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The only thing more entrancing than a marbled book cover is the process that creates it

While a rarity on modern shelves, marbled book covers span both the globe and the centuries, with the craft found in East Asia, the Middle East and Europe, and dating back to roughly 1100 CE. This short documentary from 1970 highlights marbling as practised by William Chapman for the now-defunct Douglas Cockerell & Son Bindery in the English village of Grantchester near Cambridge. The film captures Chapman as he layers watercolours onto a base of carrageenan (or seaweed). He then forms intricate designs by stirring the pigments with a comb – in a process that’s perhaps even more aesthetically pleasing than the final product itself – before finally applying them to the paper. With each of Chapman’s designs crafted by hand and subject to artisanal imperfections, every cover is a true original.

Director: K V Whitbread

7 September 2020

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