Norma Rubovits: The Art of Marbled Papers and Fine Bindings

Norma Rubovits in 1969
Norma Rubovits creating marbled paper in 1969.

Since the Middle Ages, people have crafted books that stand as great works of art. Interest in such fine objects has waxed and waned over the centuries, but in our times it has flourished because of people like Norma Rubovits.

In the early 1960s, Norma became entranced by paper marbling—layering ink on a watery surface to create intricate one-of-a-kind monoprints, often used in bookbinding. She not only learned how to do it, in part through research at the Newberry, but took the practice from obscurity to new levels of artistry and prominence, working from her “studio”—the laundry room of her former home in Chicago.

Norma continues to be a vital force in the world of marbled papers and fine binding. Since 1991, she has donated items to the Newberry, where Paul Gehl, Custodian of the John M. Wing Foundation on the History of Printing, oversees the collection of some 5,000 items, including marbled papers, fine bindings, and books on technique dating back to the eighteenth century.

The Newberry stands as a place where, among many other things, beautiful books and publications on how to make them are collected, protected, and cherished. People such as Norma Rubovits help ensure that our curators, conservation staff, catalogers, and program staff have the resources needed to preserve such books and make them available to each new generation.

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