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II. Decorated Papers
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II. Decorated Papers

Paper, decorated by various processes, was used in connection with bookbinding long before the introduction of publishers' casings, and it remains today an important resource for the designers of bindings. In both hand- and machine-bound volumes, endpapers are often decorated in one fashion or another, and the boards forming the front and back covers are frequently adorned with decorated papers (in conjunction with cloth or leather spines, and sometimes corners as well).[20] Despite the widespread use of decorated paper as a binding material, little historical study of it has been made, and virtually no discussion treats it from the viewpoint of the descriptive bibliographer; the literature of the subject, though extensive, concentrates more on the methods of producing the patterns than on the history of the art. One exception is Rosamond B. Loring's classic Decorated Book Papers (1942, 1952),[21]


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a pioneer work based on the study and classification of the Loring collection (now at Harvard); it should be the starting point for any bibliographical investigation of the subject.

What the bibliographer requires, in this area as in any other involving patterns, is a system of classification and a standardized terminology. Since the characteristics of patterns are determined, to a large extent, by the methods used to produce the patterns, the most meaningful basic scheme for classifying decorated papers groups them according to the processes of production. The conventional system, as it emerges from the work of Loring and other writers,[22] has four divisions into which the majority of decorated papers fall:

In most cases a bibliographer will wish to include somewhat more detail than the simple indication of "decorated paper"; his next step, then, is to place the paper in one of these categories. Marbled papers are produced by bringing the paper into contact with colors which are floating on the surface of a gelatinous solution; the designs frequently resemble the veined patterns of marble but, if the colors are combed, may take on more regular forms. The term "printed paper" encompasses all papers produced by the transfer of a design from a carved wood-block, an engraved plate, and the like. Embossed papers have raised patterns; and paste papers, produced by manipulating a flour-and-water mixture on their surfaces, can be recognized by the blurred and cloudy effect of their designs. Technological developments have tended to make these divisions less distinct by introducing different methods for reproducing characteristic designs. Marbled and paste patterns, for example, can be reproduced and printed photolithographically, and it would be inexact to refer to the result as "marbled paper" or "paste paper." What the bibliographer should do in such cases is to


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speak of "marbled-pattern paper" or "paste-pattern paper"; if he can determine the method of reproduction he can add that information: "paste-pattern paper, photolithographically printed." This usage avoids the ambiguity which arises when the basic terms are allowed to refer at times to the patterns as distinct from the processes and at other times to the patterns as the result of the processes.

Classifying a paper under one of these headings does not yet provide the reader of a bibliography with a very precise idea of the pattern, and most bibliographers will move to a third level of detail, which involves describing the main features of the particular pattern. A standard set of photographs would of course be helpful for this purpose, if one could be produced; but the last three divisions listed above — "Printed," "Embossed," and "Paste" — offer the same difficulties as those presented by the patterns stamped into cloth for the casings of particular books. So many variations are possible in these categories that no chart could be devised which would do more than illustrate characteristic specimens; it could not, in other words, be used as a standard for matching and identification. Under such circumstances, the most efficient and exact method is to frame in words a simple description of the prominent features of the pattern and then provide a reference to an accompanying plate in which the particular pattern is illustrated. Indication of the principal colors is also a necessary part of the verbal description, as in these examples:

printed paper, with medium olive brown (Centroid 95) birds and scrollwork on a deep green (142) background (see Plate 00)

embossed paper, with silver flowers on a dark blue (183) background (see Plate 00)

paste paper, grayish reddish orange (39), with horses and trees stamped alternately (see Plate 00)

paste-pattern paper, photolithographically printed in grayish reddish orange (39), with lozenges stamped on a brushed background (see Plate 00)

Standardization of terminology, beyond the names of the basic kinds of paper and the colors, is not possible in this situation; what can be achieved is standardization of approach.

The remaining category, "Marbled," can be handled somewhat differently. Because of the nature of the marbling process, the number of types of pattern is more restricted; every specimen, though unique, corresponds in its general outlines to one of a relatively small number


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of kinds of pattern. Specifying marbled papers[23] is thus analogous to identifying binding-cloth grains, and, as with grains, a set of photographs showing the principal patterns is feasible. Although much has been written on the subject of marbling,[24] there has been almost no attention given to the problem of classifying the various patterns. The two major books in English on marbling — those by Woolnough and Halfer[25] — are comprehensive enough, however, both in their discussions of methods and in their inclusion of actual samples, to provide a useful starting point for surveying the range of possible patterns. But they would not be practical choices as standards of reference because they are not at present widely available and because their emphasis is on the techniques of production rather than on classification. What is needed, from the point of view of the descriptive bibliographer, is a set of photographs of basic patterns, each illustration accompanied by a standard name and reference figure.

The outline below is an attempt to extract from the literature of marbling a meaningful and comprehensive scheme of classification. All marbled patterns fall into one of two categories, according to whether or not the colors are drawn after they are dropped onto the solution. If they are not touched, the resulting patterns (here called "Whisked") consist of irregular spots separated by veins and resemble real marble; if the colors are manipulated by a stylus, comb, or other utensil, the resulting patterns (here called "Combed") contain more regular lines, swirls, or loops and generally do not suggest actual marble. Traditional names for the individual patterns have emerged over the years (marbling dates from the sixteenth century); even though some of these names are not in themselves descriptive, they have become so well


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established that it would be impractical at this point to introduce a new set of terms. Alternate names exist for several patterns, and they are recorded in parentheses in this outline, with the preference in each case given to the more descriptive one.


