocco quatrefoil at center with very elaborately layered gilt-tooled ornamentation in the style of "Le Gascon" emanating from each point in the form of triangles and semi-circles, inlaid green morocco cornerpieces also intricately tooled in gilt; raised bands, spine compartments with much gilt scrolling and onlaid green morocco oval at center, two green morocco labels, densely gilt turn-ins, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. In a new cloth clamshell box. Front flyleaf with morocco bookplate of René Descamps Scrive. Spine slightly and evenly darkened, short dark mark on front board, but bright, clean, and fresh internally, and THE GLORIOUS BINDING IN ESPECIALLY FINE CONDITION.
This binding, extravagantly tooled in the style of the great 17th century master Le Gascon, is a fitting adornment for a work on the history of bookbinding in France. Given the content of the book and the virtuosity displayed in the binding, it seems likely that this was created for an exhibition. The work of the binder Cuzin, who died in 1890, was so well known and so highly esteemed that he was responsible for establishing what was called the "Cuzin style." Devauchelle says that this style was copied by Cuzin's colleagues, but was never equalled; the Cuzin tradition was sustained in its finest form by his celebrated successor Emile Mercier (who signed bindings from this period "Mercier s[uccesseu]r. de Cuzin"). Here, Cuzin has drawn inspiration from the mysterious binder known only as "Le Gascon," who was active in Paris in the first half of the 17th century, when he was revered as perhaps the greatest gilder of his day. He was particularly known for incredibly complex and lace-like designs employing delicately curling lines and fleuron tools like those seen here. This artisan bound books for the bibliophile brothers Pierre and Jacques Dupuy, and also for Gaston d'Orleans, a connection that may have given him his sobriquet. De Ricci notes that speculation as to the identity of Le Gascon has occupied bibliopegic scholars for many years. Gruel believed he was Florimond Badier, a native of Gascony whose bindings employed tools also used by Le Gascon, but Devauchelle theorized that he was in fact Badier's teacher, father-in-law, and fellow Gascon Jean Gillede. After an exhaustive study of Le Gascon's tools, Raphael Esmerian in 1972 suggested that he was actually Gilles Dubois, the king's binder, but we may never know definitively. At the same time that he was known for his elegant style, Cuzin was not afraid to be unconventional; lot #123 in the Cortlandt Bishop sale is a Cuzin binding described as being in "contemporary ivory colored human skin." (The sale catalogue description also contains the macabre understatement, droll in its clinical dispassion: "Books bound in human skin are very rare."). (ST13179)