One of the book arts most commonly encountered by book collectors, especially on volumes which pre-date publishers' cloth bindings (as well as on many modern fine press titles), is marbling:
Marbling is believed to have been invented in China over 2000 years ago, and is known to have been used on paper (in Japan) as early as the 12th century CE. It has been used for bookbindings and endpapers for hundreds of years:
Marbling has been used to create bindings that are exclusively (or almost exclusively) marbled paper, and it has been used to create bindings that are a mix of other materials (such as leather) and marbled paper:
In books, though, marbling usually is seen to best effect when it is used to create endpapers...
...and pastedowns for books:
Marbling also is often used to enhance the appearance of the edges of the textblock:
The basics haven’t changed very much over the past several hundred years. It still involves depositing bits of color on the surface of water (to which a thickening agent has been added) and arranging those colors, through the use of combs or other implements, into patterns that are then transferred to a sheet of paper.
In suminagashi (Japanese paper marbling), the earliest and simplest form of marbling, inks are applied to the surface of the water with tapered brushes. The ink floats and the water urges the spots of colour into concentric bands (as depicted in the image below):
More complex marbling can be achieved using so-called Turkish marbling, the normal process in the West, where inks are added to the surface of a viscous mucilage known as sizing and then manipulated with a variety of implements (demonstrated in the image below by marbler John Bielak):
One can find marbling demonstrated in numerous videos that are readily available on the Internet. (See, for example, Paper Marbling [Set #1] and Paper Marbling [Set #2] under our Bookish Podcasts & Webcasts on the right-hand side of this blog.)
Folks interested in exploring this art in more depth will find that a number of titles have been penned about the subject, any one of which likely would be a welcome addition to one's bookshelves:
Of course. once you get started, it may be hard to stop collecting such books, especially if you decide to take up marbling yourself....