GRUEL, Léon (1840-1923). Manuel historique et bibliographique de l'amateur de reliures. Paris: Robert Engelmann for Gruel & Engelmann, 30 June 1887 (vol. 1); Lahure for Léon Gruel and Henri Leclerc, 1905 (vol. 2).
4o (310 x 235 mm), 2 volumes. LIMITED EDITION of 1000 copies (vol. 1), 700 copies (vol. 2). Numerous color reproductions by Engelmann and heliogravures by Charreyre and Arents (some folding out).
BOUND BY LéON GRUEL FOR HIMSELF: gold-tooled cream-colored morocco, large Rococo dentelle on sides from original tools of the 18th-century Parisian binder Louis Douceur, spines decorated in compartments, floral roll on turn-ins, signed on front turn-ins, red silk liners, gilt edges, original printed wrappers bound in. Modern cloth fall-down-back box. Provenance: Léon Gruel, author and binder -- Paul Gruel, Léon's son and successor -- Madame Peyronni (Paul's collaborator and successor), Paris sale, 28 November 1967, lot 300 (Breslauer's copy of the catalogue included with the lot).
ONE OF 50 SETS ON JAPON PAPER (vol. 1 no. 42, vol. 2 no. 49). "Of course, the book is largely outdated, but it still occasionally provides useful information, and also a wonderful picture of the state of book collecting during the Belle Époque" (B.H. Breslauer, The Uses of Bookbinding Literature p. 23).
"Léon Gruel who remained a traditionalist all his life, in 1875 took over the running of his father's firm jointly with his half-brother, Jean Engelmann; the latter died in 1891. Léon worked and lived until 1923 when he, in turn, was succeeded by his son Paul who died in 1954, at the age of ninety. For a time the house of Gruel in the Rue du Faubourg St-Honoré was continued by his collaborator, Mme Péronni [sic], who eventually closed the atelier, maintaining only the show room in which she gradually sold off the remaining historical bindings from Léon's superb collection, assembled to illustrate his Manuel. I repeatedly discussed with her this copy, but we could never agree upon a price. She assured me that Léon Gruel had bound it for himself, and that the tools employed on it were indeed those of Louis Douceur, Relieur du Roi (d. 1769) which he had been able to acquire. When Mme Péronni finally retired and had the remaining contents of the shop sold by auction, I was able to secure it at last" (BBB Wittockiana 48).