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Title: Marbled Paper
Original Title: Papier marbré
Volume and Page: Vol. 11 (1765), p. 859
Author: Louis, chevalier de Jaucourt
Translator: Audra Merfeld-Langston [Missouri University of Science and Technology, audram@mst.edu]
Subject terms:
Arts
Original Version (ARTFL): Link
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URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.did2222.0001.236
Citation (MLA): Jaucourt, Louis, chevalier de. "Marbled Paper." The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d'Alembert Collaborative Translation Project. Translated by Audra Merfeld-Langston. Ann Arbor: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library, 2010. Web. [fill in today's date in the form 18 Apr. 2009 and remove square brackets]. <http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.did2222.0001.236>. Trans. of "Papier marbré," Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, vol. 11. Paris, 1765.
Citation (Chicago): Jaucourt, Louis, chevalier de. "Marbled Paper." The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d'Alembert Collaborative Translation Project. Translated by Audra Merfeld-Langston. Ann Arbor: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library, 2010. http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.did2222.0001.236 (accessed [fill in today's date in the form April 18, 2009 and remove square brackets]). Originally published as "Papier marbré," Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, 11:859 (Paris, 1765).

Marbled paper, ( Arts. ). Marbled paper is a paper painted with diverse shades, or different colors. It is made by applying a sheet of paper to water in which one has diluted diverse colors with oil and ox’s gall, which prevents mixing: according to the design one creates with a comb, one can form waves and plumes . Here is the manner in which marbled paper is made in England.

A trough is prepared in the shape and dimensions of the paper to be marbled, and of four fingers’ depth, made of lead or wood, well joined and coated so that it can contain the liquor. For the liquor, a quadroon of gum tragacanth is soaked for four or five days in clear water: it is stirred from time to time and new water is added every day, until it has a bit less consistency than oil, then it is poured into the small trough.

The colors to be applied thereon are, for blue, indigo ground up with white lead: for green, indigo and orpiment, one ground and the other diluted, mixed and that have boiled together in common water: for yellow, ground and diluted orpiment: for red, the finest lake ground with Brazilian wood scrapings, which have been prepared by boiling them for half a day. In all of these colors, one mixes a bit of ox’s gall, or fish, which has aged two or three days. If the colors do not spread out well on their own, they add a little more gall; on the other hand if they spread out too much, it is necessary to overload the gall and correct it, by adding to it color without gall.

Here is the process of marbling : when the gum is well settled in the trough, they lay out a sheet of paper that they dip on the surface of the liquor, and immediately remove it in order to agitate it and make the gum sediment rise to the surface, and so that the liquor is more universally impregnated. Once this is done, and all of the colors arranged in gallipots, on a table where the trough is, they start by dipping a hog’s hair brush in each color, ordinarily starting with blue, and they spread it on the surface of the liquor. If the color is well prepared, it will dilate on its own. Next, they apply the red in the same manner, but with another brush; next, the yellow, and finally the green: for white, it is made by adding a bit of clear water mixed with ox’s gall over the liquor.

When the colors are thus floating on the liquor, to give them these agreeable nuances that we admire in marbled paper , they use a pointed stick that they insert into the liquor, pulling from one end of the trough to the other with skill, and so that this stick agitates the liquor and the floating colors: then with a comb they hold by the head with both hands, they comb the surface of the liquor in the trough from one end to the other, being sure to only dip the teeth. If this operation is done with a prompt, uniform movement, it produces these clouds and undulations whereon much of the beauty of this paper depends.

If one prefers that the colors represent fantastical figures, such as serpents and the like, this is done by using the abovementioned pointed stick, tracing these figures over what has already been combed; for this effect it is necessary to have a dexterous hand, and to agitate the surface of the liquor in a circular motion, as if one wanted to trace some flower, or form letters.

Finally the colors being in this state, the worker spreads out and applies on top a sheet of wet white paper : this necessitates in the worker a skill that only practice can give, as the paper and the surface of the liquor must meet everywhere. Next, before the colors have the time to penetrate, which would happen soon, unless the paper was very thick, they nimbly remove this paper with one hand, and then spread it out for a time on a board, they suspend it afterwards on a cord to dry it. When it is sufficiently dry, they polish it with a marble stone, or a piece of ivory.

It is necessary to observe that the colors in the trough must be renewed, and all of the other formalities with the pointed stick and the comb performed, at each application of a fresh paper , because each sheet of paper lifts away all of the color floating on the liquor. See Kirch , de luce et umbra, lib. X. Merret sur Nery, de arte vitr.ch. xlij. Hought, collect. t. II. p. 419. & seq .

Sometimes it has been tried to make marbled paper more rich, by mixing gold and silver with the colors, which has principally succeeded well for the French kings’ library: however, the great expense has prohibited this type of manufacture.

This entire process is drawn from Chambers. It is surprising that we can find no details about the art of marbling paper in Savari. See the article Paper Marbler, where this article is described in more detail. (D. J.)