Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Delormois, Delorme and the 'Teinturier Parfait'

At the end of the 17th century France found itself at a turning-point of the dyeing industry. New ways of dyeing were being developed and new dyestuffs (such as indigo, whose imports proved a vast concurrent of the local woad cultivation) were up and coming.
While France tried to turn the tide with protectionist measures, these turned out to an economic backlash when the public opinion still favored the imported product.
But most damage was done when a lot of (Hugenot) artisans fled to neighbouring countries, leading to a huge braindrain. And with them they took their books and the rules of their (still almost guild-like) profession.

First of all the most important book then were the regulations put down on order of French minister of economy Colbert in 1669. The 'first edition', the law itself in its dry form, was printed in three parts by F. Leonard in 1669, but proved inadequate under working conditions. Together they consisted of some 60 pages.
Popular demand (of controllers and dyers, confused by the multiple possible interpretations) caused the law to be rewritten for daily use, in the form of the 'Instruction générale' in 1671. Hübner names a certain d'Albo as the author (but I have not been able yet to trace that author). It expanded the regulations to 175 pages, and a extended forword filled with protectionist dangers and harsh words for the 'inferior foreign product'. Court printer Francois Muguet printed the work with a privilege, but in the years following counterfeit editions crept onto the market, for example a copy 'suivant la copie imprimé à Paris' (in Elsevier style) in 1672.
Rodon y Font also mentions a Carcassonne edition, still of 1671.
The foreword mentions the immediate danger if the regulations fell in foreign hands. Funny enough, though, the next edition would be in the Dutch town of Leiden, where the work was printed at Theodore Haak. It was an exact reprint, and Haak was mocked in later publishing for his almost too affective 'foreword'to a non-existant maecenas ('George Stattmiller', of course a complete unknown in Leiden archives), in which he suggests to have written or commanded the work himself. The only true invention of Haak was the new title, 'Le Teinturier Parfait'.

Not much later, in 1716, Parisian printer Claude Jombert, reused (with or without knowing?) the same title for a new work. It was published anonymously, although the book frequently acknowledges the true excellence of a recipe by saying it came from 'a nephew of the great Gobelin', and mentioning this nephew as a kind of general editor.
Barbier, in his famous Dictionnaire mentions Delormois as the author, but clearly is confused with the 'Nouveau teinturier parfait' (which he correctly mentions with the same author). To make even more confusion, later and less rare editions were made by Avignon publisher Claude Delorme.
The first edition was published with a second part, a translation of the much earlier Venetian Plictho dye book, but already in the 1721 Nancy edition, this part had vanished. The work was very popular and enjoyed many reprints, especially in France and Belgium, sometimes with several different editions in a year. In the period of 1745-1770 alone 5 reprints were made in Bruxelles 'a la Compagnie' (a kind of John Doe for publishers that had too much prestige for tying their name to such folkish secrecy), each mentioning a 'nouvelle édition, revue, corrigée et considérablement augmentée'. But in fact they were just exact reprints, with only minor typographical variation, and the new edition might consist of newly added header borders, as in both the 1747 editions.
Probably the vanishing of the embargo on use of indigo in France and the fancy for manycoloured printed fabrics of the time fed an interest in the dyeing trade, and made the handbook (however cursed as 'utter crap' and absolutely useless by enlighted authorities such as Hellot) a steady reference in the dyer's practice.
In 1769 a 'Nouveau Teinturier Parfait' appeared, anonymous, but by a certain Delormois (who introduces himself as the writer of the Nouveau Teinturier Parfait on the title-page of his next book: the not originally but clearly fashionably titled Vanisseur Parfait - numerous titles claiming perfecy sprout throughout the whole 18th century). It never became as popular as the good 'old' Teinturier Parfait, who was reprinted until far in the 19th century.
But who actually wrote the manual is some kind of a mystery, but it seems kind of fitting. The nephew of Gobelin, cited thoughout the book, is not always put in a good light. His uncle would have sold his soul to the devil, and would only have escaped from hell by hiding in a dark pit where the devil could not find him. And neither could the bibliographers.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Hunt for Red September

Often dye recipe on red start with warnings: do not say that something is red until you see it really is 'the' red. Maybe because red is an emotional colour: it can be an agressive colour, it lights up many dull ensembles and the sayings involving red are innumerable.

That's why it has to be right: red can be radiant as no other colour, but could easily be converted into 'just another staple'. As fashion magazines recently claimed: 'red is the new black'.
But that was not as quickly as they would like you to believe.
Because Red, to name the colour with a capital, known in various tints and marketing guises (most famous as 'Turkish Red') is not easily replacable, not a background colour, and, for that reason, not everybody's colour.
Red has to be warm and deep. Of course it will dull a bit of age and wear, but will still have that special charm.
And maybe exactly for this same reason, the subtle warm hues of natural Red are coming back into the spotlight.

The dyestuff that is most recognisable associated with red is madder, a plant that stacks its deep colour in its long roots. Cultivated throughout Europe, it has long been recognized that the best madder stems from the Dutch shores. Two-three year old plants were harvested in September, cut in local mills, and sold through the harbour of Dordrecht and other cities.
Philip Miller wrote a nice book in 1758 about the madder culture in Zeeland, and had extensive contact with botanist Job Baster on the million-guilder trade. He tried to convince England to start growing madder themselves, but the 'fat clay' of the Schelde area proved hard to beat.
Finally, the threat for the trade came from an unsuspected new enemy.
After commercial synthesis of alazarin (the red pigment involved) from oil during the 1860's improved, madder growing slowly vanished into a side-trade for those lagging behind.
But as the costs (and pollution) of chemical dye-industries rose in the end of the 20th century, companies began to see renewed profit in the growing of madder.
The Dutch fim ( that started in this trade is now even expanding into research of yellow dyes, and have shown repeatedly on the Première Vision in Paris.
It would be interesting to see which products will actually be using their prodcts. Curtain producers Ploeg have shown interest because of the deep and well fading colours, and I could foresee a well produced line of nicely aging pants in bright red colours.
Now that aging and indigo-dyeing are showing at the forefront of the interests of the apparel-industry, this should not be so hard.
Red jeans, anyone?