Four images of historic marbling on the web
- 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
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
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....
Benson's Hand Bindery
Fine Custom Bookbinding, Conservation, & Hand Marbled Papers
1027 Brookwood Circle
West Columbia, SC 29169
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]