HISTORY OF MARBLING
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.