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French Royal Bindings of the 17th-19th Centuries

Publications of the Royal Printing Works with Super ex librises of French Kings

The Royal Printing Works (L’Imprimerie royale) was founded in Paris in 1640, through the efforts of Louis XIII's first Minister Cardinal Richelieu. The intendant of finances François Sublet de Noyers was appointed manager of the printing house, and the king's official publisher and printer Sebastian Cramoisy was the director. They both enjoyed the cardinal's consistent patronage. The enterprise published royal edicts, ordinances, regulations and decrees of the Royal Council, as well as historical, scientific and artistic works.

The status of the Royal Printing Works made it possible to use first-class paper for printing, to purchase rare fonts, to hire the best typographers and artists. Its publications, as a rule, were of a large format, beautifully illustrated and decorated, and perfectly bound. Part of the books was covered with expensive leather bindings and adorned with royal super ex librises, such copies were intended for the King's Library and for official gifts. The presence of such super ex librises should not be misleading about the owners of the books: they have only symbolic significance. We can determine that book belonged to one or another French king by the date of publication. The year of publication of a book should fall into the period of the reign of the monarch.