Marbled Paper- a wonderful find
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I'm sure I read on here a few months ago a topic about how wonderful marbled paper could be. I confess at the time I wasn't massively impressed, nor did I have any particularly fine examples, but that changed this Saturday.
I was in a charity bookshop in a small town near me, Grange-over-sands. I wasn't expecting to find anything more than maybe the odd paperback that might catch my attention, it certainly wasn't the place to find a folio or indeed anything particularly fine. As I was browsing a gentleman walked in with a large donation in a cardboard box, which he left on the counter. While I waited for my change for the handful of paperbacks I had bought, the volunteer behind the counter invited me to browse the new box of books.
Right at the bottom I found 3 full leather bound volumes obviously of some age. I snatched them and asked the volunteer what he wanted for them. My heart skipped a beat with he said £5 for the 3, and I hurried to give him the note.
I didn't really get chance to look at them properly until I got home, but I really do feel very guilty now for taking them from a charity for such a low price. They consist of an 1850 volume of 'Hadyn's Dictionary of Dates' and two volumes of the 1870 edition of 'Half Hour's With The Best Authors' in very good condition. But the binding, beautiful as it is, wasn't what really confirmed to me the fact that I had got a bargain. Inside the front and back covers there were some fantastic examples of marbled paper which I just had to share on here.
I admit the titles don't interest me massively, though the dictionary has some very interesting facts, but I just couldn't believe someone would ever get right of something so fine!
What a wonderful story. Don't feel at all guilty. If you hadn't been there for the very reason of finding these books, you would not shared such insight with us
Edit: Just found this link
In Chicago, at the Newberry Library (the oldest private library open to the public in the US), they had a wonderful exhibit about marbled paper from a famous maker of it with examples, book examples, and the tools they use. If you are coming to the city, you should look up whether the exhibit is still here.
Those are beautiful examples of marbling, as is the one in ironjaw's posted link, and demonstrate how incredibly colorful and complex marbled paper can be--a far cry from the simple one-color swirls you see so often.
I would also suspect that the paper in these books has a somewhat shiny, slick feel to it. All the books I have from the pre-WW I period have marbled paper that is treated with beeswax or some similar substance--which characteristic you don't seem to find in any of the marbled paper used in fine books in the last half-century. I much prefer the treated paper as it seems to make the colors more saturated, has a better feel, and, judging from the examples of these 100+ year old books, may be an aid to preservation.
Lovely! I see that the first has marbled edges too; I wish Folio would produce something along that line. I like gilded top edges, I like colored too, but a marbled effect would be an automatic purchase regardless of title or contents.
That was a wonderful exhibit! http://www.newberry.org/exhibits/rubovits10.html It's no longer there, but the Newberry has a collection of Norma Rubovits' work. And the wonderful thing about the Newberry is that anyone can go look at their holdings; you just need to apply for a reader's car, and the requirements for one are minimal.
I am extremely fortunate to have a handbound facsimile copy of Sarah Treverbian Prideaux's An Historical Sketch of Bookbinding that belonged to Norma, with endsheets marbled by her. (I really should photograph those and share!)
I know a lot of marbled paper is still rubbed with beeswax, so is it just in books that the practice has disappeared? Strange.
I have about 2 dozen books, LEC and Folio Society, with marbled paper sides--and published since the 1940s, and none have the beeswax treatment.
I can't think of newer book with beeswax either...I don't have one.
But I agree that it's a wonderful effect. I saw some wonderful examples at a place in Naples. I forget the name.
All my waxed marbling is on pre-20th century books. Those are fine examples, Witchylady. As no two marblings are the same, there can be no limit to your collecting possibilities!
5- You're right they are slightly shiny, I didn't realize this was from beeswax. What struck me most, especially with the first one with the more circular, blotchy design, is how contemporary it looked. If someone brought home a cushion from Ikea in the same design I wouldn't have been surprised.
6- All three have marbled edges, I just zoomed in a little close on the second book to see them.
The Dictionary of Dates is a really random and interesting book and I really have no idea why certain entries were considered essential. I'm sure I'll be flicking through it for some time yet.
