Marbled cloth

Posted on 24th October 2023 by simonbeattie

Everyone’s heard of marbled paper. You see it all the time on old books. But how about marbled cloth? Here’s a nice example on the first edition in English of Mallet du Pan‘s Memoirs and Correspondence (London, Bentley, 1852). Cloth bindings by this time were standard, so publishers sought to appeal to potential book buyers by varying things a little, now that the technology of producing such variation had developed. ‘If black-ink blocking could thus make easy the publishing of cheap editions, it could also—when blended with gold and used for all-over patterning of a self-confident Victorian type—facilitate a new kind of handsomeness in book production.’  Publishers’ binders at the time satisfied their clients’ desire for more elaborate coloured designs ‘by devising mottled, marbled and otherwise variegated cloths, which unfortunately never became anything other than unusual, probably because they were more costly than the normal [but] experimental bindings in variegated colouring produced some of the most attractive books which have survived from mid-nineteenth century times.  Perhaps because examples are not common, the amateur of nineteenth-century book-making is now and again tempted to buy a book just for the quaintness of its mottled clothing’ (Sadleir, The Evolution of Publishers’ Binding Styles, pp. 63, 65).

For more details on this and other books I shall be exhibiting later this week at the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair, please click here.

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