A Dictionary of Arts: Paper-hangings.

A Dictionary of Arts, Manufactures, and Mines; containing A Clear Exposition of Their Principles and Practice

by Andrew Ure, M. D.;
F. R. S. M. G. S. Lond.: M. Acad. M. S. Philad.; S. PH. DOC. N. GERM. Ranow.; Mulh. Etc. Etc.

Illustrated with nearly fifteen hundred engravings on wood
Eleventh American, From The Last London Edition.
To which is appended, a Supplement of Recent Improvements to The Present Time.

New York: D Appleton & company, 200 Broadway. Philadelphia: George S. Appleton, 148 Chestnut St.


PAPER-HANGINGS, called more properly by the French, papiers peints. The art of making paper-hangings, papier de tenture, as been copied from the Chinese, among whom it has been practised from time immemorial. The English first imported and began to imitate the Chinese paper-hangings; but being exposed till very lately to a high excise duty upon the manufacture, they have not carried it to that extent and pitch of refinement which the French genius has been enabled to do, unchecked by taxation. The first method of making this paper was stencilling; by laying upon it, in an extended state, a piece of pasteboard having spaces cut out of various figured devices, and applying different water colours with the brush. Another piece of pasteboard with other patterns cut out was next applied, when the former figures were dry, and new designs were thus imparted. By a series of such operations, a tolerable pattern was executed, but with no little labor and expense. The processes of the calico printer were next resorted to, in which engraved blocks of the pear or sycamore were employed to impress the coloured designs.

Paper-hangings may be distinguished into two classes; 1. those which are really painted, and which are designed in France under the title of papiers peints, with brilliant flowers and figures; and 2. those in which the designs are formed by foreign matters applied to the paper, under the name of papier tontisse, or flock paper.

The operations common to paper-hangings of both kinds, may be stated as follows: -
1. The paper should be well sized.
2. The edges should be evenly cut by an apparatus like the bookbinder's press.
3. The ends of each of the 24 sheets which form a piece, should be nicely pasted together; or a Fourdrinier web of paper should be taken.
4. Laying the grounds, is done with earthy colours or coloured lakes thickened with size, and applied with brushes.

An expert workman, with one or two children, can lay the grounds of 300 pieces in a day. The pieces are now suspended upon poles near the ceiling, in order to be dried. They are then rolled up and carried to the apartment where they are polished, by being laid upon a smooth table, with the painted side undermost, and rubbed with the polisher. Pieces intended to be satined, are grounded with fine Paris plaster, instead of Spanish white; and are not smoothed with a brass polisher, but with a hard brush attached to the lower end of the swing polishing rod. After spreading the piece upon the table with the grounded side undermost, the paper-stainer dusts the upper surface with finely powdered chalk of Briançon, commonly called talc, and rubs it strongly with the brush. In this way the satiny lustre is produced.


Blocks about two inches thick, formed of three separate boards glued together, of which two are made of poplar, and one (that which is engraved) of pear-tree or sycamore, are used for printing paper-hangings, as for calicoes. The grain of the upper layer of wood should be laid across that of the layer below. As many blocks are required as there are colours and shades of color. To make the figure of a rose, for example, three several reds must be applied in succession, the one deeper than the other, a white for the clear spaces, two and sometimes three greens for the leaves, and two wood colours for the stems; altogether from 9 to 12 for a rose. Each block carries small pin points fixed at its corners to guide the workman in the insertion of the figure exactly in its place. An expert hand places these guide pins so that their marks are covered and concealed by the impression of the next block; and the finished piece shows merely those belonging to the first and last blocks.

In printing, the workman employed the same swimming-tub apparatus which has been described under block printing (see CALICO-PRINTING), takes off the colour upon his blocks, and impresses them on the paper extended upon a table in the very same way. The tub in which the drum or frame covered with calf-skin is inverted, contains simply water thickened with parings of paper from the bookbinder, instead of the pasty mixture employed by the calico-printers. In impressing the colour by the block upon the paper, he employes a lever of the second kind, to increase the power of his arm, making it act upon the block through the intervention of a piece of wood, shaped like the bridge of a violin. This tool is called tasseau by the French. A child is constantly occupied in spreading colour with a brush upon the calf-skin head of the drum or sieve, and in sliding off the paper upon a wooden trestle or horse, in proportion as it is finished. When the piece has received one set of coloured impressions, the workman, assisted by his little aid, called a tireur (drawer), hooks it upon the drying-poles under the ceiling. A sufficient number of pieces should be provided to keep the printer occupied during the whole at least of one day, so that they will be dried and ready to receive another set of coloured impressions by the following morning.

All the colours are applied in the same manner, every shade being formed by means of the blocks, which determine all the beauty and regularity of the design. A pattern drawer of taste may produce a very beautiful effect. The history of Psyche and Cupid, by M. Dufour, has been considered a masterpiece in this art, rivalling the productions of the pencil in the gradation, softness, and brilliancy of the tints.

