Beautifully preserved mid-19th century French portable reading and writing kit that mimics the shape of a leather-bound book.
"Do not cut books except with a proper ivory paper knife." (The Evening Telegraph, 12th March 1901)
This writer's kit was "bound" by the Dijon workshop of Antoine Maitre, who is described in the 1859 edition of the "Dictionnaire Universel Théorique et Practique du Commerce et de la Navigation" as a prolific producer of all sorts of leather goods including bookbindings, blotters, and portfolios. Maitre was an early proponent of the industrialization of bookbinding, and in 1859 his factory employed 300 people. Despite his large output, it is rare to encounter a Maitre item that is not, strictly speaking, a book.
Kit includes pen nibs, wax sticks, an ink pot, blotter paper, small envelopes, and a set of ivory-handled tools comprised of a wax seal with the entwined initials R and J, a ruler, a paper knife, a pen, a pencil, a folding penknife, and a mechanical pencil. Ian Spellerberg explains that ivory was a popular material for paper knives and other reading and writing accouterments thanks to its smooth surface. He further notes that the finest implements would often be sold together in a presentation box.
Read more: "Dictionnaire universel théorique et practique du commerce et de la navigation," volume 1, page 985; Ian Spellerberg, "Reading & Writing Accessories."
[Dijon]: np, [circa 1859]. 10.5'' x 7'' closed. Original brown leather enclosure stamped "Antoine Maitre" to spine, with blind-tooled dentelles. Ornamented metal closure, lacks key. Brown moiré silk to interior. Front interior comprises a large pocket which lies over a booklet of  leaves of pink blotter paper. Square ink bottle in a brown pattern to inner spine. Rear interior comprises a large pocket on which is mounted a small box with a sliding lid, seven ivory tools, and a small pocket containing six envelopes with a monogram letter R. Wax seal bears initials R and J. Occasional very minor wear to leather extremities. Ink stain to silk near ink pot; some small ink stains throughout blotter booklet. Mechanical pencil lacks part of the mechanism. A remarkably well-preserved object.
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