bookbindingnaked bookbindingbookbinding

Print this page

Marbling supplies


MARBLING may be defined as the art of so arranging moist colours upon an elastic surface, that they either will or can be made to readily assume sundry fantastic forms, such colours being transferable from the medium on which they lie to the edges of the book. The process, viewed by a casual spectator, appears wonderfully easy and simple; but it is, nevertheless, most difficult to describe or practice, and the tyro who attempts it must not be discouraged if he fails at first.

The tools required for marbling are a shallow wooden trough, about 2in. deep, and of size suited to your work, generally about 16in. to 20in. in length, and 6in. to 8in. wide will be large enough. It may be of pine, dovetailed at the corners, pitched along the joints, and painted (Fig. 87). Sometimes zinc is the material of the trough.

A little round stick; several combs, of which the one for small Dutch (Fig. 88) is made of many short pieces of fine brass wire set between a couple of pieces of wood (see Fig. 89); a marble slab and muller for grinding; and an earthenware cup and small brush for each colour.

Colours used in Marbling.

The colours used for this purpose are the same as those ordinarily used for painting, both in oil and distemper, but you must procure them in their dry state, just as they are produced or manufactured, either in lump or powder, and grind them yourself ; they may be obtained at almost any oil and colour shop. We subjoin a list : Reds, drop lake, peach wood red, vermilion, rose pink, Oxford ochre (burnt); bluesindigo, Chinese blue, ultramarine, Prussian blue; yellowslemon chrome, Dutch pink, Oxford ochre (raw), blacks vegetable lampblack, drop ivory black; brownTurkey umber (burnt); orangeorange lead, orange chrome; whiteschina clay, pipeclay, flake white, Paris white.

All the colours must be well ground with a muller and marble slab in the manner prescribed in a former chapter for grinding sprinkle. It is of the greatest importance that the colour should be ground until perfectly impalpable.

Drop lake.

This is the most beautiful, but the most expensive, of all the reds, and is used only for book edges and the most superior kinds of work. There are different shades of this colour, viz., scarlet, crimson, and purple. The scarlet is the most expensive, and looks best on book edges, possessing a brilliancy which no other colour will produce; but there is a great quantity of a very inferior kind of drop lake about which is of no use whatever to the marbler, as, when it comes to be worked, it is found to possess no body at all. In order to ascertain whether the article you are about to purchase is likely to do, take a piece of the colour, and, breaking it, apply the broken part to your tongue : if it adheres to your tongue, it is doubtful whether it will do; but if it takes up the moisture without manifesting any inclination to adhere, you may try it with better expectations. This colour is sold in the form of small cones or drops, from which it derives its name, and is a preparation of cochineal, therefore the value of it depends much upon the price of that article.


This colour is but little used, on account of its great specific gravity, and seldom without being combined with some other colour. It is a preparation of mercury, and, though nominally a much lower price than lake, it is so heavy that it comes nearly as dear as that article.

Rose Pink.

This is a very useful, though common, colour; it is composed of chalk or whiting, coloured with Brazil wood, consequently it is what is termed a fugitive colour, the pink very quickly fading on exposure to the atmosphere or heat. When combined with indigo or a little Chinese blue, it makes a good purple.

Burnt Ochre.

This colour is sometimes called stone ochre. It is one of the most useful colours we have, and, as the price is low, it is extensively used. With the addition of a little black it makes a good brown; with a little blue or indigo it makes a good olive; or it is a good colour used by itself, and not liable to change.

Wood Lalce.

This is a preparation of peach wood, and has only been introduced of late years to the notice of marblers. It is manufactured at Birmingham. This colour is an exception to the rule, as it is sold in the pulp or damp state, and may be mixed and even used without grinding, being made almost exclusively for marbling. It is the best red we have for general purposes, and for appearance comes next to the drop lake.

Chinese Blue.

This is a very beautiful, but not a very durable, colour. It is, however, an almost indispensable one to the marbler, as it will produce nearly every shade of blue by the addition of certain proportions of white. This colour requires particularly well grinding, as, indeed, do all the blues; it is also sold at some places in the pulp or damp state. There is a very good damp blue made in Birmingham. I


This is a most valuable colour, and cannot be dispensed with under any consideration. It is too well known to require any description here. Though not a bright colour, it is one of the most durable, and for mixing and producing greens and purples of a permanent kind is invaluable; neither can you make a good black without its help: but be sure you procure it good.


This is a very beautiful colour, but must be used sparingly, as it will not glaze or take any polish, and is always inclined to rub off. The kinds now in general use are the French and German, the genuine article being far too high in price for this kind of work.

Prussian Blue.

This colour has of late been almost superseded by the Chinese blue, which is a much brighter colour; Prussian blue is darker and much heavier looking, and is, moreover, a very bad colour for glazing.

Dutch Pink.

This is a common, but very useful, colour. It is a preparation of whiting and quercitron bark, and is used in making greens, no other colour answering the purpose so well. It is also very useful in mixing with chrome to produce the various shades of yellow you may require.


This is of various shades, varying from a light lemon colour to a deep orange, approaching to red. It is a useful colour; but, unless it is pure, it is very difficult to get it to work properly.

