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Four images of historic marbling on the web

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  • Jake Benson
    Hello Everyone, I wanted to share a few links that I ve recently found that feature some very interesting historic marbling on the web. Example number one,
    Message 1 of 2 , Sep 7 3:35 PM
      Hello Everyone,

      I wanted to share a few links that I've recently found that feature
      some very interesting historic marbling on the web.

      Example number one, from Japan:

      A Japanese Fan-shaped Booklet of the Lotus Sutra, Volume 8 dating to
      the Heian period, and is one of the National treasures of Japan. it
      would also be among the oldest examples of marbling known to exist.
      Another image from this manuscript was published by Ann Chambers in her
      book on Suminagashi on pages 18-19. From the description given it was
      hard to tell if these were actual fans or not.

      Well, they're not fans, but a book that was made to look like a fan
      when the pages were opened. I think this was made using the "flutter'
      or "butterfly" techniques in Japanese binding. These styles do not
      involve any sewing, but rather adhered each fold together. From what I
      can discern, the marbling was done first, then the painted scene
      applied over top, then the calligraphy was written over top, then the
      pages were sprinkled with gold and silver leaf cut into very small
      squares of varying sizes.

      More examples of this kind have been published in a fantastic Japanese
      book Ocho no Bijutsu. On some examples it is possible to see area
      where the painter went and "enhanced" or "Touched up" areas of the
      marbling. I think that this is wonderfully "fresh-yet-ancient" example
      of marbling that demonstrates the intersection of marbling, painting,
      calligraphy, and bookmaking....

      Here is the link:


      If you click on the image, it will expand. Click on it again, and it
      will enlarge BEAUTIFULLY.

      I think this is the most stunning example of historic suminagashi on
      the internet at this time. The quality of the enlarged image is
      superb. you can really see a lot of detail. in the figure of a woman
      seated in the very middle of the gutter, you can see that the blue
      color for her robe has been abraded off or is friable and flaking.
      Underneath this eroding blue layer you can see trails of the

      Example Number Two, from Iran:

      I was very pleased to see an example of a kind of very unusual motif
      marbling done in the early 19th century in Iran during the Qajar
      dynasty. The item shown is the upper cover a folding-mirror case. You
      are looking at the marbling on the back side of the mirror. While this
      site does not describe this very well, this marbling is extremely
      similar to some examples found on some kinds of pen boxes. Some
      examples of this sort have been published by the Khalili collection ,
      in the two volume catalog "Lacquer of the Islamic Lands".

      Much of our focus on marbling in the Muslim world has been
      predominantly on the production of marbling in Ottoman Turkey down to
      the present day. It is important to remember that this was not the
      only tradition that existed, and there may have been more interaction
      between various centers than has been previously recognized. Other
      examples from the Khalili collection prove that these marblers were
      extremely talented, producing miniature motifs, floral arrangements,
      peacock tails (not the "peacock" pattern we know, but designs that
      actually look like a fanned-out peacock's tail), and something
      reminiscent of a paisley design, similar to the design on this mirror

      Marbled paper is mentioned in a several Persian language documents one
      of which was presented in Ink & Gall in teh summer of 1988 (article by
      William Bull). however more accounts have been identified, not only on
      how to make what is called "Abri" paper (NOT ebru as used in Turkey
      today, though there are some who refer to marbling as "abro-bud" in
      Iran today, meaning "cloud and wind". However, this appears to be a
      modern development as this term is not found in any of the older
      accounts.... but it may point to how the term "ebru" came about-
      perhaps this was a shortened form of "Abro-bud"? ), but also how these
      papers were employed in bookbinding and other objects. Often in the
      Persian tradition these papers have been heavily lacquered using a a
      combination of shellac, sandarac, and other gums.

