Decorative paper: bound to be beautiful

In bookmaking, decorative paper was once frequently used for covers or endpapers (the first sheets of thick paper that are glued to the cover and protect the book block, like a vestibule to the first “real” pages).

In the 18th century, decorative paper reached Europe at the height of its refined, artistic beauty. Unfortunately, it is now part of a long-lost tradition.

The most important paper manufacturers in Italy were in Bassano del Grappa (were the Remondinis, a noted family of typographers, were active until the 19th century), Naples, Rome, Florence, and Bologna.

Decorative paper could be xylographed (the oldest technique), gilded (embossed or not, it was a favorite in Germany), marbleized (another traditional method), or decorated with flour glue-based colors: in any case, its hues and patterns were a burst of beauty every time you opened the book. What a wonderful way to start a new read!

Here is a selection of 18th-century xylographed and gilded papers.

Xylographed paper for two Venetian books from the second half of the 1700s

Xylographed paper for two Venetian books from the second half of the 1700s

Xylographed paper made in Rome in the second half of the 1700s

Xylographed paper for a Venetian book from the second half of the 1700s

Xylographed paper for a German book from the second half of the 1700s. Bookbinding by Remondino, Bassano del Grappa

Xylographed paper for five Roman books from the second half of the 1700s

Xylographed paper for an 18th-century book

Xylographed paper for a Venetian book from the second half of the 1700s

Xylographed paper for a brochure made in Rome in the second half of the 1700s

Xylographed paper for a brochure made in Rome in the second half of the 1700s. Made by the Remondinis, Bassano del Grappa

Xylographed paper for a German book from the second half of the 1700s. Likely made in Fabriano

Xylographed endpaper for a 1778 book made in Turin

Gilded and embossed paper for a brochure made in Rome in the first half of the 1700s

Gilded and embossed paper for a brochure made in Rome in the first half of the 1700s

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