Berthiau 1836, best rolling press manual


The most extensive manual for printing engravings ever published and the first since  Bosse’s manual of 1645.

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BERTHIAU (later BERTHIAUD) and Pierre BOITARD (1789?–1859)

Manuels-Roret. Nouveau manuel complet de l’imprimeur en taille-douce. Par MM. Berthiau et Boitard. Ouvrage orné de planches. Enrichi de notes et d’un appendice renfermant tous les nouveaux procédés, les découvertes, méthodes et inventions nouvelles appliquées ou applicables a cet art, par plusieurs imprimeurs de la capital.

Paris: A la Librairie Encyclopédique de Roret rue Hautefeuille, 12 [no date] (Colophon: Toul, imprimerie de Ve Bastien), [1836?].

18mo in 6s, π2 (–π1) 1–266, 157 of 158 leaves,  pp. [2] 320, lacking the half-title, π1.

4 folding engraved plates, extending to 420–455mm: signed ‘Guiguet sculp’ (1–3) and ‘Jules T. del.’, letterpress imprint on first plate, ‘Imp. Roret, r. Hautefeuille 12’ (all bound after p. 312).

Paper: text printed on unwatermarked laid paper; plates on unwatermarked wove paper.

Condition: 141 x 85mm. Text and plates foxed, heavy in places in the text, lighter on the plates; old repairs to the verso of pl. 1 where the folds have been cut by the binders knife and rejoined, with slight loss of image; pl. 2 with a 30mm tear into the image without loss, pl. 3 with a split a quarter of the way down one fold where it was caught by the binder’s knife (between images so no loss). The copy is however only lightly trimmed with deckle edges showing in fore and foot margins.

Binding: Bound without the original printed wrappers. Later nineteenth-century half calf over sand-grained cloth, raised bands on spine, black lettering piece, blind ornaments in compartments, marbled page edges, plain endleaves, signed by Kerr and Richardson, Glasgow, with their stamp on front pastedown. Inner hinges cracked but joints sound, spine and corners worn.

Provenance: Unknown nineteenth-century owner in Glasgow: Iain Bain (1934–2018), Bewick scholar and printing historian, with his book label.

First edition, first issue, possibly a later impression. In this issue the title page is headed ‘Manuels Roret’, the author’s name spelled ‘Berthiau’ and it is undated. The second issue title page is without the heading, the author is spelled ‘Berthiaud’ and it is dated 1837 (the copy in the BN on Gallica has advertisements dated June 1837). Copies with the first issue title page are found with advertisements dated 1880 or 1885; both issues were very likely printed from stereotype plates. In this copy the half-title and advertisements – if there were any – have been discarded by the binder. References. Bigmore and Wyman I, p. 52; Stijnman 029.1, both describing the issue dated 1837.

The most extensive rolling press manual ever published and the first original manual since Bosse (1645) – above. Pierre Boitard explains in his ‘Avertissement’ that he edited material supplied by Berthiau, an experienced copper-plate printer. Both wooden and iron presses are described and illustrated, making this the first published account of the iron rolling-press and its operation. It is the first manual to discuss the use of intaglio illustrations in printed books.

Berthiau travelled to England to investigate copper-plate printing in London, where plates for books were apparently much better printed than in Paris. Boitard attributes this to the higher price of books in London. In his long ‘Appendice de l’éditeur’, he makes proposals for the improvements in the economy of copper-plate printing.

Many of the ‘Manuels Roret’ were first published as ‘Manuels’ with revised editions as ‘Nouveau Manuels,’ but there seems to have been no earlier edition of this manual. This issue, which I take to be the first, is undated but the date can be inferred from the fact that Boitard says that Bosse’s Traité was published 193 years ago in 1643, giving a date of 1836 (actually the Traité was published in 1645; Boitard repeats his error on the following page). The priority of this undated issue seems to be confirmed by the fact that the author’s name is here consistently spelled Berthiau (on the titlepage and pp. 4 and 5) while in the 1837 dated issue it is Berthiaud on the titlepage but unchanged in the text which is printed from the same setting of type (presumably from stereotype plates).