Marbled Paper

American Military Biography

When you hear the word “marble” what comes to mind?  Small round glass balls you played with as a child?   The streaks of fat alternating with lean in a rib-eye steak?  Your beautiful variegated stone kitchen counters?  All are accurate.  But what if I told you that the Rare Book Room has several examples of “marbled” paper?  Do you picture paper that has hardened to rock?  Actually, “marbled paper” is given that description because of the appearance of the paper —with streaks and patterns like marble.

It is made by transferring water colors floating on the surface of a gum solution to a piece of paper.  The colors are drawn on the solution with sticks or combs to create patterns such as swirl, splash, and feather.  Colors vary, from dark to light; from the use of many colors to few.

Moby Dick

The technique was found as early as 118 in Japan, but the Persians are credited with first using it for books.  It was first used for the endpapers of a book, but it is also used for covers and bindings, and was used heavily in Europe and the U.S. in the 18th and 19th centuries.  It has more limited use currently, but has been revived for special books of limited editions.

Johnson & Queeney

The Rare Book Room has several examples of this beautiful technique, many currently on display.  So, if you’re in the area, come by the RBR to see some of our beautiful “marbled paper” books.

Le Duc de Nemours

Works of Robert Burns

Mill on the Floss

History of England

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