New Exhibition Focuses on the Art of Decorated Papers

The University of Edinburgh

Bronze-varnish paper

The many varied uses, designs, and production methods involved in decorated papers are highlighted in a new online exhibition put together by the University of Edinburgh.

The Art of Decorated Papers, curated by Rare Books and Literary Collections Curator Elizabeth Quarmby Lawrence, draws from a collection of more than 170 examples of decorated paper acquired from bookseller Simon Beattie earlier in the year. This includes examples of techniques dating from the long 18th century. Work is ongoing to catalogue and digitise the collection which is the only collection of its type in Scotland, and of only four in the UK.

Endpapers to the binding of a presentation copy of: Edmund Chishull, Against Duelling
The University of Edinburgh

Endpapers to the binding of a presentation copy of: Edmund Chishull, Against Duelling. A Sermon Preach'd Before the Queen ... November 23, 1712, (London, 1712). Pink-brushed paper, printed with a woodblock, using black and bronze varnish

edition book binding
The University of Edinburgh

Saverio Bettinelli, Il Parnaso Veneziano Poemetto ... Riprodotto e Illustrato nel SOlenne Ingress di S.E> Cavaliere Messer Antonio Cappello, Alla Dignità di Procuratore di San Marco, (Venice, 1796). Pink paper, block-printed with a design specially made for the book

moravian paste paper
The University of Edinburgh

Robert Lowth, The Life of William of Wykeham, 2nd edition, (London, 1759). Paper, coloured with blue paste, patterned with a comb

Brocade Paper Wrappers
The University of Edinburgh

Disputatio Juridica [Faculty of Advocates, Edinburgh]. Theses of Adam Duff, 1799, and Archibald Fletcher, 1790. Paper, stencilled with squares of colour, then printed with metallic leaf; Paper brushed with orange ink, then printed with metallic leaf

Book coverings/wrappers and endpapers are central to the exhibition and many of the items on show are available for free downland and use for personal craft projects. Among examples are bronze varnish paper, brocade, block printed specimens, and paste, including an edition binding from North America by printer and bookseller Isaiah Thomas who imported brocade papers from Germany and used them as attractive wrappers on small books for children. 

The Fine Books & Collections Winter 2023 print issue features a article on decorated papers, looking at the new book Pattern and Flow: A Golden Age of American Decorated Paper by Mindell Dubansky, museum librarian for preservation at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and published by Yale University Press.