Marbled Paper Connections

EMERGING SCHOLARS > SUMMER RESEARCH GRANTS

by Emily Pazar
University of Delaware, Winterthur Program in American Material Culture, MA Candidate

I am the grateful recipient of the Decorative Arts Trust’s Marie Zimmermann Summer Research Grant for my thesis research on marbled endpapers and edges on books. Marbling is a means of decorating paper by floating pigments on a liquid bath, manipulating the pigments into patterns, and then setting paper on top of the bath to absorb the colors. I am studying what marbled papers themselves say about the production, sale, purchase, and use of books and paper-decorated objects during the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the United States. The Trust’s grant allowed me to examine marbled papers in the University of Iowa’s Special Collections.

German-born Ernst Hertzberg established the bindery in Des Moines, IA, in the late 19th century, and his descendants continued the enterprise in various forms through the 20th century. The company archives are housed in the University of Iowa’s Special Collections and include numerous scrapbooks with photographs, articles, and letters, in addition to paper sample books and correspondence between paper suppliers and buyers at the Hertzberg Company.

Sample books promoted marbled papers from Japan, Italy, France, and England, among other countries. Abstract fantasy designs on textured surfaces were placed in the same books as bright, combed marbled designs on smooth machine-made paper. Other sample books showed marbled paper imitations made in the United States, including a line of lithographed papers called “Comertex,” sold by several American paper distributors. There is correspondence between the Hertzberg Bindery and an American firm selling Cockerell marbled papers from England, accompanied by bright, precise marbled samples on both paper and cloth. All of these samples and letters, along with Hertzberg advertising and company history documents, reveal a dense network of paper trade between producers, suppliers, and bookbinderies.

Besides the Hertzberg records, I also accessed books from the Guild of Bookworkers Collection. This collection is rich in marbling manuals, which I was able to compare side-by-side to see how authors were responding to each other, providing similar or diverging advice on the marbling process and including marbled samples as an advertisement for their methods. The collection includes an 1856 copy of James Nicholson’s A Manual of the Art of Bookbinding, published in Philadelphia, which includes a detailed description of the marbling process based closely on C.W. Woolnough’s 1853 English manual, The Whole Art of Marbling as Applied to Paper, Book-edges, etc. Seeing the books and their paper samples together gave context to the products that individuals and paper companies were making in the mid-19th century.

I extend my thanks to the Decorative Arts Trust and the Marie and John Zimmermann Fund for supporting this scholarship. The samples, books, and records I saw on this trip are invaluable additions to how I understand networks of marblers, paper suppliers, and bookbinders.

UPCOMING EVENTS

SAVE THE DATE
  • Spring Symposium  New Orleans, April, 2018
  • Sweden & Denmark May/June 2018
  • Fall Symposium Upper Hudson River Valley, September 2018
  • Fall Study Trip Abroad Vienna, Prague & Budapest, October 2018

by Emily Pazar
University of Delaware, Winterthur Program in American Material Culture, MA Candidate

I am the grateful recipient of the Decorative Arts Trust’s Marie Zimmermann Summer Research Grant for my thesis research on marbled endpapers and edges on books. Marbling is a means of decorating paper by floating pigments on a liquid bath, manipulating the pigments into patterns, and then setting paper on top of the bath to absorb the colors. I am studying what marbled papers themselves say about the production, sale, purchase, and use of books and paper-decorated objects during the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the United States. The Trust’s grant allowed me to examine marbled papers in the University of Iowa’s Special Collections.

German-born Ernst Hertzberg established the bindery in Des Moines, IA, in the late 19th century, and his descendants continued the enterprise in various forms through the 20th century. The company archives are housed in the University of Iowa’s Special Collections and include numerous scrapbooks with photographs, articles, and letters, in addition to paper sample books and correspondence between paper suppliers and buyers at the Hertzberg Company.

Sample books promoted marbled papers from Japan, Italy, France, and England, among other countries. Abstract fantasy designs on textured surfaces were placed in the same books as bright, combed marbled designs on smooth machine-made paper. Other sample books showed marbled paper imitations made in the United States, including a line of lithographed papers called “Comertex,” sold by several American paper distributors. There is correspondence between the Hertzberg Bindery and an American firm selling Cockerell marbled papers from England, accompanied by bright, precise marbled samples on both paper and cloth. All of these samples and letters, along with Hertzberg advertising and company history documents, reveal a dense network of paper trade between producers, suppliers, and bookbinderies.

Besides the Hertzberg records, I also accessed books from the Guild of Bookworkers Collection. This collection is rich in marbling manuals, which I was able to compare side-by-side to see how authors were responding to each other, providing similar or diverging advice on the marbling process and including marbled samples as an advertisement for their methods. The collection includes an 1856 copy of James Nicholson’s A Manual of the Art of Bookbinding, published in Philadelphia, which includes a detailed description of the marbling process based closely on C.W. Woolnough’s 1853 English manual, The Whole Art of Marbling as Applied to Paper, Book-edges, etc. Seeing the books and their paper samples together gave context to the products that individuals and paper companies were making in the mid-19th century.

I extend my thanks to the Decorative Arts Trust and the Marie and John Zimmermann Fund for supporting this scholarship. The samples, books, and records I saw on this trip are invaluable additions to how I understand networks of marblers, paper suppliers, and bookbinders.

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