Louis-Sebastien Lenormand: Scientist, Professor, Daredevil, Author of a Bookbinding Manual.

One may safely assume that most of the authors of bookbinding manuals tend to be somewhere between mild-mannered and introvertedly geeky. There are some starteling exceptions to this rule, however. Witness one Louis-Sebastien Lenormand. In the image below, he is hanging from the wood framed parachute, which he invented and publicly demonstrated.

From the wikipedia entry for Louis-Sebastien Lenormand

He coined the name para-chute (Greek-against, French-fall) and intended it to save people that had to jump from tall burning buildings. He also was a professor of physics, chemistry, and technology. In his spare time he was an editor of 27 volumes of Dictionnaire Technologique (1822-1827). And he wrote one of the best bookbinding manuals of the 19th century.

His 1827 Manuel du Relier  (Nouvelle Edition, 1833) was in print for over one hundred years.  He credits Dudin and Lesne as predecessors.  It is comprehensive and is especially concerned with technique. In addition to bound books, it also covers cartonnage allemand, or Bradel binding. There is a tremendous amount of interchange between English and French technical descriptions of bookbinding throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. Hannett, in Bibliopegia, 1835, thought that Lenormand’s illustrations of the man ploughing and the disembodied beating hammer were good enough that he copied them. Even if you do not read French, the fold out plates are worth spending some time with, though unfortunately they were not opened when Google scanned Nouvelle Edition….

I won’t even attempt to speculate about the relationship between parachuting and bookbinding, other than that both fascinated Lenormand immensely. I can only applaud his life and work, like the cheering crowd in the image above.

One thought on “Louis-Sebastien Lenormand: Scientist, Professor, Daredevil, Author of a Bookbinding Manual.

  1. Jon Baker

    Like the commonly available Dudin, this linked copy lacks the plates (looking at the end of the scan, the plates are present but the scanner never unfolded them). One copy from 1900 on gallica.bnf.fr has four plates at the end, and a few examples of tooling in the text.

    http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k2059979.r=Manuel+complet+du+Relieur+Lenormand.langEN

    Some copies on Google Books from 1840 and 1853 have folded-up plates, but you can see from what little is visible, that the early editions are much more concerned with hand bookbinding than with the binding machinery of the plates from 1900.

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