3529Re: NYPL digital collection
- Mar 23, 2006Thanks for sharing that information about the NYPL web site. The Spencer collection at
NYPL is home to some very interesting and unique works of marbling. Last summer I was
able to visit and see a small two small Japanese manuscripts that were made with
suminagashi paper. The first was Jap MS 1-48-1, a copy of Shokubutsu ze-no-doku
(Pictures of Plants). c. 1700. (neglected to note the pagination, binding stucture- I believe
it is a pamphlet wrapper). It is described as "an herbal for the care of man or beast". The
outer paper wrapper of the book was an example of suminagashi that was applied over a
piece of kumogami or "cloud paper". This is a kind of decorative paper made during the
paper-making process. Basically, Indigo blue pulp fibers are poured in and produce soft
mottled bands of blue within the sheet. Kumogami was often used for tanzaku by poets.
The way the marbling was applied was juxtaposed to the pattern of kumogami-a band of
blue in the kumogami. The distance and juxtaposition of arcs within the suminagashi
pattern and the kumogami banding effectively rendered the aesthetic sense of a kind of
abstract landscape. Or better yet, perhaps a "seascape" of ocean waves and clouds. I have
never seen suminagashi combined with kumogami before, so this was very intriguing to
me and visually quite stunning.
the second item was a Japanese booklet decorated with suminagashi. The item number
for this book is JAP 88-1 (may also be 1-88-1). It is a copy of Kindai Shuka, which is
described as "an ancient anthology".
It is a kind of two-section style of binding. I looked up the style in the book by Kojiro
Ikegami, but I didn't see anything exactly like it. It is similar to the ledger or receipt book;
only two sections are sewn together, through the folds, instead of just one. They are sewn
at four sewing holes, and I think the thread makes a âfigure eightâ pattern through both of
the sections. In through the top, out the hole to the bottom, out the hole, back to the top,
turn around at the end, and so on. After asking japanese book conservator Kiyoshi imai
about the specific style of binding, he replied that it might possibly have been something
of a "one-off' booklet that was made after the scholar who wrote took their notes.
The outer folios of both of the sections were wrapped with 2 laminated suminagashi
papers. Hence the pattern on the front cover did not match the back of the cover, nor
were they conjoined. The pattern seen on the first section was composed of a more
traditional suminagashi pattern over a paper that had been printed in an abstract pattern
using silver colored pigment (possibly tin? It was not tarnished like silver and looked very
The pattern on the back cover was very unusual variation of a more common pattern. It
was of a long narrow horizontal oval of concentric blue and black rings. Only in this case
the outermost band was stylized in a manner reminiscent to combing seem in Islamic and
Western forms of marbling. The hair was used to tool only in a short depth- to the next
band, and that was all. This was repeated around the entire circumference of the oval.
After observing the pattern I theorize that the marbler may have used a single (horse?) hair
to accomplish this. So I will have to try out my theory and see if I can reproduce the
As a result of the way that the pattern was applied to the paper, and then the way that the
paper was used in the binding, you only see half of the oval as a result on the back cover.
The application had a very unusual aesthetic about it, unlike other examples of
suminagashi I have seen applied in books and manuscripts.
There is more to write about what is in the Spencer collection, but I have to stop here for
now. Unfortunately these images are not featured on the NYPL web site. There is also a
collection of decorated papers that I had no time to go through. Has anyone else on this
list possibly taken the time to rummage through those boxes NYPL? Care to share with us
what you saw?
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