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Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation

Persons, Collections and Topics

Armorial bindings

Finding an armorial binding in the collection and identifying its previous owners is always a thrill. (At some point we will have found them all and will have to move on to armorial bookplates.) Equally thrilling is finding other provenance markings that show further steps on the book's path to the Library at Hunt Institute. Often these secondary provenance markings are more pertinent to the field of botany in that they are frequently the marks of naturalists or botanists. This sampling of armorial bindings includes those and others of interest while some remain a mystery.

Jacques-August de Thou (1553–1617) was a prolific book collector whose bindings can be found in many library collections. When he married in 1587, he combined his arms, a chevron and three flies, with that of his wife Marie de Barbançon. They also used a combined monogram, IAM (the letter I at this time was often used where we now would use a J), which was below their arms and often on the book spines. Marie died in 1601, and de Thou married Gasparde de la Chastre (1577–1616) in 1602. Gasparde's arms replaced that of Marie, and a new monogram, IAGG, replaced the old. Above the arms two dolphins flank a vase of flowers. Below the monogram is a cherub's head. The Institute has the latter binding on a small volume containing three botanical works: Giovani Pona's book on the plants of the unique mountain, Baldo Monte, in the Italian Alps, Plantae, seu, Simplicia ut vocant, quae in Baldo Monte (1608); Nicolò Marogna's commentaries on Dioscorides and Pliny, Commentarius in tractatus Dioscoridis, et Plinii de amomo (1608); and Matthias de L'Obel's (1538–1616) book on several plants called balsam that produce an odorous resin, Balsami, opobalsami, carpobalsami, & xylobalsami, cum suo cortice explanatio (1598). It seems someone in the de Thou household had an interest in botany.

De Thou was an influential figure in his time. He was a councillor of state for both Henry III and Henry IV, director of the royal library from 1593, and president of the Parlement of Paris from 1595 to 1610, during which he helped to negotiate the Edict of Nantes. De Thou also was a historian and wrote a history of contemporary Europe, Historia sui temporis (1604–1608), in which he sought to use a "scientific" impartial voice. His work made many entities unhappy, especially when he released the parts on the wars of religion, leading to the Vatican banning the Historia.

In addition to being the king's librarian, he also amassed a large library of his own, which was supposedly open to the public for study. Since some sources give the number of works in his collection as high as 12,700, it's no wonder that many examples of his armorial bindings exist in library collections.

Inside de Thou's book is an armorial bookplate that reads "ex Musaeo Mouton-Fontenille Academiae Lugdunensis." Marie Jacques Philippe Mouton-Fontenille de la Clotte (1769–1837) was a very busy botanist and naturalist from Lyon. He taught natural history at the Lycée imperial, at the Académie de Lyon, and finally at the Palais des arts. He was also curator of the Académie's natural history museum from 1810 until his death, hence the bookplate. He botanized in the Lyon region, the Pyrenees and, with Dominque Villars (1745–1814) and Benoît Vaivolet (1737–1828), in the Dauphiné Alps. One can tell he was a supporter of the Linnaean system, as he was a member of the Société Linnéenne de Lyon, and among his works are translations of Carolus Linnaeus's Classes plantarum and Systema plantarum into French. His was the first French translation of the Systema.

The book then passed to Mouton-Fontenille's colleagues. On the title page a black ink stamp reads "Aunier Lyon," and underneath an inscription in French, "Donné par Mr. Aunier le 7 Janvier 1841 à Seringe." Jean Juste Noël Antoine Aunier (1781–1859) and Nicolas Charles Seringe (1776–1858) were also members of the Société Linnéenne de Lyon, and both served as its president, Seringe in 1835 and Aunier from 1836–1837. Seringe studied medicine and started his career as a military surgeon. For his service he was made knight in the Légion d'honneur in 1855. Botany was his true interest, and he followed it to Lyon. In Lyon he was a professor at and the director of the Jardin des plantes and a member of the Académie. Botany was a second calling for Aunier, too. He founded a trading company that did well enough to allow him to retire from business early, after which he turned to botany. He did not leave a legacy of published works behind, but his natural history collections live on in the city of Lyon.

After his death, de Thou's collection passed to his and Gasparde's sons. His eldest, François-August (1607–1642), inherited the collection but was caught up in the conspiracy between Cinq-Mars and the Spaniards and was executed. The second son died young; and the third, Jacques-August (1609–1677), Baron de Meslay, inherited the library after his eldest brother met his end. Like his father, Jacques-August filius served in the Parlement of Paris and was a bibliophile. He was also an ambassador to Holland. The Institute has an example of his armorial binding on Giovanni Battista Ferrari's Hesperides (1646). The Hunt Catalogue mistakenly attributed the binding to his father partly because father and son used the same monogram, IAM, but Jacques-August the elder and Marie de Barbançon had died before the book was published.

