Intern Insights: Paper Marbling

Guest post by Brooke Jackson

Many of the books in the University of Nashville Collection that we have been cataloging feature paper marbling. This method has been used in connection with books for hundreds of years, and the technique can be traced back all the way to East Asia between the 10th and 12th centuries. For years, the masters of marbling paper kept the process a secret. However, in 1853 the artist Charles Woolnough published The Art of Marbling. Woolnough’s book made paper marbling popular and the popularity lasted into modern times, and marbled paper is still frequently being created. See this blog post by Katie Behrens for more on the history of book marbling.

A book from the University of Nashville Collection with marbled cover boards

There are numerous ways to create marbled paper, but the basics are the same. A shallow tray is filled with water and ink or paint colors are applied to the surface with a brush. Then, the colors are manipulated by various methods, such as using a comb or blowing with water. No two pieces of marbled paper are alike, which has historically helped to prevent forgery. Once the colors are manipulated to the artist’s liking, the pattern is then carefully transferred to a surface, such as paper or fabric.

The library is hosting a workshop on paper marbling on Tuesday April 4 from 11-2pm on the library lawn. Come join local papermaker and book artist Lesley Patterson-Marx to try your hand at marbling!

These Youtube videos show the process:

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