Recreating an 18th century hand-blocked paper

Our Domino Almanachs are hand bound in paper covers using a striking and very contemporary looking block paper that we have designed, printed and coloured here in house at the Guild of Theophilus. 

The inspiration for this block paper is an original 18th-century design that we found covering a set of eight volumes in an institutional library in Wales.  The volumes (one shown above) were printed in the 1780s in Arnhem in the Netherlands and the block paper is probably of about the same date.   We have come to expect that antiquarian books are always bound in leather, but binding books in colourful block papers of this sort, was not all that uncommon in the Low Countries, Germany and French in this period.  

The work on our recreation of this wonderful design began with a series of very detailed concept drawings, which were worked up into a full scale design in pen and ink.  This full scale drawing was then used as the basis for a digital image from which a photopolymer printing block was made.  The original eighteenth century paper would have been printed using a wooden or metal block.  

The production of the plate using modern technology was our only deviation from the original process.  The individual sheets were printed by hand using block.  The inked block was printed by hand in our printing press onto a substantial handmade paper.  Above is a newly printed sheet being pulled off the block.  

The plain sheets are left to dry before the final operation takes place, the addition of colour, which really lifts this geometric design off the sheet. 

Using a flat ended stencilling brush and two different stencils, acrylic colour is applied to surface of the paper - this is built up gradually in layers with a virtually dry brush to give a strong depth to the colour. 

The final result of all this work is a historically accurate and very striking book paper that has depth and a three-dimensional quality to it. The dense paper we use along with the ink and acrylic pigment, make the paper covering very tough and durable and perfect to cover our soft back notebooks.