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A couple of weeks ago, Archives and Special Collections took part in the Festival of Communities, an annual event co-ordinated by Queen Mary University of London which explores living and learning across the Borough of Tower Hamlets.

9 July 2019

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Visitors to the Festival of Communities have a go at paper marbling

Inspired by some of the items in the Library’s rare books collection, we encouraged Festival visitors to have a go at an ancient craft – paper marbling.

Originating in the Far East, paper marbling was brought to Europe around 1600 via the Middle East. It soon became a popular material for bookbinders, who would use the marbled papers as endpapers (the first and last pages of a book, each comprising of a double page spread with one half pasted on to the inside of the cover).

Queen Mary Library's rare books collection contains hundreds of books with marbled endpapers and marbled covers. They are some of our favourite books because of their striking colours and beautiful designs.

Traditional Western marbled paper is created by dropping inks into a water bath, manipulating them with a comb or stylus, then laying paper on the surface of the water to transfer the pattern. Visitors to the Festival of Communities had the opportunity to try this out for themselves – and we were very impressed with their results!

Paper marbling is a fun (if sometimes messy) activity which is easy to replicate at home – so why not give it a go? If you need some inspiration, we can highly recommend joining the facebook group We Love Endpapers.

To view items from the rare books collection, please search the Library Catalogue or email



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