Decorative Papers in the Dryden Album

The Dryden Album (R.14.23) is known for its beautiful images of Greek and Turkish costume but Susanne Krause, a paper decorator and researcher based in Hamburg, has recently drawn our attention to the fact that the interleaved papers in the album are also of special significance.

When the album was catalogued in 1902, the interleaved papers were simply described using the catch-all term ’marbled papers’. In fact the album contains many different kinds of decorated paper including marbled, trickle, silhouette and surface-coloured. We describe these different kinds of paper below.

Marbled paper is unique in that the decoration is not made directly onto the paper.  The patterns result when colour is floated onto a liquid (either water or a viscous solution known as ‘size’). The pattern is transferred to the paper by placing the sheet on the liquid. There are several variations of marbled paper in the album, most of them are drawn marbled paper though probably not all made by the same hand.

Trickle papers are made by when coloured or uncoloured liquid has been purposely dropped or sprinkled and allowed to trickle downwards, leaving traces on the paper surface. Other – less usual or outdated – terms are dribbled paper, drizzle paper or trickle marble. In the Dryden Album, there are three variations of trickle paper. These papers are too old to be European – western trickle papers were very popular in the 19th century – so it is very likely that they are of Turkish origin.

Silhouette papers are made by cutting shapes in leather, parchment or felt and soaking them in liquid colours before pressing paper down on them. This is a Turkish technique which is older than the technique for marbled papers.

Surface-coloured paper, of which brushed paper is a sub group, is paper that has been covered completely with one or more colours. The technique of the application cannot always be determined with certainty. In the Dryden Album, several items are obviously brushed.

The album may also contain some sprinkle papers (f. 37 interleaf and f. 51 interleaf) which comprise of evenly distributed sprinkles of a similar size.

The endpapers are probably the same age as the interleaved papers but, like some of the marbled papers, may be Western in origin.

With thanks to Susanne Krause. She identified the papers from photographic images in the Wren Digital Library and provides the caveat that photographs can be deceptive.

Further Reading

Krause/Rinck, Decorated Paper–A Guide Book (Stuttgart 2016)

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