Marbled Paper

I have read that the Chinese invented marbled paper centuries ago as an anti-counterfeiting tool.  However, I have also read that it originated in 12th century Japan. I don’t really know, but I do know several centuries did pass before the technology to make marbled paper made its way to Europe. By at least the 17th century, they ended up being used as end papers in some books.  I know this because I own an original Book of Common Prayer published in 1614 that has marbled end pages.  In Europe, the marbling technology was hidden within families who guarded their secrets by working at night and by purchasing their supplies from different vendors from different places so that no one could figure out their secret.

Benjamin Franklin, fearing counterfeiting, insisted that marbled paper be used as an anti-counterfeiting tool and even provided the marbled paper.  It was in use by 1775 (see the currency below). In 1777, during the Revolutionary War, the British actually did use counterfeiting in an attempt to devalue and destabilize the currency of the rebelling colonies.

Finally, in 1853, Charles Woolnough, one of the last of the marbling families, disclosed the marbler’s trade secrets in his book, The Art of Marbling.  Otherwise, I would not know how to make the marbled paper that I put into our books today.