With Her Majesty Beatrix, Queen of the Netherlands, and Turkish President Abdullah Gul





Marbling is a method of making patterned paper by transferring colour from the surface of a liquid to paper. These papers are then used for the endpapers, to hide the lumps and bumps caused by leather turn-ins and cords, or to cover the sides of books where patterned papers don't show marks of wear so easily as plain papers.

Marbling is a most enjoyable art form, although one requiring great patience. The first thing is to select suitable paper, as not all paper can be used. The paper needs to be hard-wearing and able to absorb the paint thoroughly. Masters of calligraphy in former times preferred to write on what was known as 'dressed' paper, which had had a mixture of cornstarch and egg-white rubbed over its surface. Marbling practitioners, on the other hand, preferred raw, 'undressed' paper since the 'dressed' version did not absorb paint well.

The traditional manner of marbling paper is often called "Turkish" marbling or ebru because it originated in the old Ottoman empire of the 15th century. Water-based inks containing ox gall (bile) as a dispersant are floated on the surface of water thickened with gum tragacanth or carragheenan moss (actually a seaweed). The colours are then drawn into patterns by means of sticks or combs, specially-prepared paper is laid gently on the surface, left for a few seconds, and just as gently removed, rinsed (to wash off dirty size or excess colour), and hung to dry. Papers used should be fairly hard-surfaced and treated with alum as a mordant to take the pigment and to improve colour tone and colour fastness.

Marbling used to be extensively employed in bookbinding and calligraphy. On occasion, particularly interesting and attractive designs are used as pictures. Turkey has produced many great exponents of the art, such as Hatip Mehmed Efendi (18th century), Şeyh Sadık Efendi (19th century) and Bekir Efendi (early 20th century). Among the last great masters produced after Necmeddın Okyay, both Mustafa Düzgünman (born 1920) and Niyazi Sayın (born 1927) are particularly worthy of mention.

Dr Kileci