What really gets me is who would throw something so beautiful away? It really doesn't take a collector to see how fabulous they are and how much money they must have cost originally to produce (probably more that the £5 I paid in old money!). The leather is so soft and smells really good,the spine is tight and intact and still has all the gold on, there is barely any foxing inside and there are beautiful steel engravings on the 'Half Hours with the Best Authors'. It makes me very sad that someone would abandon them at the bottom of a box of paperback donations.
As far as edge marbling goes on FS books, I can only think of the limited edition Johnson's Dictionary. Not sure if any of the others have it.
Marbled paper takes the cake as my favorite material used in book binding. I think I mentioned this somewhere else, but this is a more topical place to bring it up. Those marbled endpapers are GORGEOUS, WitchyLady. The first photo reminds me of the titles from one of those old Roger Corman Poe flicks with Vincent Price. I think THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM. I have the DVD somewhere and I remember thinking the title cards looked just like marbled paper, animated.
>12 Witchylady333: What really gets me is who would throw something so beautiful away?
Moving to another city/state/country. Lack of space. Not liking the smell. There can be a lot of explanations :) And being realistic - not everyone finds an old book beautiful...
Think of this from another angle - at least they donated them and allowed someone to find and save them and did not throw them in the trash.
'A nice (hand) marbled paper is a beautiful thing to look at.'
I recently mentioned a set of 6 Folio local histories with Ann Muir marbled paper boards, the style of marbling the same with different colors for each book, over on the limited bindings thread, and in researching about Reynolds Stone for a post in the same thread in Parenthesis 16 (Feb 2009), The Journal of the Fine Press Book Association I came across a tribute to Ann Muir (1939-2008) by Barry McKay which is filled with much good stuff.
"The index of Paul Nash's excellent bibliography of the Folio Society, Folio 60, reveals that Ann produced marbled papers for the covers or end-leaves of upwards of 30 publications of the Society, and continued to do so after that bibliography was published. The Folio Society is not, of course, a private press, but it consistently produces worthy books to the highest standards compatible with realistic economics. It is therefore hardly surprising that Joe Whitlock Blundell at Folio turned so often to Ann's papers for their books. Collectors would be well advised to check the bibliography and seek out the appropriate issues of those books; I write 'collectors' advisedly, for the 'discerning collector' will have already done so. What is remarkable, certainly in some of the Folio titles, is the sheer number of papers she produced for them. She made the papers, for instance,for their edition of Woodforde's 'Diary' in 1992, in an edition of 11,000."
Ann Muir(marbler) and a list of books in Folio 60 can be found in the illustrators index in the rear of the book. I began to gather examples of her work after reading the Parenthesis article, not by being any 'discerning collector'-tho some marbling color combinations and designs I find unattractive, as others blow my mind- but because Ann Muir was gone and wouldn't be creating any more beautiful papers. It seemed important to gather a sampling of her art. Fortunately, she has left a readily available Folio legacy which can be appreciated by many of us.
"Graham Moss recalls that Edward Suzuki asked if she was related to William Morris; she was. Not so much the William Morris of tapestry and wallpaper, books and furniture, but the William Morris of a fine spirit, the artist who could distinguish between useless toil and useful work, who used a knowledge of the past to create things of beauty for the present, and indeed for the future."
This thread has been so helpful. I just picked up a Complete Shakespeare published in the late 19th century that had glossy marbled end papers and marbling on the paper edges. It's nice to know about the beeswax. The book has color reproductions of paintings of scenes from Shakespeare, plus black-and-white portraits of 19th century English actors in costume from the plays.
Beautiful edition. I love that copy of the Black Tulip, as well. Stunning cover design.
>22 Quicksilver66: that is very nice marbling, I like the colours and patterns of swirls, and flames. But am I alone in that some marbled paper gives me a very queasy feeling - the more blotchy kind?
What do you mean by "blotchy?" I very much like the abstract swirls like the papers in pm11's Shakespeare. They must have influenced Jackson Pollack.
>25 Django6924: I'll try and find an example among my books. All those I've seen in this thread are lovely; I specially like those in #24 and in particular the one on the left.
So here is an example of what I call the blotchy kind that makes me feel funny:
maybe because my eyes need to fix on a less random pattern...
