Marbled paper was probably created in China or Japan and came to Middle East at the beginning of 15th Century. It was introduced in Europe in the years following the battle of Lepanto (1571) by venetian artisans, who begun making marbled paper with spots-decoration. In 18th Century the french "Royal bookbinder" Machet Rouet invented a new decoration technique - the so-called «combing» - which has been further developed after him and is now the most known.
At the end of 18th Century marbled paper came to Florence, where it was used in a first time only for decorating edges of books; then it begun to be used also for endpapers and covers and as a beautiful covering for many objects.
Water gilding is an ancient traditional technique used by Italian and European artists and artisans. It was widely used in medieval (especially byzantine) and renaissance art: gold leaf was applied on the background of paintings to enhance details such as halos of saints, and on frames and other objects to enrich them.
Gilding has been widely used from 13th Century until today, not only on paintings but also in architecture (e.g. for decorating doors), in luxury household articles and for church ornaments - today it is mainly used for the decoration of wooden frames.
The art of bookbinding originated between 2nd and 4th Century A.D. when latin books changed their form from «volumen» ("scroll") to «codex» consisting of several fascicles sewn together and then inserted between two covers, as are the books we use today. For many centuries books were very rare and expensive, and the binding emphasized their value: sacred texts and important works had often their covers enriched with cloth, ivory and precious stones
With printing and advance in education, books became more accessible and of fairly common use. Bookbinders developed simplier bindings, which were - and are - still based upon the same techniques: today's traditional bookbinding differs from the medieval one almost exclusively for the materials used in the working - cords instead of animal ligaments for sewing, cardboard instead of wooden panels for covers.
This art is based upon very ancient techniques; it is used for creating impressive imitations of marble and semi-precious stones.
The word «scagliola» stems probably from the «scaglie» ("blades") which characterize selenite, a crystal gypsum used for preparing the scagliola mixture.
Scagliola was developed in 17th Century in Emilia Romagna - an italian region where marble and similar stones are very scarce but plenty of selenite is to be found - mainly in the city of Carpi, which soon became an important centre for the production of altar ornaments in scagliola for churches. From there this art spread to other italian regions: Lombardy, Marche and Tuscany. Florence has been a capital of scagliola since 18th Century.
Nowadays craftsmen who master this art are very few; they produce tables, small decorated objects and panels with motives or figures.