Jacques-August filius's first wife was Marie Picardet (?–1663), and their arms are combined on the Institute's binding: the arms of de Thou and la Chastre for Jacques-August's parents, and those of Picardet and le Prevost for Marie's. Two unicorns support the arms, and on top a knight's helmet and the head of a unicorn. The monogram is stamped on the spine.

Ferrari (1584–1655), the book's author, was a Roman Jesuit whose social circle revolved around the papal court, the Barberinis and their gardens. The Hesperides, a quarto-sized volume, is a beautifully illustrated book on cultivating citrus, which compares the mythical gardens of Hesperides with those of Renaissance Rome.

Inside the only other mark of ownership, besides Rachel Hunt's bookplate, is the bookplate of Arthur Kay (1861–1939), a Scottish art collector, which was designed and etched by his wife, Katharine Cameron (1874–1965). Katharine was a Scottish watercolor painter and etcher who was most inspired by flowers. The bookplate features three bees and the inscription "Floriferis ut apes in saltibus omnia libant omnia nos itidem depascimur aurea dicta," a quote from the Roman poet Lucretius, "as bees in the flowery glades sip all the sweets, so we likewise feed on all your golden words." She illustrated several books with her flowers, including one held by the Institute Library, Where the Bee Sucks: A Book of Flowers (1929), a book of poems compiled by Iolo Williams.

In 1680, after the death of Jacques-August filius, the de Thou collection was purchased almost in its entirety by Jean-Jacques Charron, Marquis de Ménars (1643–1718), then passed to Cardinal Armand de Rohan-Soubise (1674–1749) in 1706, and finally to the latter's nephew, Charles de Rohan, Prince of Soubise (1715–1787), whose library was dispersed in 1788. According to Christie's (2005), "Soubise, the favorite of Louis XV and Mme de Pompadour, made up for being one of the worst field commanders in French history by being one of the best French book collectors of his time. His defeat at Rossbach by Frederick the Great in 1757 became legend, still commented upon by Napoleon half a century later."

In Spain, another prolific collector, Don Joachim Gómez de la Cortina, Marquis de Morante (1805 or 1808–1868), spent most of his time and money on his collection and his bindings. He was born in Mexico in 1805 or 1808. His father, Don Vincente Gómez de la Cortina, a member of a Spanish noble family, became Count of Cortina, Mexico, upon his marriage to his cousin, María Ana Gómez de la Cortina, Countess of la Cortina. Don Vincente and his sons left Mexico during the War of Independence, partially so that Joachim and his brothers could attend university in Spain. Joachim attended the University of Alcala, where he earned a degree in law. While a student in Alcala, he already was spending a substantial part of his allowance on books. Over the years he held various influential positions including rector of the University of Madrid (formerly the University of Alcala) and senator. In 1847 he received the title of Marquis of Morante. Supposedly he refused to take the income from his various offices or gave it to the poor.

In his later life, he resigned from his offices to spend his time in his library. Three marbled halls in his house were filled with the collection, and he devoted himself to cataloging and reading. While the Marquis was a prolific collector, he was not necessarily concerned with rarity or age when choosing his books, but rather the content. He preferred Latin material but had works in many languages. He had many association copies, including books formerly owned by de Thou. He rarely left home, and when he had friends over, he spoke only in Latin and wanted only to talk of philology and literature. He was stubborn, argumentative and never admitted to being wrong. He largely escaped the notice of the bibliophile community until he published eight volumes of a catalogue of his collection between 1854 and his death in 1868. One volume was published posthumously in 1870.

It is no surprise that this bibliophile's death in 1868 came about from a fall off a library ladder. His heirs sold the collection as a whole to a bookseller in France, Bachelin-Deflorenne, where it was auctioned off over the next few years.

The Marquis' armorial binding is gold tooled. An oval around the coat of arms contains the text "J. Gómez de la Cortina et amicorum" around the top and the motto "Fallitur hora legendo" at bottom. Inside the oval his coat of arms is surmounted by the coronet of the marquis. Each corner of the cover has his ornate monogram. An inscription inside by one Ant. von Bollinger says he bought the book at auction in January 1873. This would have been at the third sale of the Marquis' books by Bachelin. Emil Lindell (1854–1941), who owned the book just before Birger Strandell, added another note saying the book had been part of the library of H. van Lunteren, botanist and horticulturalist of Utrecht. Based on Michel van Lunteren's genealogy research on Geneanet (https://gw.geneanet.org/michel1961?lang=nl&pz=noah&nz=van+lunteren&p=hendrik&n=van+lunteren&oc=10), Lindell is probably referring to the arborist and florist Hendrik "Henri" van Lunteren (1845–1911). According to Het Nieuwe Instituut's Persons Database (https://zoeken.hetnieuweinstituut.nl/nl/personen/detail/f6663683-f5fb-5ad7-9570-d864b9c53589), his grandfather, Isaek Hendrik Jacob van Lunteren (1780–1848), was a nurseryman and landscape architect, who founded the nursery Flora's Hof in Utrecht. Henri's father, Samuel Adrianus van Lunteren (1813–1877), was also a landscape architect, but he focused more heavily on the architecture aspect.

