The origins of Devambez are to be found in the company called Brasseux Jeune at 17 passage des Panoramas, founded in 1826 by Hippolyte Brasseux. The brother of an accomplished metal engraver in the Palais-Royal district who worked by appointment to Louis-Philippe and several princes, Hippolyte’s speciality was also seals, medals, heraldic engraving and hard stone engraving. In 1835, Brasseux Jeune moved to number 5 when refurbishment work began in the passage des Panoramas.
In 1863 Brasseux was succeeded by a man called Beltz, who remained in the business for just seven years. The workshop was then taken over by Édouard Devambez.
Édouard Devambez was born on 11 March, 1844 in Saumont-la-Poterie. He learnt his trade with the prestigious engravers – his cousins by marriage – Jules Joseph Foulonneau and Jean Henri Hillekamp, who lived at 4, galerie Vivienne in Paris. By marrying Catherine Veret in 1864, Édouard Devambez entered the illustrious dynasty of Muret and Veret, two families who played a significant part in the history of early nineteenth century engraving.
In 1873, Édouard Devambez purchased the workshop at 5, passage des Panoramas, and moved there from the rue des Filles-Saint-Thomas.
Édouard Devambez was no mere artisan; he was an artist (the Bénézit guide lists him as an ‘engraver of bookplates’).
He worked tirelessly, building a reputation for meticulous and artistic craftsmanship that earned him awards at World’s Fairs: an honorable mention in 1878, and a silver medal at the 1889 Exposition de Paris in the “artistic engraving and heraldic painting” category.
In 1890, Devambez moved to 63, passage des Panoramas. The workshop where Devambez worked alone when he started out became a well-stocked shop. In 1894, the Élysée [the presidential palace] and the Hôtel de Ville [Paris City Hall] commissioned menus and programmes for receptions honouring foreign sovereigns. Devambez became engraver to the House of Orléans, to Prince Roland Bonaparte, and to Tsar Ferdinand I of Bulgaria. The company made the traditional livre d’or [visitors’ book] not only for prestigious events such as visits by the Kings of Spain and England, but also for the Institut Pasteur, the Red Cross, etc.
Devambez continued to receive honours at World’s Fairs: a gold medal in Brussels in 1897, and a diplôme d’honneur in Toronto in 1898.
In 1900, Devambez was awarded a gold medal at the Paris World’s Fair in the “Engraving and printing” category. Monsieur Lahure’s report on the Fair included the following words: “Monsieur Devambez, a dyed-in-the-wool artist who loves his art with a passion, has wasted no time in making Devambez one of the top Paris engravers. This entire exhibition showed such artistic taste and such careful execution that the reputation acquired by Monsieur Devambez would have grown even further, if such a thing had been possible.
Henceforth, the constant efforts of the Devambez firm continue to be crowned with success, elevating the luxurious shop at number 63 to the highest possible rank within the printing, engraving and publishing industries. The shop, too, has been remarkably extended thanks to the addition of two neighbouring stores in the passage des Panoramas”.