Oh my goodness, you're right! That particular marbling would be fantastic for Valley of the Dolls - a book that I do, in fact, love. (Not because it's any great example of the written word, of course, but because I have a soft spot for soapy melodrama.)
A shame no one will ever give that book the fine-binding treatment, complete with marbled paper!
Yes, 'tis a pity...I suppose you could always have one rebound, though. But the day I spend several hundred dollars to get Valley of the Dolls rebound is the same day my boyfriend catches a (cheap) plane to Paraguay....
For me the best examples are in post 19, and in the original post--the book on the left with the blue and orange. Glorious!
Here are a few of my books with marbling. I couldn't get tags to work properly, so the books are:
01_Peoples of the World (c.1923)
02_Works of Thackeray (1875)
03(a-d)_Works of Walter Scott (1871)
04(a & b)_Scott_Life of Napoleon Buonaparte (1827)
05(a & b)_T. E. Lawrence_Military Report on the Sinai Peninsula_Castle Hill Press (2008)
06(a-f)_Arnold Toynbee_A Study of History_bound by Zahnsdorf (1973)
(For best quality, click on each individually and enlarge; for some reason some pictures are slightly out of focus in slideshow mode.)
Oh boldface, these are stunning! The first - Peoples of the World, I think? - looks like a vase I have, glazed using a process that involves zinc oxidation. Chips of zinc are mixed in with the finish and when fired, the zinc "explodes" into blooms that resemble flowers. I absolutely love the pattern it makes; I wonder how they achieved the same effect in the marbling process? A dropping technique, maybe?
Thanks, boldface, wonderful marbling! And oops, very nice too Qs and lilithcat, forgot from a few days ago. All the examples are expanding my apparently limited idea of the variety of marbled papers available.
edited for oops
As an antidote to the Royal Wedding, I had another rummage in the Shed the other day. (Don’t get me wrong, the first 12 hours were fine; it was just the following 48 hours of repeats and analysis which allowed my mind to wander slightly.) Anyway, I found a few more books with marbling that I thought might interest aficionados.
The books in question are:
Pics 1-3 : Conquests of the Cross (3 vols.) / London: Cassell, 1890
Pic 4 : The Miscellaneous Writings of the Revd Matthew Henry / London: John M’Gowan, 1838
Pics 5 & 6 : The History of the Adventures of Joseph Andrews... and An Apology for the Life of Mrs Shamela Andrews by Henry Fielding / London: The Fraser Press, 1970 (Limited Edition) This is similar to Quicksilver’s Decline and fall, pictured above.
Pics 7-9 : Frontiers and Wars (An abridgement of 4 books by Winston S. Churchill) / London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1962 (later fine binding)
Pics 10-11 : The Plays of Richard Brinsley Sheridan / London: Macmillan & Co, 1900
Pics 12-15 : The Poetical Works of Sir Walter Scott / Edinburgh: William P. Nimmo, 1861
Pics 16-17 : The Complete Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley / London: Humphrey Milford (Oxford University Press), 1914
Pics 18-19 : The Light of Asia or The Great Renunciation (Mahâbhinishkramana), being The Life and Teaching of Gautama, Prince of India and Founder of Buddism (As Told in Verse by an Indian Buddhist) by Sir Edwin Arnold, M.A., K.C.I.E., C.S.I. / London: Kegan, Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co. Ltd, 1915 (A very long title and publisher for a very small book!)
Pics 20-22 : Cicero : Select Letters, with English Introductions, Notes and Appendices by Albert Watson, M.A. (Third Edition) / Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1881
Pics 23-25 : The Works of Alfred Lord Tennyson, Poet Laureate / London: Macmillan, 1894
Pics 26 & 27 : Sterne’s Memoirs : A Hitherto Unrecorded Holograph now brought to light in Facsimile. Introduction and Commentary by Kenneth Monkman / Privately Printed for The Laurence Sterne Trust, Shandy Hall, Coxwold, North Yorkshire, and to be sold by Heffers, Trinity Street, Cambridge, 1985 (Limited Edition). I bought this at Shandy Hall, not Heffers.
All right, I expect that by now you’re thinking 12 hours of the Royal Wedding would make a welcome antidote!
