Wallpaper

 Wallpaper

In choosing paper for a room, avoid that which has a variety of colours, or a large showy figure, as no furniture can appear to advantage with such. Large figured papering makes a small room look smaller, but, on the contrary, a paper covered with a small pattern makes a room look larger, and a striped paper, the stripes running from ceiling to floor, makes a low room look higher. 


Three kinds of paper-hangings have for some time past been much used on account of their beautiful appearance and their moderate price. The first and plainest is that which has on it figures printed or drawn either with one or more colours. The second sort contains figures covered with some woolly stuff pasted over them; and the third, instead of woolly stuff, is ornamented with a substance that has the glittering brightness of gold and silver. It appears that the idea of covering walls with parti-coloured paper might have readily occurred, but the fear of such hangings being liable to speedy decay may have prevented the experiment from being made. In my opinion the simplest kind was invented after the more ingenious, that is to say, when the woolly or velvet kind was already in use 1140. The preparation of them has a great affinity to the printing of cotton. Wooden blocks of the like kind are employed for both; plates of copper are also used; and sometimes they are painted after patterns. Artists possess the talent of giving them such a resemblance to striped and flowered silks and cottons, that one is apt to be deceived by them on the first view. Among the most elegant hangings of this kind, may be reckoned those which imitate so exactly every variety of marble, porphyry, and other species of stones, that when the walls of an apartment are neatly covered with them, the best connoisseur may not without close examination be able to discover the deception. That the resemblance may be still greater, a hall may be divided by an architect into different compartments by pillars, so as to have the appearance of a grand piece of regular architecture. Whether M. Breitkopf at Leipsic was the inventor of this kind of hangings, I do not know, but it is certain that he brought it to great perfection.

The second kind, or, as it is called, velvet-paper (now called flock-paper), is first printed like the former, but the figures are afterwards wholly, or in part, covered with a kind of glue, over which is strewed some woolly substance, reduced almost to dust, so that by these means they acquire the appearance of velvet or plush. The ground and the rest of the figures are left plain; but the whole process is so complex that it is impossible to convey a proper idea of it by a short description. The shearings of fine white cloth, which the artist procures from a cloth manufactory, and dyes to suit his work, are employed for this purpose. If they are not fine enough, he renders them more delicate by making them pass through a close hair-sieve. This, as well as the third kind, was formerly made much more than at present upon canvas; and, in my opinion, the earliest attempts towards this art were tried, not upon paper, but on linen cloth. The paper procured at first for these experiments was probably too weak; and it was not till a later period that means were found out to strengthen and stiffen it by size and paste.

The invention of velvet-paper is by several French writers 1141  ascribed to the English; and, if they are not mistaken, it was first made known in the reign of Charles I. On the 1st of May 1634, an artist, named Jerome Lanyer, received a patent for this art, in which it is said that he had found out a method of affixing wool, silk and other materials of various colours upon linen cloth, silk, cotton, leather and different substances with oil, size and cements, so that they could be employed for hangings as well as for other purposes 1142. The inventor wished to give to this new article the name of Londrindiana, which appears however not to have continued in use. It is worthy of remark, that this artist first made attempts to affix silk upon some ground, but that method as far as I know was not brought to perfection; that he employed for the ground, linen and cotton cloth, or leather; and that no mention is made of his having used paper, though he seems not to have confined himself entirely to leather or cloth.

Tierce, a Frenchman, has however disputed this invention with the English; for he asserts that one of his countrymen at Rouen, named François, made such kinds of printed paper-hangings so early as the year 1620 and 1630, and supports his assertion by the patterns and wooden blocks which are still preserved, with the above-mentioned years inscribed on them 1143. He is also of opinion, that some Frenchmen, who fled to England when persecuted for their religion, carried this art along with them. The inventor's son followed this business to a great extent for more than fifty years at Rouen, and died in 1748. Some of his workmen went privately to the Netherlands and Germany, where they sold their art; and the French, therefore, with great confidence maintain, without knowing our artists and their works, that foreigners in this branch of manufacture are still far behind them. In most works of the kind my countrymen indeed are only imitators, not through want of talents to invent or to improve, but because our great people, for whom they must labour, consider nothing as fashionable or beautiful, except what has been first made by the French or the English.

