A brief history of Marbling
The origins of Western marbling are disputed, but the
earliest recorded use is from Turkey, dated 1539-40.
Turkish marblers developed it into a highly prized art form which specialized in the stylized depiction of flowers and repeated motifs. The name “ebru” is loosely used for this art. As marbling cannot be copied exactly, it was the perfect background for official and legal documents.
When the Ottoman empire was rediscovered by the Western world in the 18th Century, the secrets of the Turkish marblers gradually made their way into Europe, where a great flourishing of the art occurred until its near-demise in the Industrial Revolution.
In the 18th and early 19th Centuries European
bookbinder/marblers developed our traditional designs. Marbled paper
was used extensively not only for books but to decorate everything from
walls to stationery.
However it was a closely guarded, secretive craft in those years. Only master marblers knew the whole craft – apprentices were assigned only parts of the process. It was a dirty, labour-intensive and often dangerous operation, with the use of many toxic elements and chemicals for the paints , solvents and preservatives.
Although some instruction manuals were published in the 1800’s, Josef Halfer with his 1885 publication “The Progress of the Marbling Art” revolutionized the art and fully described his carefully researched methods.
Modern 20th Century marbling has been carried on by
enthusiastic amateurs and a number of dedicated professionals who have
researched the neglected craft and developed new patterns and methods.