The Art of Decorated Papers

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A love of colour, pattern and sparkle, and a desire to embellish our surroundings runs throughout human history. In seventeenth and eighteenth-century Europe this need for glamour was often met with mass-produced decorated paper. Pasted to furniture, boxes or book covers, paper gave the effect of luxury and sophistication, at a much lower cost than carving, gilding, or expensive textiles.

Once a ubiquitous part of everyday life, decorated paper is fragile and seldom survives on objects which were heavily used. In contrast, book endpapers, on the insides of the covers, are protected from wear and tear, and even the outside covers of books can survive in good condition.

The University of Edinburgh has recently acquired a collection of decorated paper which will be expanded, digitised and catalogued as a systematic study collection for research and teaching. It is the only collection of its type in Scotland, and one of only four in the UK. We hope to see as many people as possible learning from it and enjoying it.

Throughout the exhibition you will find links in the text to download copies of the papers, for use in your own craft projects, and to enjoy, just as the makers of the originals intended.