2013 August Seguier binding

Pierre Séguier, Chancellor of France (1588-1672).


Worth’s copy of Antonius Musa’s De herba vetonica (Zurich, 1537), bears on its covers the coat of arms of Pierre Séguier (1588-1672), who was Chancellor of France from 1635 until his death. The book was evidently bound for Séguier prior to his rise to the Chancellery, as it does not bear the characteristic marks of his later bindings. It is a deceptively simple binding: bound in marbled calf, it is tooled in gold on the boards with his distinctive coat of arms. Its spine is more heavily gold-tooled, bearing in six of the seven compartments the initials of Séguier and his wife Madeleine Fabri, while the second spine compartment has the author’s name and the title of the book tooled directly onto the compartment.


There are double endbands in pink and blue silk, which are sewn on two cores and are tied down. The edges of the leaves are sprinkled in red. Thus far the binding is remarkably like the binding on Séguier’s copy of Ripamonti’s Historiarum ecclesiae Mediolanensis (Milan, 1617, 1625, 1628), which was examined by Mirjam Foot (2004) in her study of bindings at Marsh’s Library in Dublin. The resemblance does not stop there: Worth’s copy likewise was on pasteboards and had a similar endleaf structure to the Ripamonti binding: white paper pastedowns with printed matter visible underneath; the endleaves comprising of three leaves (two conjugate and one conjugate with the pastedown). Indeed the structure is similar to another binding in Marsh’s Library belonging to Séguier: Giovanni Pietro Puricelli’s Ambrosianae Mediolani Basilicae ac Monasterii hodie Cistertiensis Monumenta, (Milan, 1645), though the larger size of the latter ensured that there were six lace-ins, rather than the four on the Worth quarto copy. Given the similarity between these bindings it seems likely that they form a subset of bindings within Séguier’s collection. If so, it was a small subset, for Guigard (p. 434) reports that the vast majority Séguier’s collection was bound by Antoine Ruette, using either tan calf for the more ordinary items or red morocco for rarer texts. Séguier’s choice of Ruette as a binder demonstrates his commitment to his collection and his financial resources for by 1644 Ruette was busy binding books for the royal collection also.


Séguier’s collection was famed in his own lifetime. He was an avid collector and cast his net wide, not only including books and manuscripts but also porcelain and silverware. His decision to place his library centre stage in his town house on the rue du Bouloi in Paris demonstrated to the world his commitment to his book collection, while at the same time providing an appropriate backdrop to the scholarly colloquia which he fostered. As Kenny (2000) suggests, libraries collected by state officials such as Jean Baptist Colbert, Cardinal Richelieu, Cardinal Mazarin and Séguier were not just for their personal enjoyment: they were a very public indication of their commitment to learning and served as sites where scholars might discuss the ideas flowering in the newly established academies. In this Séguier was following in the wake of Cardinal Richelieu with whom he was politically connected: indeed it was via the favour of Richelieu that he had been appointed Chancellor in the first place. There were familial links also: Séguier’s daughter Marie had married Richelieu’s nephew Pierre César du Cambout, marquis de Coislin. On Richelieu’s death Séguier took over his role as protector of the French Academy. In a sense, the relationship between Séguier and the academicians was symbiotic: given his position, many books had been specifically dedicated to him by writers hoping to attract his patronage. On the other hand, other scholars, especially those in the French Academy, sought to demonstrate their gratitude for his support by dedicating books to him – thus adding to his already extensive collection.

On Séguier’s death his collection was preserved by his wife, Madeleine Fabri, whose initials are entwined with her husband’s on the spine of the Worth copy. The library remained intact until the time of his grandson, Pierre Coislin du Cambout(1637–1706), the Bishop of Orléans: certainly by the latter’s death the majority of the printed books had been dispersed. The manuscripts, left in turn to Coislin’s nephew,  Henri-Charles du Cambout, duc de Coislin and Bishop of Metz, were bequeathed by him to the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Pres. Many of these were burnt in the fire of 1794 and the remainder now form part of the Bibliothèque Nationale.


Devaux, Yves (1977) Dix Siècles de Relieure (Paris)

Foot, Mirjam M. (2004), The Decorated Bindings in Marsh’s Library, Dublin (Ashgate).

Guigard, Jean (1890), Nouvel Armorial du Bibliophile (Paris), 2 vols.

Kenny, Neil (2000) ‘Books in Space and Time: Bibliomani and Early Modern Histories of Learning and ‘Literature’ in France’, vol 61 no. 2, Modern Language Quarterly, 253-286.

Kleinmann, Ruth (1978), ‘Changing interpretations of the Edict of Nantes: The Administrative Aspect, 1643-1661’, French Historical Studies vol 10, no. 4, 541-571.

Text: Dr Elizabethanne Boran, Librarian, The Edward Worth Library, Dublin.

Scroll to Top