“In the 16th century, a new way of decorating paper was introduced to Europe from the Middle and Far East – designs that resembled the veins in marble. This effect was created by throwing or dripping inks on to a size (a mucilaginous solution), where they were allowed to float free or were sculpted into patterns. A sheet of paper was carefully placed on to the surface of the size and the design lifted off. The general term for this process is marbling.” – Einen Miura
The oldest known example of suminagashi (‘ink floating’ – a technique similar to marbling used in Japan since ancient times) can be found in Sanjuroku nin Kashu, a collection of poetry published around AD 1112. It is generally thought that the technology of marbling was brought to Europe nearly 400 years later by Venetian merchants. Since then, marbling techniques have developed and spread throughout the world.
|Sanjuroku nin Kashu of the Nishihonganji Temple, Japan|
This week’s Reference Collection highlight is The Art of Marbled Paper: Marbled Patterns and How to Make Them by Einen Miura (REF.PT.0343). Miura begins by providing a brief overview of the origin and early development of marbled paper. He then traces the spread of marbling techniques from the Far and Middle East to Europe. Here, readers will learn that Japanese nobility in ancient times used marbled paper as a background for their calligraphy, and that Dutch traders in the 8th century wrapped toys in marbled paper to avoid paying duty on the papers. Though this section consists of only 14 pages, Miura manages to provide an effective and compelling snapshot of just how marbling has advanced to its current state.
|Icarus wave marbling pattern|
Miura next engages the reader in a discussion on the basic elements required to create marbled paper. Readers will learn what equipment should be used for marbling, how to set up the workroom, how to prepare the size and solution, and how to transfer the marble to paper.
The third, and largest, section of the title focuses on marbling patterns and how to make them. Here, the reader will learn how to create 67 different patterns including the Turkish marble (one of the oldest of all marbling patterns), the modern wave, the sun marble, the Icarus marble, the whirl, the serpentine marble, and the double marble (where two patterns are combined). For each case, Miura presents a brief explanation/history of the style, instructions on how to create the pattern, and a representative full-color illustration of the marbling itself. For more complicated patterns, diagrams of the combing steps are also presented.
If you want to create marbled endpapers for an upcoming book arts project, need a background for your poetry piece, or just want to learn about the history of marbling or the types of patterns that are available, this title would be a great place to start. Despite its unassuming solid-blue cover, The Art of Marbled Paper has much to offer.
|Matthew Arnold, Essays in Criticism|
The Reference Collection is one of three collections at The Center for Book Arts. The other two include the Fine Arts Collection (composed of artists’ books and prints) and the Archives (containing Exhibition Catalogs and the Center’s ephemera). All three collections can be viewed on-line via the Center’s website or in person by appointment. Note that the Reference Library is currently being cataloged, with roughly 75% completed.
-Sarah McCarthy, Librarian