Since 1976, I have published six books on paper marbling. Most are by Richard Wolfe, but I also did books by Iris Nevins and about Karli Frigge. The main attraction of these books are the tipped-in samples of beautiful hand-marbled papers. A few years ago, Sidney Berger, now the director of the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum, sent me the manuscript of his book about Edward Seymour. Seymour ran the Fancy Paper Co. from 1924 to 1971, where he produced machine-made marbled papers for the book trade. The book documents Seymour's manufacturing process, which relied upon a Rube Goldberg-looking machine of his own invention. When
I saw samples of Seymour's marbled papers, I felt they looked mechanical and unexciting, so I turned Berger down. Machine-made papers cannot compare with hand-marbled papers, but Seymour's pseudo-marbles were very cheap and widely used by many British book publishers.
What I failed to understand at the time was that as plain as these papers seem, they are an important part of the history of marbling. There is precedent for such papers. In the early nineteenth century, the firm Montgolfier, of France, began to produce a line of pseudo-marbles that were probably the best such papers ever made. They have been recently described as "a delight to behold, even today." Of course, they were much cheaper than the real thing. At least as early as 1926, the Japan Paper Co. in New York sold another type of French machine-marbled paper for prices ranging from $44 to $105 per ream—vastly cheaper than hand-made paper, and they weren't bad-looking either.
I missed the point when I turned this book down. There are countless books on the art of marbling, but this is the first on machine marbling. You can look all you want, but you won't find another. Any collection of books on marbling history that doesn't include this title is incomplete. The edition consists of 300 copies, letterpress printed, quarter-bound in leather, and accompanied by a nicely made slipcase. The book includes sixteen tipped-in samples of Seymour's work. How it can be sold for only $150 is beyond me. Get a copy before it disappears.