Item ID: 5128 R. J. BEAU.

Original wooden case (350 x 245 x 65 cm.), upper board covered in aubergine sheep maroquiné, decorated in gilt & blind, with the title in gilt in center: “Le Copiste Électro-Chimique.” Inside are: 1) a blank copy book with the lithographed title in blue within ornamental border Brevet d’Invention et de Perfectionnement. Le Copiste Electro-chimique (4to, orig. glazed boards & sheep spine, 396 numbered blank leaves); 2) three smaller boxes each covered with aubergine sheep maroquiné: “Encre Electro Chimique” (with the orig. metal ink well); “Éponge” (with the orig. sponge); and the third box, untitled & empty; 3) another copy book with fewer leaves; and 4) on the interior of the upper board a leather sleeve for storing copies & materials. The box has a lock (key present) and a metal handle for carrying the box. Paris: ca. 1844.

A remarkable and wonderful survival: this luxury case contains the equipment necessary for making multiple facsimiles of documents; it was manufactured and sold by the R.J. Beau company, also known as “Maison Beau,” located variously at 12, rue Saint-Pierre-Montmartre and 30, rue du Mail, Paris.

The problem of multiplying written communications is an ancient one; by the 19th century, there were many competing techniques of reproduction, including the copying process of James Watt, lithography, the polygraph, manifold copying, and, ultimately, photography. Another method was electro-chemical printing.

The firm of R.J. Beau in Paris developed their own method of electro-chemical printing and this case contains the materials necessary to enable users to make copies. “The production in art of a precise two-dimensional copy could be extended to benefit various kinds of industry, and mechanical solutions were eagerly anticipated. This was the case with the ‘Copiste électro-chimique,’ which was reported in Le Correspondant littéraire on February 1844:

‘One of the great successes of our time is the Copiste électro-chimique. Its ingenious as well as useful discovery is due to the Maison Beau, rue du Mail, 30. This apparatus, which appears to have attained the ultimate degree of perfection, reproduces the corresponding object by a most simple process that from this moment on will eliminate the old and inconvenient copy presses. The Copiste électro-chimique is, moreover, within reach of every wallet, for it is reasonably priced. One also owes to the Maison Beau the Album of the Young Draftsman (Album du jeune Dessinateur), a charming volume, which, with the aid of a process resembling that of the Copiste, permits men or women who own it to obtain the most delicate drawings and sketches’.”–from Camille Murgia’s “The Rouillet Process and Drawing Education in Mid-Nineteenth-Century France”–on-line resource.

Fine condition. Not in WorldCat.

Price: $6,500.00

Item ID: 5128

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