Raw Ochre or Oxford Ochre.

This may be used in certain proportions for making olive tints, combined with Dutch pink and blue or black. It is also of use in small quantities to mix with yellows when they are inclined to run off, this colour being of a very adhesive nature.

Drop Ivory Slack.

This colour cannot well be used alone; it may, therefore, be called only an auxiliary to others.

Vegetable Slack.

This is a superior kind of lampblack, but prepared from vegetable instead of animal matter. It is surprisingly light, and cannot be used alone; it will not produce a black for marbling, except in combination with double its own weight of good indigo.

Turkey Umber (burnt).

This colour produces a very good brown, but it is hardly required if you have the burnt Oxford ochre; as, with the aid of that colour and a little indigo and black, you may produce almost any shade of brown you may require.

Orange Lead.

This is a very heavy colour, and is but little used, except for the edges of account books.


For this an article called china clay is used; also, for some purposes, the common pipeclay. Flake white may also be used, but the others are much cheaper, and answer every purpose. Paris white is a similar thing to the former.

Marbling Gum.

Of all the varieties of gum, there is but one that is of any use to the marbler, and that one is called gum tragacanth, or gum dragon. You cannot be too particular in your choice of this article, on which so much of the excellence of your work depends. It should be large, white, and flaky. Good gum will produce a good surface, but bad gum will often yield a rough one, which is unsuitable to the purpose. Again, a bad gum will sometimes give a smooth surface, and yet possess no strength: the colours will flow well upon it, and form properly, and when the paper is taken off it will look at first very beautiful; but, five or ten minutes after, you will find the colours all running off, to your indescribable annoyance and mortification. To properly prepare the gum, procure a large earthen pan, glazed on the inside, capable of containing from eight to twelve gallons of water ; put therein lib. of gum tragacanth, and on it pour about two gallons of soft water; stir it every few hours with a clean birch broom, kept expressly for the purpose, breaking the lumps, and adding more water as it thickens or absorbs that which was first put to it: in about forty-eight hours you may venture to make use of it, but seventy-two hours would be better, and wo have known some gum to be all the better for a longer period; as, although a considerable portion of the gum may be dissolved, yet the best properties of it are not extracted till the whole is dissolved. It must be strained through a fine hair sieve before using, and if any lumps remain, put them back into the pan in which you soak them, until they are all dissolved. Linseed.It is possible to marble some patterns on mucilage of linseed, but it can never be made to produce a satisfactory effect. It is made either by boiling one quart of linseed in six or eight gallons of water, or by pouring that quantity of boiling water upon the linseed, and well stirring it till it extracts the mucilaginous properties of the seed; but it very soon decomposes or turns to water.

Carrageen, or Irish Moss.

This is sometimes used, but can be dispensed with altogether. It is not a necessary thing: we simply mention it because it is made use of by a few. When used, it should be well picked (the white being the best) and washed ; then set to simmer in a gentle heat for an hour or two, and strain through your fine hair sieve. It will then be ready for use, but will require a proportion of the solution of gum tragacanth, or you will not be able to do much with it.

Flea Seed.

This is an article but little known, except to those who have occasion to vise it. It is a small, brown, havd seed, in size, shape, and colour closely resembling the annoying little insect whose name it bears. It produces a very strong and powerful mucilage, far stronger than that which can be obtained from linseed; and what enhances its value is, that it does not so soon lose its strength, or turn to water, but will keep several days. It is a great assistant, mixed with gum, in the making of French and Spanish marbles; but is worse than useless for Nonpareils and Drawn Patterns. To prepare it, put 1lb. of the seed into a pan, pour upon it a gallon of boiling water, keep it well stirred for ten minutes, and let it stand for half an hour; then stir it again for ten minutes more, and in another half hour add another gallon of boiling water, stirring it, as before, at intervals for one hour; after which, let it remain, and the seed will settle at the bottom of the pan. When cold, pour off the top for use, and the seed will bear more boiling water, though not so much as at first. Sometimes the seed will yield a third extract, but this you must determine by your own judgment, as the seed, when exhausted, will lose its viscid property, and must then be thrown away. Do not stir up your seed after it has cooled, or it will never settle until again heated, or having more boiling water added to it.

Ox Gall.

The surest way of obtaining this article genuine is to procure it in the bladder as it is taken from the animal, if you are acquainted with any butcher upon whom you can depend, for you must ascertain that the bag or bladder has never been broken. As we have been deceived ourselves in this way, we here expose the manner of the fraud. We had for some time been supplied with galls from a slaughter-house : but, finding that, notwithstanding they were brought in the bladder, the gall itself was very weak, we set to work to find out the cause, and discovered that the man who brought them procured one or two good galls and two or three empty gall bladders, the gall for which had been emptied out and sold to some one else; and, mixing the contents of the full ones wi th a quantity of water, he refilled the whole lot, carefully tying them up with a fine string, and selling them for the proper article. The gall from some animals is very thick, but will, after keeping for some time, get thin without at all losing its properties; in fact, gall is all the better for being kept, and is none the worse for stinking.


Soft, or rain water, when it can be procured, is the best adapted for all the preparations in marbling.

Previous page: Gilding edges
Next page: Marbling