A new book
- Greetings everyone,
I wanted to let all of you know that at new book has been issued that
contains some very interesting infomration and images relative to
marbling in American history. I was just dropped by borders book in
Midtown manhattan and spotted one of the famous Ben Franklin marbled
loans on a dust jacket. After quickly reading it, I think it sheds a
great deal of light on this subject and is a definite "must -read" for
anyone interested in this topic.
Here's the citation:
Goetzmann, Willian N. and Rouwenhorst, Geert. The Origins of Value:
The Financial Innovations that created Modern Capital Markets. Oxford
and New York : Oxford University Press. 2005 ISBN #- 10019-517571-
Here's a direct link to the listing at Amazon- it was MUCH cheaper than
The authors in turn derive their information from The Papers of
Benjamin Franklin. New Haven: Yale University Press. vol 30, page 345.
I haven't checked this out for myself just yet but will do so shortly.
The book goes into detail about how Franklin designed the loans himself
in 1780 while staying in Passy, a suburb of Paris during his term as
ambassador. He designed the loans presented to the French government,
even developing a special typeface for the printing. Apparently came
up with the novel idea of adhering a strip of marbled paper down the
middle of a loan agreement. This agreement would be written on two
halves and cut part in an odd, irregular angle down the middle. The
irregular cutting of the document in half is the same manner in which
indentures and other legal documents were created. The validity of
the document would be proven by matching the two halves. The presence
of marbled paper in the cut added another level of security to the
transaction. They reproduce two such documents and they are done to
full scale and therefore very nice to look at!
Unfortunately for some of my fellow American marblers, there has been a
tendency to associate early marbled paper production in the America
with Benjamin Franklin. Many had written that marbled bank notes,
some of which were printed by Franklin's grandson Benjamin Bache, were
printed on marbled paper made by Franklin, or under his patronage. The
authors of this new book shed some light on this, as Franklin
apparently mentions how he obtained the paper in his memoirs.
Apparently, the papers were all purchased at the stationer's shop of
James Woodmason in London and then smuggled into France!! The authors
then marvel at the irony of the fact that these loans to help finance
the American revolution were executed upon papers smuggled from
However, while the paper may not be of American manufacture, I'm very
willing to place my bets that the INDIGO used to marble the paper was
imported from the colonies, and in this respect, South Carolina was
definitely a leading manufacturer at that time..... Oddly enough the
book makes no mention of the early continental notes that feature
marbling, such as those printed by Benjamin Bache. So I wonder if the
notes and loans were closely scrutinized and compared, if they might
actually match. the example with just a border may well still be a
sign of domestic American production, yet who knows?
Benson's Hand Bindery
Fine Custom Bookbinding, Conservation, & Hand Marbled Papers
Jake Benson, Proprietor
1027 Brookwood Circle
West Columbia, SC 29169
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
- Thank you Jake for the heads up; I doubt I'd have noticed THE ORIGINS OF VALUE otherwise.
A pretty fascinating book aside from the marbling interest.
Have you gotten a chance to check the authors' reference to Franklin's PAPERS? The
arguments they put forward for the English origin of the wove paper and resist marbling
strike me as a bit overstretched. I've not examined one of the Loan notes in person but from
reproductions I don't see anything about them to support the claim of exceptionally high
quality, rarity, or expense.
It would be most curious if Franklin, having (according to Dard Hunter) introduced Paris to
wove paper in 1777, had to smuggle it into France a few years later! And why would Franklin
not have seen to its making and marbling in France and then later, for his experimental
American money bills, Stateside? I'm hoping that you can set me straight on this.
Now if only there were some way to get your talk for those of us unable to attend. Again my
thanks and all best to you, James
- Hi Jim,
It turns out that we don't have Vol. 30 of the Papers of Benjamin Franklin here at USC.
Hence I have to order it through ILL. Yet I think you are asking a lot of very good
or if it was simply that "paper" , meaning the wove paper was smuggled, before it was
marbled. the papers will hopefully have an answer to that if they are explicit or not. I
think the paper may have been smuggled and then specially marbled in Paris (perhaps a
special comission by Franklin of the successor to the marbling firm featured in the
Encyclopedie of Diderot & d'Alembert?) then printed at Passy by Franklin before they were
presented to the governent.
The marbling is not an adhered strip of paper but directly marbled to the center of a long
rectangular sheet, and blocked off likely using another piece of paper on the right and left
halves. So the marbling is integral to the sheet that the loan was printed on. Then it was
cut in an irregular manner into two halves that could be proven to positively match. I
wonder if marbling is French Marbling on English paper. this treatment s so unusual, I
have ahrd time thinking it was done in London to order in that manner. Also the pattern
on the loan seems more like the papers seen in France at that time.
As to whether the marbling on the bill notes is native manufacture, who knows? It will
take a lot of study and research. The marbling is used in a different manner, and variant
patterns are observed that are distinct from the loans, something the authors of the book
seem to have failed to observe.
In the past we have tended to lump the production of the loans together with the bill
notes, but now I wonder if the loans were very specifically conjured up by Franklin at
Passy... which led to some of the bill notes produced in a similar manner stateside. One
bill note featuring a chevron pattern was printed by Benjamin Bache, Franklin's grandson.
Others are not so explicit, so he may not have printed them all, but it has seemed likely,
given the circumstances. Aside from the papers and patterns used for the notes, another
feature that could be looked into is Franklin's penchant for designing the type for these
projects. Franklins use of small tree leaves in the printing process as a security device is
also remarkable. One wonders if a note combining marbling together with the leaves weer
I have never inspected of the bill notes or the loans in person, only the images in Wolfe's
book. Those bills and the loan are kept at
Has anyone on the list seen these items firsthand and care to add to the discussion?
Another billnote is up for sale at Denly's in Boston, which I posted a few months back.
As is so often the case, this publication may bring up more questions than answers, but it
is still really nice to see the attention paid to the subject at all, and VERY full-page color
--- In Marbling@yahoogroups.com, "jthandbook" <jthandbook@y...> wrote:
> Thank you Jake for the heads up; I doubt I'd have noticed THE ORIGINS OF VALUE
> A pretty fascinating book aside from the marbling interest.
> Have you gotten a chance to check the authors' reference to Franklin's PAPERS? The
> arguments they put forward for the English origin of the wove paper and resist marbling
> strike me as a bit overstretched. I've not examined one of the Loan notes in person but
from reproductions I don't see anything about them to support the claim of exceptionally
high quality, rarity, or expense.
> It would be most curious if Franklin, having (according to Dard Hunter) introduced Paris
to wove paper in 1777, had to smuggle it into France a few years later! And why would
Franklin not have seen to its making and marbling in France and then later, for his
experimental American money bills, Stateside? I'm hoping that you can set me straight on
> Now if only there were some way to get your talk for those of us unable to attend. Again
my thanks and all best to you, James
- Hello all... as it turns out the marbled Loan Notes produced by Franklin at Passy and held by
the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia are part of the touring exhibition being put
together for Franklin's 300th anniversary next year. To see them in person, information and
your closest venue can be found online at benfranklin300.org.
I have also learned that the Johannot papermakers at Annonay France were producing wove
paper no later that 1778 and that by 1781 their paper was awarded a gold medal by the King.
It is known that Franklin used laid paper produced by Johannot at his press at Passy, why not
the wove? It seems a forensic analysis of the paper has not been done but is needed to
answer the question of its origin.