I recently purchased a copy of Rebour by Rob Van der Plas and Frank Berto. The book has been available for a while and this is a second edition with some updates and corrections. A more pertinent reason for the review is the long time association between Daniel Rebour and Andre Bertin which stretched from the immediate post WW II period through until the 1980s.
The book itself is magazine size, about 9 inches (23 cm) by 12 inches (31 cm), hard bound with board covers and has a glossy, colour printed dust jacket. It arrived carefully packaged against the outrages of the postal system and was in perfect condition when unboxed. It is 288 pages in length and is a handy size for reading or browsing through the line drawing reproductions.
Rebour begins with an overview of Daniel Rebour the man, his personal background and his working history as a technical journalist, author and commercial illustrator. Chapter 1 is an historical overview, in line drawings, of the bicycle’s development. Thereafter, the book’s chapters from 2 to 26, are focused on specific aspects of the bike such as Chapter 25’s attention to tools and related equipment. At the end of the book, there are three, 1 page long Appendices with Daniel’s older brother Rodolphe Rebour and two other similar artists being featured.
The book is filled with literally thousands of captioned and uncaptioned drawings with an expanded set of captions near the end of the book in Chapter 28. These elaborate on shorter captions embedded with drawings in earlier chapters.
Material for the book is drawn from Rebour’s extensive output of technical drawings for magazines, books, catalogues – such as those of VAR, Spidel and Bertin – and illustrations from bike shows and competitive events. Typically, in addition to the featured item of a chapter, many pages have a large profile drawing at the bottom of the page showing a Tour bike, a randonneuse, a porteur or some other variety of period bicycle. Rebour drew full gruppos such as Campagnolo’s or Shimano’s as well as outstanding exploded drawings which clearly exposed the sub-assemblies as well as the function of the item being drawn.
Over all, the book is well organized and presented. Some of the early works’ reproductions are not as clear as later ones due to the limitations of early post WW II paper and inks from which originals were made. Nonetheless, if you are an enthusiastic follower of the post war style of French bicycle then an investment in this book should be an easy decision.
For me, one of the particularly interesting aspects of the book was the presence of unexpected Bertin related illustrations. In the section on Rodolphe, there is a black and white reproduction of mid-50s Bertin catalogue pages one of which is shown in colour below. Typically, Daniel would do the technical drawings and Rodolphe would do the more “commercial” style material.
Rudolphe’s hand can be seen in the female cyclist and the Parisian background work. Nonetheless, examples of Bertin related technical drawings would pop up from time to time in the text. One of the best examples, which recurs in a slightly different way later in the book, is a line drawing of the Bertin Titane. This was a Speedwell framed and Bertin marketed titanium bike as shown in this illustration.
This book is an on going source of surprise, wonder and enjoyment. Whether you are a Bertin enthusiast or a lover of fine drawing, each time you read it or look at it, something new is seen or seen in a new way. I highly recommend it.