The Sheridan volume is really doing it for me! Wow! I once owned a Qur'an, untranslated, with a similar marbled paper that had been hand done by an Art teacher of mine at the College. It was breathtaking, and it reminds me so much of your Sheridan!
Pics 2 and 3...mesmerizing! Some of the most attractive marbling I've seen.
THe marbling for Scott's Poetical Works is delicious--Scott seems to bring out the finest in paper marblers!
I thought you might be interested in seeing this nice piece of marbled paper. It's an old piece of marbled paper which I asked a bookbinder to use to bind my copy of the Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell. He used a nice old piece of light brown goatskin for the sides and the page edges are speckled with red and brown to match the marbled paper.
Looks great, Quicksilver! The speckling is a nice extra touch.
I was actually browsing samples of marble paper online just the other day. I'm contemplating buying the British Library version of Liber Bestiarum and having it bound in a similar fashion to your book. I have no idea what it would cost over here in the States, but hopefully less than the $800 difference between the British Library edition of Liber Bestiarum and the Folio Society's.
Wow that looks great. If you don't mind me asking, how much does something like that cost to do?
> 42, 43
This cost me £150.00 from the Wyvern Bindery in London (they made many of the old books featured in the Harry Potter movies). This link gives a fascinating insight into their work - http://spitalfieldslife.com/2011/04/14/at-the-wyvern-bindery/
The gentleman sitting at the desk in the first picture is Mark Winstanley. He bound my book and helped me chose the paper and leather. A really nice man with an encyclopaedic knowledge of books and binding.
They also bound this copy of the Anatomy of Melancholy for me (although the marbled paper is not as spectacular and it is difficult to do it justice in a photograph) -
The Anatomy cost a little more - £175.00 - because it is half bound in leather whereas the Russell is quarter bound. If I had gone to Sangorski and Sutcliffe or the Chelsea Bindery I am sure I would have had to pay a lot more.
A Liber Bestiarum bound in this fashion would look beautiful.
Very nice, QS. Like overthemoon, I really like the blue one. I'm sure I could find quite a lot of books in my library that would benefit from a new suit of clothes.
These are truly stunning, Quicksilver! What amazing craftsmanship you have at the tip of your fingers. Very lovely.
Wonderful thread - thanks for the beautiful pictures. I just love marble paper and that book bindery looks delicious!
> 48, 49
Thanks. That bindery is a fascinating place. They always seem fairly busy which is a good sign. I think there is still an appetite for finely bound books, despite the lack of interest from major publishers and the spread of the Kindle.
Were these books in disrepair when you had them bound or were you looking for an upgrade from the original bindings? I've often come across books in disrepair and it didn't occur to me they could have new life.
Not at all. Both were new paperback editions of books that I loved. I just wanted to honour them in a more permanent and classical form of binding. There are plenty of other books I would like to have bound this way but, as it is quite an expensive thing to do, I probably won't bind more than 2 or 3 books a year.
For distressed books, the same thing can be done. The page edges are shaved to get rid of imperfections. They can then be speckled or finished in guilt. The text block is taken apart and re-sewn (or sewn for the first time). Then the new binding is applied. The result is that a battered and loved old book can be given a new lease on life.
>51 acidneutral: (Re: distressed books)
I had a large gilt- and blind-stamped leather-bound book (ca 1892) which was a gift from my grandmother. The spine had completely separated from the book and about half was missing, including the title; the hinges were going, there were a few torn pages, and a fold-out map was missing the fold out part.
I had a local bindery work on it for me. They created a new leather spine, incorporating the remains of the original blind-stamped spine, repaired the hinges and torn pages, and took a fold-out map which I removed from another copy of the book which was in unreadable condition and replaced the damaged fold-out. End result - a very nice leather-bound volume on my shelves. Cost - about US$200 (more than the book is worth to anyone else).
My rule for caring for older books, in order of preference, is PRRR - protect; restore; repair; replace. I think most folks on this forum are already aware of the need for 'P'. There are some restoration techniques that do not change the appearance of the book, and there are some repairs that can be done that are difficult to see if done well. Last resort - replace (which was necessary for part of the spine of this book).
PS - I'd post an image but it's blind-stamped dark maroon leather, and I can't get a photo that shows the nice job they did on the spine. The other repairs are almost invisible unless you know where to look, and wouldn't show up in a photo.