I shall here observe, that Nemeitz ascribes the invention of wax-cloth-hangings, with wool chopped and beat very fine (these are his own words), to a Frenchman named Audran, who in the beginning of the last century was an excellent painter in arabesque and grotesque figures, and inspector of the palace of Luxemburg at Paris, in which he had a manufactory for hangings of that kind 1144. What particular service he rendered to the art of making paper-hangings, I have not however been able to learn. Equally uncertain and defective is the information of Von Heinecken 1145 , that one Eccard invented the art of imprinting on paper-hangings gold and silver figures, and carried on a manufactory for such works.

In regard to the time when these hangings began to be made in Germany, I can only say that the oldest information I know respecting them is to be found in a work 1146  by Andrew Glorez von Mahren, printed for the first time in 1670. It shows that the art was then very imperfect as well as little known, and that it was practised only by women upon linen for making various small articles 1147.

One of the most ingenious new improvements in the art of manufacturing these hangings, consists in bestrewing them here and there with a glittering metallic dust or sand, by which they acquire a resemblance to rich gold and silver brocade. From the above-quoted work it appears that artists began very early to cover some parts of paper-hangings with silver-dross or gold-foil; but as real gold was too dear to be used for that purpose, and as imitations of it soon decayed, this method seems not to have been long continued. Instead of these, Nuremberg metallic dust as well as silver-coloured foil are employed. Metallic dust is the invention of an artist at Nuremberg, named John Hautsch, who constructed also a carriage which could be moved by the person who sat in it. He was born in the year 1595, and died in 1670. His descendants have continued to the present time the preparation of the metallic dust, which is exported in large quantities from Nuremberg, and is used in shell-work, lackered-ware, and for various other purposes. It is prepared by sifting the filings of different metals, washing them in a strong lye, and then placing them on a plate of iron or copper over a strong fire, where they are continually stirred till their colour is altered. Those of tin acquire by this process every shade of gold-colour, with a metallic lustre; those of copper the different shades of red and flame-colour; those of iron and steel become of a blue or violet; and those of tin and bismuth appear of a white or bluish-white colour. The dust, tinged in this manner, is afterwards put through a flatting-mill, which consists of two rollers of the hardest steel, like those used by gold and silver wire-drawers, but for the greater convenience a funnel is placed over them 1148. I have in my possession samples of all the above kinds, which have an exceedingly beautiful appearance. This metallic dust is affixed so strongly to paper by means of a cement, that it is almost impossible to detach it without tearing the paper, as is the case with the paper-hangings procured from Aachen. In French, such paper is called papier avec paillettes. The lustre of it is so durable that it continues unaltered even on the walls of sitting-apartments. The metallic dust however has a considerable weight, which may undoubtedly injure the paper.

This inconvenience may have induced artists to employ, instead of metallic dust, that silver-coloured mica, which has been long used in the like manner. So early as the seventeenth century the miners at Reichenstein in Silesia collected and sold for that purpose various kinds of mica, even the black, which acquires a gold-colour by being exposed to a strong heat 1149. The nuns of Reichenstein ornamented with it the images which they made, as the nuns in France and other catholic countries ornamented their agni Dei, by strewing over them a shining kind of talc 1150. The silver-coloured mica however has not such a bright metallic lustre as metallic dust, but it nevertheless has a pleasing effect when strewed upon a white painted ground, and its light thin spangles or scales retain their brightness and adhere to the paper as long as it lasts. At present I am acquainted with no printed information respecting the method of laying on metallic dust and mica, nor do I know where artists procure the latter, which in many countries is indeed not scarce. I shall here observe, that I once saw at Petersburg a kind of Chinese paper, which appeared all over to have a silver-coloured lustre without being covered with any metallic substance, and which was exceedingly soft and pliable. It bore a great resemblance to paper which has been rubbed over with dry acid of borax. I conjecture that its surface was covered with a soft kind of talc, pounded extremely fine; but as I have none of it in my possession at present, I can give no further account of it.

[The manufacture of this important and elegant substitute for the ancient “hangings” of tapestry has undergone a gradual succession of improvements, and has now reached a high state of beauty and perfection. The patterns on these papers are sometimes produced by stencil plates, but more commonly by blocks, each colour being laid on by a separate block cut in wood or metal upon a plain or tinted ground. The patterns are sometimes printed in varnish or size, and gilt or copper-leaf applied; or bisulphuret of tin is dusted over so as to adhere to the pattern; and in what are called flock-papers, dyed wools mixed into powder are similarly applied. Powdered steatite or French chalk is used to produce the peculiar gloss known under the name of satin. Striped papers are sometimes made by passing the paper rapidly under a trough, which has parallel slits in its bottom through which the colour is delivered; and a number of other very ingenious and beautiful contrivances have lately been applied in this important branch of art. The invention of the paper-machine, by which any length of paper may be obtained, effected a great change in paper-hangings, which could formerly only be printed upon separate sheets, and were much more inconvenient to print as well as to apply to the walls 1151.]

