A foretelling of the future past

Three nineteenth century books in a rare book collection

Safely locked away in the basement of the KNIR library, a collection of over 500 rare books lay dormant. On one of the bottom shelves a golden reverberation catches the eye, coming from the spines of Histoire du Mobilier (1876), Histoire de la Gravure (1880) and Histoire de la Tapisserie (1886). All three books are embellished with a design, debossed in gold on a red background. Although these books are already more than a hundred years old, compared to the other rare books they are the ‘new kids on the block’ or better said the bookshelf. These books are the future rare books of the KNIR library.

All that glitters
Industrialization and commercialization went hand in hand in nineteenth century France. Both developments influenced many industries, including the book industry. There were new innovations and books were produced at lower cost and spread and read on a large scale. As a response to the cheaper novels, some publishers started with the distribution of more luxurious editions. Like the three nineteenth century books in the rare book collection of the KNIR library, these luxury books often had gilded page edges and embellished book covers. Besides that, the similar titles of the three books suggest that they are somehow related to each other. The question is: how? Starting from the book titles, it can be said that all three books are histoires. They give a historical overview on a specific topic, for example tapestry or engravings. However, there is also some discrepancy here, for instance the fact that each book has a different author and there were two different publishers involved. Two of the books were published by ‘Hachette’ in Paris and one was published in Tours by ‘Alfred Mame et fils’. These books were also published over a period of ten years. 

The answer is right in front of you
In many cases the metaphorical saying ‘do not judge a book by its cover’ is true, though in this case we should neglect this saying. Aside from the fact that these are the original book covers, they also have a hidden clue in them which is the answer to what these three books have in common. 

'A. Souze' is the clue: this name can be found on each of the book covers, although it is not something you will see at first glance. On Histoire de la Gravure this name can be found on the bottom part on the left, next to the publisher name ‘Hachette et Cie, Paris’. The most hidden one is on Histoire de la Tapisserie, where the name is signed in the curtain. The last one can be found on the right bottom corner of Histoire du Mobilier. So who was this A. Souze?

A. Souze was the designer of each of these three book covers. This person must have read the books on forehand or had a good knowledge about the content of these books, because each of these covers can be seen as a visual summary. Besides this person’s name we do not know anything about him or her, other than the fact that these cover designs are little artworks in themselves that did not lose their enchanting charm over time.

There is another name on the bottom left corner of Histoire du Mobilier: ‘Engel Rel’. ’Rel’ is the abbreviation for the French word ‘relieur’, which means bookbinder. Jean Engel (1800-1892) was a well-known bookbinder and one of the initiators of the industrial bookbinding in France. A quite amusing side note is the fact that his biggest rival in France was no one other than Alfred Mame (1811-1883), the publisher of Histoire de la Tapisserie. So, A. Souze made book cover designs for two rival companies.

Before there was photography
Let’s take a closer look at Histoire du Mobilier, written by Albert Jacquemart (1808-1875) and the oldest one of these three future rare books. Albert Jacquemart was an accomplished French art historian who had a special interest in (oriental) ceramics. Besides his scientific background he was also an amateur artist who taught his son Jules-Ferdinand Jacquemart(1837-1880) the tricks of the etching trade. Jules-Ferdinand became one of the best etchers of the second half of nineteenth century France. Before the widespread use of photography, there were printmakers. One of these professional printmakers was Jules-Ferdinand, who made etches of fine art objects and paintings. At first he was commissioned by his own father and later on even by professional institutes such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York

An etch from a vase made by Jules-Ferdinand Jacquemart, Histoire du Mobilier, ca. 1876.

Histoire du Mobilier was the last ‘Jacquemart collaboration’, because Albert Jacquemart passed away before the book was even published. In the preface of the book the following sentence describes their relationship: ‘a privileged family in which the son has been able to engrave so perfectly what the father knew so well how to describe’. Unfortunately, the taste for reproductive prints diminished in the twentieth century and along with that the works and reputation of Jules-Ferdinand Jacquemart disappeared into oblivion.

Future gems
In the book cover design of
Histoire du Mobilier is a Latin motto incorporated: ‘Artis Mille Species Ars Una’, meaning there is only one art but a thousand forms. A motto that seems suitable for this book because of the content, but it is also relevant on another level. In fact this book was written by an accomplished art historian, it contains the prints of his gifted son and it is captured in a gold debossed book cover which was designed by a skillful artist. They were all artists, but each in their own way. This is specifically true regarding Histoire du Mobilier, but in general each of these three future rare books should be seen as a ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’, and they deserve to be treasured as the future ‘gems’ of the KNIR library. Eline Kortekaas

Albert Jacquemart [Histoire du Mobilier] Histoire du Mobilier, recherches et notes sur les objets d’art qui peuvent composer l’ameublement et les collections de l’homme du monde et du curieux par Albert Jacquemart (auteur de l’Histoire de la porcelaine, desMerveilles de la céramique, etc., etc.) avec une notice sur l’auteur par M. H. Barbet de Jouy (conservateur des collections du Moyen-Age et de la Renaissance au musée du Louvre) ouvrage contenant plus de 200 eaux-fortes typographiques procédé gilet par Jules Jacquemart. (imp. Paris. Librariere Hachette et Cie, 79, Boulevard Saint-Germain, 79. 1876. Met privilegie).
4°, [14] - 620 – [42] p.
Rome, Library Koninklijk Nederlands Instituut Rome, Pregiato B5056

Georges Duplessis [Histoire de la Gravure] Histoire de la Gravure en Italie, en Espagne, en Allemange, dans les Pays-Bas, en Angleterre et en France suivie d’indications pour former une collection d’estampes par Georges Duplessis conservateur-adjoint a la Bibliothѐque Nationale contentant 73 reproductions de gravures anciennes exécutées pour la plupart par le procédé de M. Amand Durand. (imp. Paris, Librarie Hachette et Cie, 79, Boulevard Saint-Germain, 79, MDCCCLXXX. Met privilegie).
4°, [4] - 476 – [52] p.
Rome, Library Koninklijk Nederlands Instituut Rome, Pregiato B5054

Jules Guiffrey [Historie de la Tapisserie] Histoire de la Tapisserie depuis le Moyen Age jusqu’a nos jours par Jules Guiffrey. (imp. Tours. Alfred Mame et Fils, éditeurs, MDCCCLXXXVI).
4°, [20] - 474 – [54] p.
Rome, Library Koninklijk Nederlands Instituut Rome, Pregiato B5053

Biheng-Martinon, Louise-Mirabelle. Voyage au Pays des Relieurs. Paris: L’Harmattan,
Echard, Siân. Printing the Middle Ages. Philidelphia: University of Pennysylvania Press,
Ganz, James A. Jules Jacquemart: Forgotten Printmaker of the Nineteenth Century.
         Philidelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1991.
“Jules-Ferdinand Jacquemart, 1837-1880.” James McNeill Whistler: The Etchings, a Catalogue
         Raisonné. University of Glasgow, 2012. (27 november 2015). <http://etchings.arts.gla.ac.uk/catalogue/biog/?nid=JacqJ>
Watson, Janell. Literature and Material Culture from Balzac to Proust. Cambridge: Cambridge UP,

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