  • 1100 Whisked
  • 2 German
  • 4 Hair-Vein (Italian)
  • 6 Stormont
  • 8 Gloster
  • 10 Shell (French)
  • 12 Smooth Body
  • (1112d = Spanish)
  • 1200 Combed
  • 2 Nonpareil
  • 4 Dutch
  • 6 Antique Spot
  • 8 Curl (Snail)
  • 10 Peacock
  • 12 Bouquet
  • Modifiers
  • (a) (regular)
  • b fine
  • c coarse
  • d moiré
  • g drag
  • h moiré drag
This classification follows the same plan as the one for cloth grains and allows for expansion in the same way. The index numbers facilitate reference to standard illustrations; and the accompanying set of photographs, showing the basic patterns, can perhaps serve as the first step toward such a standard. It is printed in black and white because its function is to display patterns, not colors. Although some of the patterns are traditionally associated with certain colors, there is no necessary connection, and it is best to keep the specification of color a distinct process from the specification of pattern.

Given the nature of these names, one can learn their significance most readily by studying the photographs, but it may be helpful to point out verbally some of the characteristics of the patterns. "German" consists simply of small spots and, unlike the other whisked patterns, does not have veins. "Hair-Vein" (often called "Italian"), has, as the name suggests, a fine network of thin hair-like veins. In "Stormont" the presence of turpentine creates many small dots which give the pattern a lacy effect; "Gloster" also has fine dots on the body color, but its veins are thick and multi-colored, in contrast to the thin veins of "Stormont." The "Shell," or "French Shell," pattern displays light shell-like rings on the body color, produced by the addition of olive oil. If a pattern has veins of medium thickness and a body color not mottled with dots or rings, it may be given the name "Smooth Body," as here. The most common variety of this pattern, called "Spanish," is


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characterized by diagonal streaks traversing the basic pattern, giving it a moiré effect.[26] Among the combed patterns, "Nonpareil," easily recognizable by its horizontal parallel lines, has been perhaps the most widely used. "Dutch" is similar, except that the colors follow one another in an exact sequence and can come together in an occasional curl. If the colors are drawn along an irregular path, rather than in straight lines, and spots of a lighter color are then dropped on, the result is another pattern encountered frequently, "Antique" or "Antique Spot." "Curl," "French Curl," or "Snail," as the name implies, involves the use of a frame which can produce a series of rotary movements and thus a pattern consisting of rows of coiled colors. Similarly, "Peacock" and "Bouquet" require equipment which can produce fanshaped designs reminiscent of peacock feathers or sprays of flowers.[27]

If the bibliographer finds it desirable to move one step farther, he can add modifying adjectives to these names, as in the designation of cloth grains. The relative terms "fine" and "coarse" are more frequently applied to the combed patterns to indicate the nature of the comb, but they can also be used with the whisked patterns to suggest the relative distances between the veins. When it is necessary for the bibliographer to make distinctions on this basis among examples of the same basic pattern, he can take the illustrations presented here as "regular." The other adjectives, "moiré" and "drag," are more commonly used for the whisked patterns. In this connection, "drag" refers to the elongated spots produced when the paper is dragged along the surface of the size.

Whenever the addition of these adjectives does not provide a


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precise enough reference, the bibliographer can go on to a fifth level (as with cloth) and note variations within patterns by the phrase "a variety of" (and "cf." before the index figure); he may also find it necessary to include specific photographs of the papers involved. The fact that only a small number of adjectives are listed in the outline should not prevent the bibliographer working on this level from employing additional ones when the occasion arises. Those listed represent the standard ways of modifying a pattern and are theoretically applicable to all patterns; but, particularly in the case of the combed patterns, the unlimited variations cannot always be accurately designated without recourse to other descriptive words or phrases (such as "crosswise nonpareil," meaning nonpareil produced by drawing the comb crosswise). When such additional terms are employed, they should be accompanied by a reference to an illustration of the particular pattern.

Specification of the colors in marbled patterns is best handled in two different ways, depending on the nature of the pattern. For whisked patterns the most prominent color (the "body color") should be given first, followed by the colors of the veins; for combed patterns it is generally sufficient simply to list the colors included:

shell marbled paper (1110), with medium orange (Centroid 53) body and veins of dark blue (183)

nonpareil marbled paper (1202), in very deep red (14), dark blue (183), brilliant yellow (83), and white

In binding descriptions, "paper" should be taken to mean "papercovered boards," in the same way that "cloth" means "cloth-covered boards"; if the paper is used by itself, the term "wrappers" should be included or the paragraph should be headed "Wrappers." The following examples of openings of possible paragraphs on publishers' casings will illustrate the usage:

casing. Material: sides of drag Spanish marbled paper (1112h), with dark gray (Centroid 266) body and veins of medium blue (182), strong reddish orange (35), medium orange yellow (71), black, and white; spine and corners of coarse calico-cloth (302c), brilliant blue (177) . . . .

casing. Material: sides of printed paper, with light olive brown (94) fleursde-lys on a pale yellow (89) background (see Plate 00); spine of fine ribcloth (102b), very dark red (17) . . . .

wrappers. Material: Dutch marbled paper (1204), in dark red (16), deep orange yellow (69), yellowish white (92), and light blue (181) . . . .


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Decorated papers can thus be dealt with in the same fashion as publishers' cloth, by making reference to standard illustrations for a limited number of basic patterns and to special photographs for the numerous other patterns which may arise.