Thomas à Kempis: L’Imitation de Jesus-Christ
Paris: Bellin-Leprieur et Morizot, illustrations by Plon Frères, 1852
Small folio, lithographic plate printed in colors and gold advertising Gruel Engelmann binders bound between frontispiece and title, illustrated throughout with twelve engravings by Franz Keller, Xavier Steifensand, and Lucien Butavand.
Bound in full diced russia, tooled in blind, Renaissance-style with rolled tools in center compartments on each board, elegant decorative catches, clasps, and corner-pieces in silver (or silverplated), crimson watered silk endleaves, inner gilt dentelles, inner leather hinges, all edges stained red and gauffered in gilt with an all-over fleur-de-lys pattern, silk endbands in three colors, titled in gilt on spine, and signed “Gruel” in gilt at foot of spine; spine sunned and leather on outside of joints cracked, else very nicely preserved.
The Parisian bookbinding workshop later known as Gruel & Engelmann was founded in 1811 by Isidore Desforges. Desforges took his son-in-law Paul Gruel into partnership in 1825. After Gruel’s death in 1846, his widow Catherine, successfully continued the business. She had exquisite artistic taste and attracted the best talent to her workshop. It was a meeting place for all important binders of the time, and her salon became a literary club for celebrated collectors of books and bindings. Catherine won the highest prize at the Paris Exhibition in 1849, and repeated this success in 1851 at the Great Exhibition in London where she won the gold medal for excellence of workmanship. In 1850, she married Godefroy Engelmann, the famous French printer who introduced lithography to France and invented the chromolithography process. After he joined the business, the house changed its name to Gruel-Engelmann. After Engelmann’s death, Catherine was joined by her sons Léon Gruel (overseeing the binding department) and Edmond Engelmann (directing the artistic aspects of printing). The fame and artistic excellence of the firm continued to grow. Léon Gruel, expert binder and collector, said, “Modern book binding has discovered nothing to equal the old designs, and at best we can only copy”. He could produce binding in any style, but he loved to replicate the old French masters’ designs.
Ex libris Froissart.
26 x 18 cm.