Osbaldistone, thanks for sharing all of this. Really beautiful and interesting.
This seemed as good a topic as any for revising for my question, I didn't think it merited its own thread.
I recently acquired from a local charity shop Oliver Goldsmith's The Citizen of the World, or Letters from a Chinese Philosopher residing in London to his friends in the East. It has absolutely lovely marbled boards (1/4 blue buckram) and is dated 1969 on the title page with no reprint or impression info, so perhaps it is actually a 1969 book.
First question: is it possible that this is one of the beautiful examples of the incomparable Anne Muir's work? I honestly do not know if she was affiliated with Folio Society that long ago as most of the books she has been identified with seem much more recent.
Second question: does anyone else own this? If you do, I am wondering what your page color looks like. This book while in near fine condition contains some of the most yellow paper I have ever seen in a Folio Society production. But there is no foxing and the paper does not seem brittle or excessively aged. It is cream yellow rather than the more typically off-white found in older books. But the color seems uniform so I want to believe it was published like this and I am not witnessing any aging effects.
Any insights from the resident experts with extensive collections is appreciated.
I will post some pics in a minute, once I get them uploaded to Photobucket.
This is the gorgeous marbled front board. Not bad for a book 42 years old, eh?
Quaintly illustrated endpages
Colophon page (back of title page rather than opposite)
This is a photo of the book open, but you can only really assess the yellow-ness of the page color when it is compared side by side with another book (in the picture that follows I have placed the 2011 publication of Holinshed's Chronicles underneath it and you can clearly see the color contrast even if the pic is too blury to read the print.
Lovely pictures. That's genuinely letterpress, isn't it? I suppose it was still the norm, back then.
The marbled boards are by Cockerell, according to Folio 60.
Thanks for the clarification of the marbling. No word in Folio 60 about yellow pages though?
This is one of those little gems of a find where you cannot believe your luck in acquiring such a beautiful and well-preserved book for $17, and it was a donation to charity as a bonus!
Edited to confirm that the indeed it is printed letterpress as best I can tell. The paper is so silky smooth though, it is a little difficult to feel the letterpress indentations on the page, but they are clearly there.
No details in the book about the yellow paper. If the colour is consistent across the page, I think it's safe to assume that it's not due to paper acidification. (I did wonder - 1969 being a long time ago when attitudes were different - whether yellow paper had been especially selected as suitable for the subject matter. As a possible parrallel, the 1994 The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is printed on blue paper.)
That looks like a real find, UK_History_Fan. I'm very envious. I agree with housefulofpaper that from what you've said and from your picture the paper is likely to be ok. If it's consistent I wouldn't worry - just enjoy it!
Searches for copies have one seller describing 'cream paper' and another describing 'naturally yellow paper'. Good looking book.
Thanks all. I'm quite proud of my find actually. It was at a charity sale as I say so I was doubly blessed by getting a good deal and donating a little money to a good cause (ironically, literacy for poor youth). Not the only Folio Book, but certainly the one in the nicest condition with the most stunning design. I was just a little surprised as I've never had a book deliberately printed on such yellow paper. It is not unpleasant at all, just unusual, so thought I would ask.
For those of you in the UK, I did find a few reasonably priced copies on ABE (Ardis has two) but for us United States bibliophiles the cheapest version with a slipcase was $30. So again, quite pleased with mine. Ever since the Anne Muir posts in another topic (I forget which one, which is why I revived this one), I have become a bit OCD about acquiring more of her hand marbled books. I'm now up to four of the 17th/18th century memoirs series, but still need Diary of a Country Parson, Natural History of Selbourne (I already have the more elaborate fine edition FS produced a couple years back), and Our Village. I thought perhaps this might have been related to that series, but alas it is an entirely different size and era (I didn't realize the book was actually printed in 1969 rather than just copyrighted 1969 when I bought it). The Muir work is stunning and I can't seem to get enough of it, especially since each one is unique. So sad that I bought a late-edition version of Pepys Diary and only received the less impressive student version of her master work.
Beautiful example of marbling. I believe you've found yourself a little jewel!
