The Enduring Legacy of Marbling
Commemorate the Past & Embrace the Future
The earliest form of marbling is attributed to the Japanese as early as the 12th century and is known as “Suminagashi”, which translates to floating ink. The Middle East, China, and Japan all have a strong historical connection to the art of paper marbling but despite its early development in these countries, it was not until the 1600s that Europeans began importing marbled paper. The beautiful marbled designs eventually caught the eye of bookbinders who eventually used marbled paper to create highly decorative books. Some fine examples of these early works still exist and are a testament to the artistry and skill of early marblers. Unfortunately, with the rise of mass production in the book industry centuries later, handbound books became less common and the ancient marbling techniques used to adorn books gradually waned.
Through dedication to the art of marbling and creative exploration, the legacy of marbling continues to inspire and thrive. Marbled Paper Studio is proud to be associated with this magnificent art form and preserving its beauty and cultural significance for future generations to appreciate and enjoy. We are proud to be part of its legacy.
Who is Denis Diderot?
The "Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers" was published in France during the 18th century. It is a highly illustrative encyclopedia credited to being edited by Denis Diderot. It is filled with engravings depicting the arts and sciences.
The antique engraving of Diderot shown here is part of our collection and is prominently displayed in the studio. The piece is unframed so Diderot often moves around the studio being displayed in various forms. Sometimes he's pinned up on the inspiration board, while other times he's hanging out on the bookshelf.
18th Century Marblers at Work
The "Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers" by Denis Diderot includes this highly detailed engraving portraying a typical day in an 18th-century marbling studio.
What would Diderot think of a modern day marbling studio compared to those of the 18th-century?
We believe he would be surprised at how little the process has changed over the centuries despite all of our technological advances. We also like to think he would be proud of the fact that people continue to appreciate and honor the heritage of marbling, that it has survived the test of time, and that there are individuals who continue to pursue mastering this historical craft for future generations to enjoy.
A Glimpse of Historical Tools
This is an engraving of marbling tools from "School of Arts" (1750) as reproduced in "The Art of Bookbinding" by Joseph William Zaehnsdorf. The basic tools include a marbling tank, pigments in small pots, and a comb to create a pattern. If you look at the tank you'll notice dots in various sizes. These dots represent the first layer of paint sprinkled on the surface of the water. The snakelike design represents how the comb was used to manipulate the paint to create a new pattern.
Marbling is such a niche art form that there are no large-scale modern-day manufacturers of marbling tools for the professional marbler. Centuries may have passed since the creation of this engraving, but many of the tools used today continue to be just as simple and primitive as those used by our marbling predecessors.