The book about the herbs and trees in the Bible is Levinus Lemnius' Herbarum atque arborum quæ in Biblijs passim obuiae sunt (1566). Lemnius was a Dutch physician who studied under Dodoens, Gesner and Vesalius. When his wife died, he became a priest. He wrote several works, all in Latin, that drew on the classical authors, and it is fitting that Gómez de la Cortina had this work in his library.

While de Thou's and Gómez de la Cortina's books were relatively easy to identify, some armorial bindings in the collection have not been. The Institute's 1616 edition of Minus cognitarum rariorumque nostro coelo orientium stirpium by Fabio Colonna (1567–1650) has a cover stamped with the arms of someone associated with the Electoral Palatinate of the Rhine, a state of the Holy Roman Empire. The Palatinate's coat of arms featured a crowned lion ("the Palatine Lion"), a field of blue and white lozenges (i.e., diamond shapes) for the Duchy of Bavaria, and the royal orb, which may signify the standing of the Palatinate as an arch-steward of the Empire (I am seeking another source to confirm the meaning of the orb but wanted to include what I have found so far.). The Palatinate and the Duchy of Bavaria were held by the same family at this time, which is why both arms are used. What is curious is that on this binding these three symbols are brought together by another crowned lion, whose front paws hold the Palantine shield out to the viewer's left and the Bavarian shield out to the right. Its hind legs seem to be straddling over the orb. This is not a traditional attitude for a heraldic lion, but more like the birds of heraldry. The lion's tail curls up and over its head. The teeth are visible as is the long tongue. A wreath of what is probably laurel surrounds the whole. The book used to have clasps, and it appears that the original marbled endpapers were glued together and a new piece of paper glued on top of those. What provenance markings were lost to us when those pages were glued?

Inside on the title page and on the last page of the index the Jesuits of Molsheim declared their ownership. From 1580 to 1765 the Jesuits had a college in Molsheim, which is now in France but had previously been part of the Holy Roman Empire until the end of the Thirty Years' War. The last page of the index has an inscription that says the book went to the "Bibliothecario Beck." in 1771. Eventually the book made its way south to the Beaujolais province, just north of Lyon, and into the collection of the amateur botanist Benoît Vaivolet (1737–1828), another member of the Société Linnéenne de Lyon. He inscribed "Ex libris botanicis Vaivolet bellojocensis" inside the front cover. The text and plates are annotated with Linnaean names in what looks to be Vaivolet's hand. Like Aunier, Vaivolet did not seem to be interested in publishing work of his own, but he did communicate his work on the flora of the Beaujolais region of France to his fellow Lyon botanists. He also herborized in Lyonnaise, Vivarais and the Dauphiné Alps. He associated with many other Lyon botanists, including Jean Emmanuel Gilibert (1741–1814), Dominque Villars (1745–1814), Jean-Baptiste Balbis (1765–1831) and Mouton-Fontenille. Upon his induction into the Société Linnéenne de Lyon, Vaivolet donated a substantial number of his books to the society, many of them annotated.

Fabio Colonna's text is really a second edition with additions of his 1606 Ekphrasis, or "description of some lesser known plants." In these works Colonna synthesized his knowledge of Dioscorides' plants with the works of modern botanists, and with his own knowledge of plants, both Old World and New World, that he gained through his own observations. These works were important for bringing together the many names that species were known by, a major step in the quest for a system of plant classification. Vaivolet breathed new life into Colonna's work by adding the Linnaean names, which are still relevant today. Another smaller work by Colonna, the Purpura, was issued with the Minus cognitarum rariorumque. ... It discusses mollusks, particularly those that are used to make the purple dye.

The Strandell Collection of Linnaeana holds another binding that has been difficult to identify at this time. It is from the late 19th or early 20th centuries and features the angel Michael who is about to slay Satan with a sword. The image is within a simple shield and topped with a coronet that most resembles that of a Swedish baron, or freiherr. A small, blind stamp on the back of the binding reads "S.J.G. Mertens." Mertens was a bookbinder, bookmaker and stationer in Brussels.

