Paris: Engelmann et Graf, 1846. Item #04792
A Stunning Example of the "Incunabula of Chromolithography"
In a Remarkable Binding by Léon Gruel
GRUEL, Léon, binder. [ENGELMANN et GRAF]. Livre d'Heures d'après les Manuscrits de la Bibliothèque Royale. Paris, Engelmann et Graf, 1846.
Twelvemo (5 7/8 x 4 7/16 inches; 150 x 144 mm.). 183 ,  pp. Seventeen full-page illustrations. Illuminated text heightened with gold. Text in red, blue, gold and black, illustrations and rich gold ornaments and bright colors. Mainly lithographed by H. Moulin after A. Ledoux and H. Soltau & Coffetier.
Bound ca. 1901 by Léon Gruel (stamp-signed in gilt at foot of spine). Full dark brown morocco, covers exquisitely stamped and decorated with a wonderful 'strapwork' design in gilt and blind and with gilt 'Fleur De Lis'. Spine with five raised bands similarly decorated in gilt and blind, double gilt-ruled board edges and elaborate gilt turn-ins. Crimson watered silk liners and endleaves. Original decorative metal clasps with catches and metal corners with small studs. All edges stained red and richly decorated with gilt 'Fleur De Lis'. The front silk endleaf is stamped in gilt "J. D. R. / 24 Juuillet 1901" beneath a gilt 'Crown'. From this we would guess that this binding was specially produced for a member of some European Royal family.
A stunning example of this edition which is classified among the "incunabula of chromolithography", an example of the printing possibilities offered by this technique. For the invention of chromolithography, Godefroy Engelmann was awarded the "Société d'Encouragement" prize in 1838. Full-page chromolithographs, initials and frames inspired by medieval illuminations.
Established in 1842, the printers Engelmann and Graf soon became the leading French company producing facsimiles of medieval illuminated manuscripts. They commissioned the bookbinding firm of Léon Gruel to provide a range of bindings for this book, in different styles and at varying price levels. This example has a bold strapwork design of interweaving leather inlays.
Binder and gilder Léon Gruel (1841 - 1923) began working in the family bindery, established in 1825 after his father assumed control of the Desforges binding workshop in Paris. In 1891 he became sole owner, employing a large number of artisans. In 1887, Gruel published Manuel historique et bibliographique de l'amateur de reliures in which he argued for a synthesis of styles, promoting the acceptance of non-traditional decoration for modern bindings. In practice, he matched this belief with a diverse range of emblematic and pictorial covers. The binding under notice eschews the pictorial for a more traditional approach heightened by his use of elaborate and progressive blindstamping influenced by the Arts & Crafts movement.
A Livre d'Heures is a Christian devotional book popular in the Middle Ages. It is the most common type of surviving medieval illuminated manuscript. Like every manuscript, each manuscript book of hours is unique in one way or another, but most contain a similar collection of texts, prayers and psalms, often with appropriate decorations, for Christian devotion.