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The Art of Bookbinding
by Joseph W. Zaehnsdorf Published in London 1897
Chapter XVI
Colouring the Edges
The edges of every book must be in keeping with the binding.  A half roar book should not have
an expensive edge, neither a whole bound morocco book a sprinkled edge.  Still, no rule has
been laid down in this particular, and taste should regulate this as it must in other branches.  The
taste of the public is so changeable that it is impossible to lay down any rule, and I leave my
reader to his own discretion.  Here are various ways in which the edges may be coloured.
Sprinkled Edges
Most shops have a colour always ready, usually a reddish brown, which they use for the whole of
their sprinkled edge books.  The colour can be purchased at any oil shop.   A mixture of burnt
umber and red ochre is generally used.  The two powders must be well mixed together in a
mortar with paste, a few drops of sweet oil, and water.  The colour may be tested by sprinkling
some on a piece of white paper, allowing it to dry, and then burnishing it.  If the colour powders
or rubs, it is either too thick, or has not enough paste in it.  If the former, some water must be
added; if the latter, more paste: and it will perhaps be better if the whole is passed through a
cloth to rid it of any coarse particles.  The books may be sprinkled so as to resemble a kind of
marble by using two or three different colours.  For instance, the book is put in the lying press
and a little sand is strewn upon the edge in small mounds.  Then with a green colour a moderate
sprinkle is given.  After allowing it to dry, more sand is put on in various places, a dark sprinkle of
brown is put on, and the whole allowed to dry.  When the sand is shaken off, the edge will be
white where the first sand was dropped, green where the second, and the rest brown.  A colour
of two shades may be made by using sand, then a moderately dark brown sprinkled, then more
sand, and lastly a deeper shade of same colour.
  There are a few of the “Old Binders” who still use what is called the “finger brush,” a small
brush about the size of a shaving brush, made of stiff bristles cut squarely.  They dip it into the
colour, and then by drawing the finger across it jerk the colour over the edge.  Another method is
to use a larger brush,which being dipped in the colour is beaten on a stick or press-pin until the
desired amount of sprinkle is obtained.  But the best plan is to use a nail brush and
Marbling Sprinkling Brush a common wire cinder sifter.  Dip
the brush in the colour and rub it in
a circular direction over the cinder
sifter.  This mode has the
satisfactory result of doing the
work quicker, finer, and more
uniformly.  The head, foredge and
tail must be of exactly the same
shade, and one end must not have
more sprinkles on it than the
other, and a set of books should
have their edges precisely alike in
tone and colour.
Colours for Sprinkling
To give an account of how the various colours are made that were formerly used would be only waste of time, as so many
dyes and colours that answer all purposes may be purchased ready for instant use.  I may with safety recommend Judson’
s dyes diluted with water.

Plain Colouring
The colour having been well ground is to be mixed with paste and a little oil, or what is perhaps better, glaire and oil.  Then
with a sponge or with a brush colour the whole of the edge.  In colouring the foredge the book should be drawn back so
as to form a slope of the edge, so that when the book is opened a certain amount of colour will still be seen.  It is often
necessary to give the edges two coats of colour, but the first must be quite dry before the second is applied.  A very good
effect may be produced by first colouring the edge yellow, and when dry, after throwing on rice, seeds, pieces of thread,
fern leaves, or anything else according to fancy, then sprinkling with some other dark colour.  For this class of work body
sprinkling colour should always be used.  It may be varied in many different ways.
Marbled Eggs
The edges of marbled books should in almost every instance correspond with their marbled ends.  In London very few
binders marble their own work, but send it out of the house to the Marblers, who do nothing else but make marbled edges
and paper.  One cannot do better than send one’s books to be marbled; it will cost only a few pence, which will be well
spent in avoiding the trouble and dirt that marbling occasions;  Nevertheless I will endeavor to explain, it is, however, a
process that may seem very easy, but is very difficult to execute properly.
  The requisites are long square wooden or zinc trough about 2 inches deep to hold the size for the colours to float on;
the dimensions to be regulated by the work to be done.  About 16 to 20 inches long and 6 to 8 inches wide will probably
be large enough.  Various colours are used, such as lake, rose, vermillion, king’s yellow, yellow ochre, Prussian blue,
indigo, some green, flake white, and lamp black.  The brushes for the various colours should be orf moderate size, and
each pot of colour must have its own brush.  Small stone jars are convenient for the colours and slab of marble and muller
to grind them must be provided.  The combs may be made with pieces of brasswire about two inches long, inserted into a
piece of wood; several of these will be required with the teeth at different distances, according to the width of the pattern
required to be produced.  Several different sized burnishers, flat and round, will be required for giving a gloss to work.
Marbling Trough
  The first process in marbling is the preparation of the size on which the colours are to be floated.  This is a solution of
gum tragaeanth, or as it is commonly called, gum dragon.  If the gum is placed over night in the quantity of water
necessary it will generally be found dissolved by the morning.  The quality of gum necessary to give proper consistency to
the size is simply to be learned by experience, and cannot be described; and the solution must always be filtered through
muslin or a linen cloth before use.
 The colours must be ground on the marble slab with a little water, as fine as possible; move the colour from time to time
into the centre of the marble with a palette knife, and as the water evaporates added a little more.  About one oz. of colour
will suffice to grind at once, and it will take about two hours to do it properly.  Having everything at hand and ready, with
the size in the trough, and water near, the top of the size is to be carefully taken off with a piece of wood the exact width
of the trough, and the colour being well mixed with water and a few drops of ox gall, a little is taken in the brush, and a
few very fine spots are thrown on. If the colour does not spread out, but rather stinks down, a few more drops of gall must
be carefully added and well mixed up.  The top of the size must be taken off as before described, and the colour again
thrown on.
 If it does not then spread out, the ground or size is of too thick consistency, and some clean water must be added and
the whole well mixed.
 If the colour again thrown on spreads out, but looks rather grayish or spotty, then the colour is too thick, and a little
water must be added, but very carefully, lest it be made too thin.  If the colour still assumes a grayish appearance when
thrown on, then the fault lies in the grinding, and it must be dried and again ground.
 When the colour, on being thrown on, spreads out in very large spots, the ground or size is too thin and a little thicker
size should be added.  Now, if the consistency or the amount of gum waster be noticed, by always using the same quantity
the marbler cannot fail to be right.
If the colours appear all right on the trough, and when taken off on a slip of paper adhere to it, the size and colours are in
perfect working order.

The top of the size must always be taken off the piece of wood before commencing work, so that it be kept clean, and the
colours must always be well shaken out of the brush into the pot before sprinkling, so that the spots may not be too large.  
The marbler must always be guided by the pattern he wishes to produce, and by a little thought he will get over many
difficulties that appear of greater magnitude than they really are.
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