Sunday, March 20, 2011

The changing face of the Perfect Dyer

In my search on the development of dyeing literature a continuous focus for me is the 'Teinturier parfait', the Perfect Dyer, a handbook that was by far the most printed handbook in the 18th century. As I pointed out in an earlier post, there are several books printed with this title, but the major book (the (incorrectly attributed) Delormois book) turns also out to be a developing book.

I recently acquired a copy of the 1724 version as printed by Claude Jombert (the 3rd volume of a larger 4 volume set on many more arts and manufactures). While the later Teinturier Parfaits (as printed after 1747, maybe even the 1737 Avignon edition) have 4 parts, the 1724 edition has only half this text and describes in 23 chapters the same subject and chapters as the later editions till part 2, chapter 8. To make it even more confusing, pagination is almost the same in all editions. The earlier edition, however, uses a much larger font, and much less dense use of the pages. But is also offers slightly more: the descriptions are much more precise on some points, especially on provenance. And while some are clearly wrong (possibly simply gone corrupt and unintentional - f.e. p. 296: sieur Haghe de la Haye), most point in the same direction for authorship: a manuscript by Henri Gobelin from 1631 (p. 336), as copied by his nephew.

This also would provide the answer why some recipes are outdated, but in a highly conservative (still almost guild-like) environment as 18th-c. dyeing, they would probaly have counted as 'the good old way' and complemented with newer versions rather than replaced. It also explains the way this kind of recipe-books grew, and why the 1716 version could still furnish a reprint of a 16th century Ruscelli tractate. It depicts a closed culture where novelties were tried and tested over and over before acceptation, and excellent provenance of recipes was obligatory.

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