Codex purpurus

Acquired from K. Frigge, Joppe
Acquisition: 1992-1997
Date: Ca. 1990
Size: 30 x 38 cm.
Shelfmark: PC.C SIEMA FRI 07

One of the most well-known types of decorative paper is marbled paper. This decorative paper has been used in Europe for covers of bookbindings and end leaves since the sixteenth century. Making marbled paper requires a marbling tray. This is where the 'size' goes. Thinned with water, the size is a viscous mass derived from substances such as Irish moss. Next, dye or pigment solutions are sprinkled on the size, resulting in a marbling pattern floating on the surface. The pattern is determined by the solvents used, and by additives such as ox gall and other chemicals if applied. A marbling comb or other pointy implements can be used to further manipulate the pattern. Finally, a sheet of paper is carefully laid on top of the marbling pattern. The paper, which in some cases has been specially pre-treated in order to allow the pigments to adhere more effectively, absorbs the colours and the marbling pattern on the size is transferred.

There are dozens of characteristic marbling patterns and the names used to describe them in books as well as in practice are not always the same. In order to eliminate confusion and to facilitate the cataloguing of decorative paper collections, an international working group is currently drawing up a list of standard terminology for marbled paper and other decorative paper.
Marblers often keep their techniques a secret. Karli Frigge, on the other hand, makes a point of explaining her methods in many of her publications. Renowned as marbler in the Netherlands as well as abroad, she also provides technical instructions in her Codex Purpurus series: purple parchment-bound workbooks made by herself, containing original marbling experiments. In the excerpt from the series shown here, she presents the various stages in the process to bouquet marbled paper. (HP)