Footnotes

1140  The simplest or worst articles are not always the oldest or the first. The deterioration of a commodity is often the continuation of an invention, which, when once begun, is by industry practised in every form, in order that new gain may be acquired from each variation. The earliest printers, for example, had not the art of printing with such slight ink and on such bad paper as ours commonly employ; and Aldus, perhaps, were he now alive, would be astonished at the cheap mode of printing some of our most useful and popular books.

1141  Origny, in Dictionnaire des Origines, v. p. 332. Journal Œconomique, 1755, Mars, p. 86. Savary, Dictionnaire de Commerce, iv. p. 903.

1142  I shall here insert the words of the patent: “To all those to whom these presents shall come, greeting. Whereas our trusty and well-beloved subject and servant Jerome Lanyard hath informed us, that he by his endeavours hath found out an art and mystery by affixing of wool, silk and other materials of divers colours upon linen cloth, silk, cotton, leather and other substances, with oil, size and other cements, to make them useful and serviceable for hangings and other occasions, which he calleth Londrindiana, and that the said art is of his own invention, not formerly used by any other within this realm, &c.”—Rymeri Fœdera, tom. xix. London, 1732, fol. p. 554. The following observations may serve to illustrate all works of this nature in general. Painting, according to the most common technical meaning, may be divided into three kinds. In the first the colours or pigments are mixed with a viscous or glutinous fluid to bind them, and make them adhere to the body which is to be painted. Gums, glue, varnish, &c. may be used for this purpose. Vegetable colours will not admit of such additions, because they contain gum in their natural composition. Another kind consists in previously washing over the parts that are to be painted with some viscous substance, and then laying on the colours as the figures may require. Size or cement (I use the word in the most extensive sense) is of such a nature that either in drying or glazing it becomes hard, and binds the colours. To this method belongs not only gilding, imitating bronze and making velvet-paper-hangings, but also painting on glass and in enamel. By the third method the colours are applied to the ground without any binding substance: they are therefore more liable to decay, as is the case in painting with crayons; but they will however adhere better when the pigments consist of very fine particles like ceruse, or black-lead. It would be a great acquisition if a substance could be found out to bind the colours used in this art without injuring them, or to fix the crayons. The third kind of painting is not with colours, but with different bodies ready coloured, which are joined together in pieces according to a copy, either by cement or plaster, as in mosaic, or by working them into each other, as in weaving and sewing, which is painting with the needle.... Are not the works of art almost like those of nature, each connected together as a chain? Do not the boundaries of one art approach those of another? Do they not even touch each other? Those who do not perceive this approximation are like people unacquainted with botany, who cannot remark the natural order of plants. But if a connoisseur observe a gap in the chain of artificial works, we are to suppose that some links are still wanting, the discovery of which may become a merit to more ingenious ages.

1143  Journal Œconomique, 1756, Fevrier, p. 92.

1144  Both his brothers, John and Benedict Audran, were celebrated engravers.

1145  Nachrichten von Künstlern und Künstsachen. Leipzig, 1768, 8vo, ii. p. 56. The author, giving an account of his travels through the Netherlands, says, “Before I leave the Hague I must not omit to mention M. Eccard's particular invention for making paper-hangings. He prints some which appear as if worked through with gold and silver. They are fabricated with much taste, and are not dear.”

1146  Haus- und Land-bibliothek, iii. p. 90.

1147  The author says, “I shall give an account of a beautiful art, by which one may cover chairs, screens and other articles of the like kind, with a substance of various colours made of wool, cut or chopped very fine, and cleaned by being made to pass through a hair-sieve.... I remember that two Swabian women travelled about through some countries, and taught people this art, by which means they gained a good deal of money.” Of the author I have been able to procure no information. His book is a compilation selected without any taste, and according to the ideas of the seventeenth century, from different writers, almost always without mentioning the sources from which the articles are taken; but it deserves a place in public libraries, because it contains here and there some things which may help to illustrate the history of agriculture and the arts.

1148  Kunkels Glasmacher-Kunst. Nurnb. 1743, 4to, p. 368. J. J. Marxens Neu vermehrte Materialkammer.

1149  Volkmann, Silesia Subterranea. Leipzig, 1720, 4to, p. 52.

1150  Pomet.

1151  Brande's Dictionary of Science, &c.