Book Review: The Multicoloured Ornament

The World of Ornaments by A. Racinet & A. Dupont-Auberville

The World of Ornaments is a trilingual (English, German, French) reprint of two nineteenth-century ornamental anthologies and is available in various formats and sizes.

In 2006, Taschenverlag published the two reprints as a two-volume coffee table edition in a slipcase at a price of €150. This edition is now traded on the antiques market at an approximate new price. There are now two further reprints of this reprint, one in the large hardcover format 24.5 x 37.2 cm with 528 pages at a price of € 50 and a smaller hardcover edition in the format 14 x 19.5 cm with 824 pages at a price of € 15.

A. Racinet und A. Dupont-Auberville, 
Die Welt der Ornamente, 
Taschen, Köln 2006/2018, 
Foreword by David Batterham, Hardcover, 14 x 19,5 cm, 
824 Seiten, ISBN 978-3-8365-5625-5
Multilingual edition: German, Englisch, French, 
Price 15,- €

This is available to me and weighs 1286 g, a lot of weight and paper for this small format. This is due to the used smooth and dense art paper on which the book is printed.

The authors

Albert Charles Auguste Racinet andA. Dupont-Auberville

To start with the latter: Little is known about A. Dupont-Auberville. The French banker was born in 1830 in Alençon and died in 1890. According to the Bibliothéque nationale de France, his name was Auguste Dupont-Auberville. In the printed original title page he is called M. Dupont-Auberville.

On the book

... the sheer profusion, from Moorish arabesques to Neoclassical stripes, is inspiring

Covertext, World of Interiors, London

According to David Batterham's introduction, Dupont-Auberville was a passionate and systematic collector of antiques, porcelain and textiles. Dupont-Auberville was mainly interested in textiles and, in addition to his own collection, used museums, private collections and the depiction of textiles in paintings as a basis for his well-founded and comprehensive depiction and development of textiles in the work L'Ornament des Tissues - Recueil historique et pratique in1877 .

Salon de Paris

The Salon de Paris (French for Paris Salon) was a regular art exhibition initiated by King Louis XIV in 1667 to promote the official taste of court art. In the 19th century, the salon was the centre and stage of the French art business.

Source: Wikipedia

However, much is known about Albert Charles Auguste Racinet. He was born in Paris on 20 July 1825 and died in Montfort-l'Amaury on 29 October 1893. The French costume designer, illustrator and painter was the author of several costume and ornament-historical works that are still reprinted today, writes Wikipedia.

Racinet first apprenticed to his father Charles-Auguste Racinet and completed his training as an illustrator, lithographer and draughtsman at the École de Dessin de Paris. From 1849 to 1874 he took part in the annual exhibitions Salon de Paris, later he worked from 1869 to 1888 as author and artistic director for the famous publishing house Firmin Didot et Cie. In addition to his works The polychrome decoration (100 colour plates of gold and silver, Firmin-Didot, Paris 1869-1873), Archaeological Collection of Prince Soltykoff(Firmin-Didot, Paris 1878), his two main works The historical costume (five hundred plates, three hundred in colour, gold and silver, two hundred in monochrome) are also his main works. 6 volumes. Firmin-Didot, Paris 1888) and The multicoloured ornament (120 plates in gold and silver. Historical and practical collection with explanations. Firmin-Didot, Paris 1885-1887).

Firmin-Didot Frères, Fils, et Cie

Firmin-Didot Frères, Fils, et Cie was a publishing and printing company based in Paris. It was based in Rue Jacob in the 6th arrondissement in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés district of Paris. The publishing house belonged to a dynasty of printers, publishers, engravers and typesetters, of whom the most famous was Firmin Didot (1764-1836), who took over his father's business in 1789. He ran the business together with his brother Pierre Didot (1760-1853). Later the eldest son of Firmin Didot, Ambroise Firmin Didot (1790-1876), ran the Didot house with his younger brother Hyacinthe Firmin Didot (1794-1880). Firmin-Didot became known for its illustrated editions of the classics as well as for the publication of inexpensive scientific texts. The former were illustrated by some of the most respected artists of the day and offered a broad public access to this art. In fact, the large, large-format books with wide margins and elegant types and lush illustrations were themselves to be admired as art objects.

Source: Dumbarton Oaks

The latter work was originally called L'Ornament polychrome - Cent Planches en Couleurs QR et Argent contenant environ 2,000 motifs des tous les styles", Librairie de Firmin Didot Fréres, Fils et Cie, Rue Jacob No 56.

Book Review: The Multicoloured Ornament - Source: Library of Wroctaw University of Science and Technology
Source: Library of Wroctaw University of Science and Technology
1286 Gramm

Colour plates and personal notes

The two-volume edition of The World of Ornaments is certainly more splendid and its size more beautiful to look at. In my opinion, the compact little hardcover edition is better suited as a reference book and manual. You don't always have to pull a few kilograms off the shelf.

The book is divided into 28 chapters:

  • introductory remarks
  • Art of the primitive peoples
  • Egyptian Art
  • Assyrian Art
  • Greek Art
  • Etruscan Art
  • Greek-Roman Art
  • late antiquity
  • Chinese Art
  • Japanese Art
  • Indian Art
  • Indo-Persian Art
  • Persian Art
  • Arab Art
  • Moorish Art
  • Ottoman Art
  • Celtic Art
  • Byzantine Art
  • Russian Art
  • Armenian Art
  • 1st-8th century
  • Middle Ages
  • Renaissance
  • 16th century
  • 16th-18th century
  • 17th century
  • 18th century
  • 19th century

Each chapter contains one or more colour plates, which usually show not only one or two ornaments, tiles, fabrics or wall coverings, but several in the form of a collage. Each colour chart is accompanied by a numbered legend and a detailed trilingual descriptive text that goes into greater detail on the details in the colour charts. In these texts there is information about the execution technique of the decors shown and their performing artists and their provinces.


The original of a German edition of The Polychrome Ornament (Hundred plates in gold, silver and colour printing. About 2000 motifs of all styles containing ancient and oriental art, Middle Ages, Renaissance, XVII and XVIII century, published by Paul Neff, Stuttgart, 1875, printed by Emil Müller, Stuttgart) can be viewed on the website of the Wroc?aw Library of Wroc?aw University of Science and Technology. The license is Public Domain, so in my opinion nothing stands in the way of a use, further processing or individual and professional changes.

tl, dr;

If you are interested in ornamentation and ornamental, ornamental and repetitive patterns, you can get around Die Welt der Ornamente or L'Ornament polychromenicht polychromenicht and I find it a very worthwhile purchase for art lovers, illustrators and artists for only 15,- €.

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