The book, Louis Figuier's Histoire des plantes (1865), is a juvenile work presented as a conversation between Linnaeus (1707–1778) and his pupil Paul Dietrich Giseke (1745–1796) on the diagnostic characters of Linnaeus's botanical orders. Figuier (1819–1894) made a career of popularizing science, not only botany but also zoology, geology, etc. through the journals he edited and the many articles and books he wrote. He even wrote plays featuring scientists or inventors as the heroes, with mixed reviews.

The book was owned by Edouard Noël. His blue ink stamp is on the title page and his bookplate is printed on a full page and bound in. The bookplate features a parrot holding a feather and standing on top of a music stand. A book on the stand has musical notes on one page and the opposite page identifies this book as Noël's. Noël studied law but ended up in theater. He wrote musicals and created and edited a musical theater journal, Les Annales du théâtre et de la musique. During the 1870–1871 Franco-Prussian War, he enlisted in the army and was promoted to captain in 1871 and made knight in the Legion of Honor in 1894 for his service.

Another of Figuier's works, Vies des savants illustres depuis l'antiquité jusqu'au dix-neuvième siècle, savants du XVIII, siècle (1879), is in the Strandell Collection. It is bound with the same leathers in a similar aesthetic, but a stamp on the spine reads Ch. Magnier Rel., and it does not have arms. Charles Magnier was a commercial bookbinder in France.

It is possible that the owner of these books was a Swede who had their books bound in foreign binderies (as did Gómez). The Linnaean content, the Swedish freiherr coronet and the fact that the book ended up in Emil Lindell's collection point to this conclusion.

As more and more books are digitized and provenance markings from books at other libraries are documented online, these last two bindings may one day be identified or matched with books that came from the same collections. They may not have come originally from grand collections like de Thou's or Gómez de la Cortina's, but whoever owned them cared enough to have them bound and stamped with their arms, and thankfully later owners cared enough to leave the stamps they found. Now they are part of another fine collection, the Library of the Hunt Institute.


Christie, R. C. 1883. The Marquis de Morante: His library and its catalogue. Manchester Quarterly No. 6: 129–152.

Christie's New York. 2005. Live Auction 1594: Bibliotheca Bibliographica Breslaueriana The Second. New York: Christie's. Lot 504: Soubise, Charles de Rohan, Prince de (1715–1787) — Catalogue des livres, imprimés et manuscrits, de la bibliothèque de feu Monseigneur le Prince de Soubise, Maréchal de France. Paris: Charles-Guillaume Leclerc, 1788, sale 12 January 1789. [Auction catalogue, 22 March.] https://www.christies.com/en/lot/lot-4455922.

Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. 1998. Jacques-Auguste de Thou. In: Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Jacques-Auguste-de-Thou.

Freedberg, D. 2002. The Eye of the Lynx: Galileo, His Friends, and the Beginnings of Modern Natural History. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Magnin, A. 1886. La Vie et les Travaux de Vaivolet. Bulletin Mensuel – Société botanique de Lyon 4(2): 39-41.

Magnin, A. 1906. Prodrome d'une histoire des botanistes Lyonnais. Lyon: Association Typographique.

Mariani, A. and J. Uzanne. 1908. Édouard Noël. In: A. Mariani and J. Uzanne. 1894–1908. Figures contemporaines tirées de l'album Mariani. 11 vols. Paris: Librairie Henri Floury. Vol. 11. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=hvd.32044108416066&view=1up&seq=9&skin=2021.

Olivier, E., G. Hermal and R. de Roton. 1924–1938. Manuel de l'Amateur de Reliures Armoriées Françaises. 30 vols. Paris: Ch. Bosse. Vol. 2.

Smith, W. 2004. Cameron, Katharine (1874–1965), watercolour painter and etcher. In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/56491.

Jacques-August de Thou's (1553–1617) and Gasparde de la Chastre's (1577–1616) armorial binding on three works bound together: Giovanni Pona, Plantæ, seu, Simplicia ut vocant, quæ in Baldo Monte, et in via ab Verona ad Baldum reperiuntur (Basel, Sumptibus Lazari Zetzneri, Bibliop., 1608); Nicolò Marogna, Commentarius in tractatus Dioscoridis, et Plinii de amomo (Basel, Sumptibus Lazari Zetzneri, 1608); and Matthias de L'Obel (1538–1616), Balsami, opobalsami, carpobalsami, & xylobalsami, cum suo cortice explanatio (London, Excudebat Arnoldus Hatfield, impensis Joannis Norton, 1598), HI Library call no. DS270 P792p 608.

Selected Artworks

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