During my time here in Archives and Special Collections I want to highlight something I have found interesting – the distinct patterns found in some rare books. Many notice the leather bindings and the gold tooling but we tend to miss the endpapers. Most of the time when we open a book, we go straight into the content and flip past the first/end page.
Decorative marbled papers were common in bookbinding from the 17th to the 19th centuries. Characterized by repetitive designs and vibrant hues, these papers are beautiful. It forms the connection between the book cover and the book block. Without it, the whole thing can fall apart. They are also used to protect the text from wear and tear.
For instance, ‘nonpareil’ pattern found inside SCM 03020 The life and times of Frederick Reynolds / written by himself was quite popular. The above shows the close-up of this pattern.
I wonder how is the process of paper marbling. It typically involves floating pigments or dyes on a liquid surface. Using various tools, such as combs, brushes or needles the desired patterns are created. Once the pattern is achieved, the paper or other material would be carefully laid on top of the liquid surface, transferring the marbled design onto it. The action is repeated multiple times to achieve layered or more complex patterns. You never know how it will exactly turn out!
Below are some other examples I come across in some book covers. Look at the colour dynamics!
To note, some of the items we have here were mostly likely rebacked or restored at some point and the marbled endpapers might not be part of the original binding but would have been added at a later date.