My own copy is mostly gray toned (see image below). It is indeed printed in yellowish paper which is uniform throughout the book. So I suppose it was meant to be that way. I don't think, though, that the marbling is by Ann Muir. She started work for FS years later. The earliest copy in my collection of this type of cover decoration in an edition by FS is the 1948 publication of Gulliver's Travels.
The 1965 book Lives of the English Poets by Samuel Johnson is also in the same style and was published on yellow paper, although slightly lighter in tone when compared to the Goldsmith work. See the marbling below
> 63 According to Folio 60, the Goldsmith marbling is by "Cockerell", which I would guess is the studio of Sidney Cockerell, who was based near Cambridge, UK. He or his studio had several commissions from the Society. Oddly, The Lives of the English Poets marbling isn't ascribed to any particular artist or studio; almost certainly too early to be an Ann Muir. It might well be by Cockerell, whose first acknowledged FS work was in 1957 (Galley Slave).
Searching for Cockerell on the net is complicated by his being referred to as both Sidney and Sydney!
There's an interesting Marbling Group at
I have just checked my copy of Ann Muir's book Harvesting Colour and she writes there that she started marbling in 1983.
Interesting, thanks. Folio 60 says that her first collaboration (with Mitchell and Malik ?) was in 'Crèvecoeur's America', number 438 in the bibliography, which was published in 1978. This marbling research is turning out a lot of intriguing details...
Here's some more detail from Harvesting Colour. Ann Muir went to work for Michael Mitchell (of Mitchell & Malik) in 1982 or 1983, and writes "Until then I had not been aware of marbled paper". Michael was making marbled paper and had to stop when he had a serious accident in 1983. That's when Ann taught herself how to do it, so that she could carry on Michael's business. She left Mitchell & Malik in 1989 and set up on her own account.
All the Mitchell & Malik entries in Folio 60 have "Ann Muir" added in brackets afterwards. Apart for 438 they are all in 1998 or 1989 when Ann would have done the marbling. So I guess that the entry at 438 is a mistake or misunderstanding.
Thanks again for the clarification. It has become a necessity to get a copy of Harvesting Colour ;-)
I recently acquired a copy of Jane Austen's History of England which is a delightful little facsimile and which has, I think, very attractive marbled covers by Ann Muir. Here are some examples:
> Nice job David! What's the book?
The bindings you choose are very well selected, David. It's great to know that skillful artisans are still available for this type of work. As HTC, I'm also curious as to the subject...
Thanks Antonio. I had these books bound by the Wyvern Bindery in London. They are very skilled. I love going there - http://www.wyvernbindery.com/
They also made the book props for the Harry Potter films.
Beautiful bindings on those Austin volumes, Fiona. Nice buy.
The book is the Basic Writings of Bertrand Russel published by Routledge. Along with the Anatomy of Melancholy, I keep this volume by my bed for dipping into before sleep.
Ha, you have hit on yet another book that was already on my wish list! Great minds think alike! I would love to snag a good priced copy of Lives of the English Poets.
That is a beautiful book David!
I am becoming obsessed with marbled paper boards ever since the discussion we had a few months ago about poor Anne passing away during the production run of Pepys Diary.
I was walking along Rochester Row a couple of weeks ago on my way back to the Victoria EasyHotel (no expense spared on my trips to the metropolis!) when I passed this interesting looking place:
My interest was further piqued when I saw the words Sangorski - Sutcliffe - Zaehnsdorf
Alas, the hour was late and the premises closed - I intend to return.
Huxley, I also picked up the Jane Austen book in the past few months. I couldn't believe when I came across it and had not heard of it before. It tends to sell for less than I would expect too though the price has been climbing recently.
The bookbinder you saw is related to another source called Falkiners where a DVD on hand-made books and the craft of bookbinding is available. I purchased a copy and found to my delight that it is dedicated to Ann Muir, and that she appears briefly marbling some paper.
I guess that Tolstoy is OOP? Looks beautiful.
This thread's been dormant for a while, but someone just sent me this on Facebook. It's an educational video from 1970 about paper marbling. I thought this bunch might find it interesting. http://laughingsquid.com/the-art-of-the-marbler-a-fascinating-1970-educational-f...
This topic is not marked as primarily about any work, author or other topic.