1679 The Imitation of Christ, a Kempis. Binder - Padeloup, Louis XV Royal Binder


Bound by the bookbinder to King Louis XV, Padeloup, a beautiful 1679 Elzevir family edition of the seminal The Imitation of Christ (in Latin) by Thomas a Kempis, with Dutch Gilt endpapers.

This book is discussed by a Padeloup/Dubuisson expert, Mr. Miller, at the website Virtual Bookbindings. I can provide the web address upon request (ebay no longer allows me to put web addresses in ads).

About the Binder

“Antoine Michel Padeloup was made binder to the king, Louis XV. (17I5—1748), in 1733, after Boyet’s death; he placed his mark on books belonging to Queen Maria Leczinska, the Dauphin, D'Hoym, Bonnier de la Mosson, and the Marquise de Pompadour. Padeloup is noted for good solid binding; the decorations he used, though poor in conception, are marvels of careful execution.” (A History of the Art of Bookbinding, Brassington, 1884)

Although this copy does not have a Padeloup ticket, an almost exactly matching board decoration is found on a Padeloup ticketed binding pictured in the 1935 publication, French Signed Bindings in the M. L. Schiff Collection (De Ricci, see example #13).

About The Imitation of Christ

The Imitation of Christ (Latin: De Imitatione Christi) by Thomas à Kempis is a Christian devotional book. It was first composed in Latin ca. 1418–1427. It is a handbook for spiritual life arising from the Devotio Moderna movement, of which Kempis was a member. The Imitation is perhaps the most widely read Christian devotional work next to the Bible,[2][4] and is regarded as a devotional and religious classic. Its popularity was immediate, and it was printed 745 times before 1650. Apart from the Bible, no book has been translated into more languages than the Imitation of Christ.

The text is divided into four books, which provide detailed spiritual instructions: "Helpful Counsels of the Spiritual Life", "Directives for the Interior Life", "On Interior Consolation" and "On the Blessed Sacrament". The approach taken in the Imitation is characterized by its emphasis on the interior life and withdrawal from the world, as opposed to an active imitation of Christ by other friars. The book places a high level of emphasis on the devotion to the Eucharist as key element of spiritual life.

About the Elzevir Family Printing

“The fame of the Elzevir editions rests chiefly on the works issued by the firm of Bonaventure and Abraham. Their Greek and Hebrew impressions are considered inferior to those of the Aldines and the Estiennes, but their small editions in 12mo, 16mo and 24mo, for elegance of design, neatness, clearness and regularity of type, and beauty of paper, cannot be surpassed. Special mention ought to be made of the two editions of the New Testament in Greek, published in 1624 and 1633, of which the latter is the more beautiful and the more sought after; the Psalterium Davidis, 1653; Virgilii opera, 1636; Terentii comediae, 1635; but the works that gave their press its chief celebrity are their collection of French authors on history and politics in 24mo, known under the name of the Petites Républiques, and their series of Latin, French and Italian classics in small 12mo. Also, they are noted for their publication in 1638 of Galileo's last work, the Two New Sciences, at a time when the Inquisition forbade the latter's writings.” (1912 Encyclopedia Britannica)

About the Book

Measures 131 x 75 x 19 mm. AEG (All Edges Gilt). Red morocco. In-12 (size). Outer roll tool. Inner dentelle, of small tools, simulating a hanging curtain with pendant tassles. Spine with five ribs and six compartments. In each compartment a central flower surrounded by dots, and small sprays of flowers; title in gilt on black morocco in one compartment.

Possible Provenance

The similarly tooled work in the 1935 catalog mentioned earlier belonged to Virginie Riccoboni. There is an annotated reference on the title page of our copy which may either refer to the Virgin Mary’s Annunciation, or may be a play on words to refer to both persons (as Mary was never in Paris). Virginie Riccoboni was also referred to as Flaminia (her stage name).

Dutch Gilt Endpapers

Surprisingly the Dutch Gilt Endpapers have been researched, and are attributable to Joseph Friedrich Leopold.


See pictures. Some rubbing with a dot on the front board, and a few marks. Corners are bumped with paste boards slightly exposed. Some color loss at joints and edges. I think I can see some leather polish in the pores. Gilt edges have faded a little.

Inside there is a pencil note on the back of the free front endpaper “4 p 8 s ½”. Black spot above title page in upper margin. Annotations in top margin of leaves A2 and A3. Ink dot at fore edge of pages of 40-43. Occasional spots of foxing and soiling (finger smudges along edges) throughout, light.

A very handsome small work, whose beauty shows through as a testament to both Padeloup and the Elzevir family.

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