In the 17th century Louis XIII's bookbinder, Mace Ruette, invented a technique for making paper that resembled marble, but the process used was far removed from the assembly-line technology of today: each sheet of the "marbleized" paper was individually designed by a printer who first placed a solution of water and herbs in a basin (or "cuve"), applied colors to the surface of the solution, mixed them with brushes and combs to create a design and then set the paper on the colors to get an imprint. This process produced one sheet of paper with a unique design. The printed then repeated these steps to make other sheets, although he could never duplicate exactly the designs on any of them. This painstaking printing method has all but disappeared, but one shop in Florence, Italy, has kept alive the tradition, and has just branched out to share "papier a cuve" objects in its first American store, II Papiro. Among the objects at II Papiro are boxes in several sizes and shapes, for jewelry, notepaper or other treasures ($4.50 to $26); napkin rings ($3); address books, lined-and blank-page books ($2.90 to $16); pencils (60 cents to $2); bookends ($13.15 and $14.90); and billfolds ($4.50). For your own designs, you can buy single sheets of this hand-decorated paper ($6 each). And in the back room a Florentine printer daily demonstrates the making of "papier a cuve."
II Papiro. 1529 Wisconsin Ave. NW. Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. 338-6555 . disappeared.
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