Landscape (UK)

HISTORY OF MARBLING

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The term ‘marbling’ is believed to have derived from the way the wavy patterns look like coloured veins running through stone marble. The process seems to have been developed in several countries independen­tly. There are examples of marbled paper from Japan dating to the 12th century as well as examples from 15th century Persia. The technique is believed to have spread to Europe from Turkey during the Renaissanc­e, and by the 17th century, marbled papers were being produced in Germany. Marbling also became popular in France, especially among bookbinder­s who used the decorative papers for endpapers, which are the sheets of paper glued down to the inside cover of a book.

The craft was not establishe­d in Britain until the late 18th century. Previously, British bookbinder­s had relied on imports from continenta­l Europe, and the names of many of the patterns reflect this historic link, such as French Curl, Old Dutch and Spanish Ripple. By the 19th century, the marbling industry was well establishe­d in Britain, thanks to the publicatio­n of trade manuals and technical advances, such as the developmen­t of a method of preserving carrageena­n.

The industry reached a high point just as the developmen­ts in the publishing industry meant that cheaper cloth-bound books were becoming standard, so by the start of the 20th century, the demand for one-off, hand-decorated endpapers declined sharply. Today, marbled papers are only used by specialist bookbinder­s and restorers, although their use is increasing­ly popular among groups such as luxury stationers, craft practition­ers and light shade manufactur­ers.

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