      Here is the example from the Museum of Tehran web site:


      Example Number three, from India:

      The Sackler Museum at harvard has mounted a number of images of
      marbling which I'm compiling. One of the most interesting pieces is an
      entire manuscript that was produced for the Mughal Emperor Akbar,
      entitled the DIvan of Anvari. This remarkable manuscript was produced
      in the late 1580's while the Mughal capital was located at Lahore.
      nearly every page in this manuscript is marbled and gold flecked.
      Various famous painter worked together in creating the manuscript.
      What is different about this manusript is that the marbling was used as
      a support for all of the painting and calligraphy, these are not
      cut-outs, nor is it limited to the border and endpapers. Nevertheless,
      it is also important to know that this work, while important, was
      relatively minor on the scale of all of the manuscripts produced at
      that time. nor is it known to what extent Akbar himself may have
      directed that such paper be used to make the book. Deluxe manuscripts
      rarely feature marbling in such a prominent fashion.

      Nevertheless, this is a very important piee in that it is the earliest
      example known where marbled paper has been used to produce an entire
      manuscript. This link is just one page from this manuscript. I have
      seen about 50 leaves from it now mounted on the web... if you search
      using the term "Divan of Anvari", you can see many styles. All of
      these are for the most part the loose formed, soft "hafif" style seen
      on calligraphies at that time. There do seem to be several colors used
      though, black indigo, a soft pale red, and a ochre yellow.


      Example Number Four, from the USA:

      Many American marblers have heard about how marbling was used on early
      American paper money. A few examples were published by Richard Wolfe
      in his magnum opus. A company called Denly's in Boston has kindly
      provided an image of one of example of an early $20 Continental note.
      I am looking for an example of the notes printed by Bache the grandson
      of Ben Franklin, but so far no luck.... Denly's mentions that note,
      but there is no image.


      As you see, marbling was used only on the border of the note. I've
      made more inquiries to see if more examples of this kind have been
      identified in recent years. By the way, this note is for sale - for
      $2400 US!

      I have noticed that indigo is among the colors used on these notes, and
      this leads me to wonder if this kind of money was made using indigo
      manufactured in South Carolina at that time. During the late colonial
      period, South Carolina was one of the leading indigo manufacturer,
      which supplied the British with the bulk of the dye they used. What
      was produced was considered to be of the very best quality available.
      However a decline set in with the American revolution, and exportation
      ground to halt. They still produced it for native consumption
      however. It was only after the Revolution that Britain turned to India
      as a supplier of indigo. So, all of those early 18th century Stormont
      papers commonly seen on bindings at that time were likely made using
      indigo manufactured in AMERICA, rather than INDIA.

      While it can't be specifically proven, it is tempting to think that
      this kind of paper money was made using South Carolina Indigo... most
      of the research into the history of indigo Production focuses on
      textiles, and the historians whom I've spoken with have never heard of
      a connection with paper money before.... So this may be a new angle in
      marbling history!

      Try and look at these images now lest they disappear in time.... It is
      really great that so many museums are beginning to feature marbling on
      the web. You can't find these by searching Google. You really have to
      know what to look for and comb through each web site to find them.
      Most often the fact that marbling is involved is not even mentioned.
      In the first two cases aI was abel to find them using search terms in
      Japanese and Persian.

      and to think that these are just the "tip of the iceberg".

      Yet Susanne tells us the very sad news that yet another great library
      has suffered an irreparable disaster. How sad! You wonder if any
      important alba amicora with early marbling were caught in the flames.
      What a tragedy. I only hope that such institutions will digitize their
      collection in the manner we see here, so that in the event of a
      disaster, we at least have images....


      Jake Benson

      Benson's Hand Bindery
      Fine Custom Bookbinding, Conservation, & Hand Marbled Papers
      1027 Brookwood Circle
      West Columbia, SC 29169
      (803) 926-5544

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    • Gail MacKenzie
      ... [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      Message 2 of 2 , Sep 7 5:19 PM
        > Thank-you, Jake. You are simply the best, and most amazing resource, bar none.
        > Regards, Gail M.

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