When the piece is completely printed, the workman looks it all over, and if there be any defects, he corrects them by the brush or pencil, applying first the correction of one colour, and afterwards of the rest.

A final satining, after the colours are dried, is communicated by the friction of a finely polished brass roller, attached by its end gudgeons to the lower extremity of a long swing-frame; and acting along the cylindrical surface of a a smooth table, upon which the paper is spread.

The fondu or rainbow style of paper-hangings, which i have referred to this place in the article CALICO-PRINTING, is produced by means of an assortment of oblong narrow tin pans, fixed in a frame, close side to side, each being about one inch wide, two inches deep, and eight inches long; the colours of the prismatic spectrum, red, orange, yellow, green, &c., are put, in a liquid state, successively in these pans; so that when the oblong brush A, B, with guide ledges a, b, c, d, is dipped into them across the whole of the parallel row at once, it comes out impressed with the different colours at successive points e, e, e, e, of its length, and is then drawn by the paper-stainer over the face of the woollen drum head, or sieve of the swimming tub, upon which it leaves a corresponding series of stripes in colours, graduating into one another like those of the prismatic spectrum. By applying his block to the tear, the workman takes up the colour in rainbow hues, and transfers these to the paper. f, f, f, f show the separate brushes in tin sheaths, set in one frame.

At M. Zuber's magnificent establishment in the ancient château of Rixheim, near Mulhouse, where the most beautiful French papiers peints are produced, and where I was informed that no less than 3000 blocks are required for one pattern, I saw a two-color calico machine employed with great advantage, both as to taste and expedition. Steam-charged cylinders were used to dry the paper immediately after it was printed, as the colours, not being so rapidly absorbed as they are by calico, would be very apt to spread.

The operations employed for common paper-hangings, are also used for making flock paper, only a stronger size is necessary for the ground. The flocks are obtained from the woollen cloth manufacturers, being cut off by their shearing machines, called lewises by the English workmen, and are preferred in a white state by the French paper-hanging makers, who scour them well, and dye them of the proper colours themselves. When they are thoroughly stove-dried, they are put into a conical fluted mill, like that for making snuff, and are properly ground. The powder thus obtained is afterwards sifted by a bolting-machine, like that of the flour mill, whereby flocks of different degrees of fineness are produced. These are applied to the paper after it has undergone all the usual printing operations. Upon the workman's left hand, and in a line with his printing table, a large chest is placed for receiving the flock powders: it is seven or eight feet long, two feet wide at the bottom, three feet and a half at top. and from 15 to 18 inches deep. It has a hinged lid. Its bottom is made of tense calf-skin. This chest is called the drum; it rests upon four strong feet, so as to stand from 24 to 28 inches above the floor.

The block which serves to apply the adhesive basis of the velvet-powders, bears in relief only the pattern corresponding to that basis, which is formed with linseed oil, rendered drying by being boiled with litharge, and afterwards ground up with white lead. The French workmen call this mordant the encaustic. It is put upon the cloth which covers the inverted swimming tub, in the same way as the common colours are, and is spread with a brush by the tireur (corruptly styled tearer by some English writers). The workman daubs the blocks upon the mordant, spreads the pigment even with a kind of brush, and then applies it by impression to the paper. Whenever a sufficient surface of the paper has been thus covered, the child draws it along into the great chest, sprinkling the flock powder over it with his hands; and when a length of 7 feet is printed, he covers it up within the drum, and beats upon the calf-skin bottom with a couple of rods to raise a cloud of flock inside, and to make it cover the prepared portion of the paper uniformly. He now lifts the lid of the chest, inverts the paper, and beats its back lightly, in order to detach all the loose particles of the woolly powder.

By the operation just described, the velvet-down being applied everywhere of the same color, would not be agreeable to the eye, if shades could not be introduced to relieve the pattern. To give the effect of drapery, for example, the appearance of folds must be introduced. For this purpose, when the piece is perfectly dry, the workman stretches it upon his table, and by the guidance of the pins in his blocks, he applied to the flock surface a colour in distemper, of a deep tint, suited to the intended shades, so that he dyes wool in its place. Light shades are produced by applying some of his lighter water-colors.

Gold leaf is applied upon the above mordant, when nearly dry; which then forms a proper gold size; and the same method of application is resorted to, as for the ordinary gilding of wood. When the size has become perfectly hard, the superfluous gold leaf is brushed off with a dossil of cotton wool or fine linen.

The colours used by the paper-hangers are the following:-
1. Whites. These are either white-lead, good whitening, or a mixture of two.
2. Yellows. These are frequently vegetable extracts; as those of weld, or of Avignon or Persian berries, and are made by boiling the substances with water. Chrome yellow is also frequently used, as well as the terra di Sienna and yellow ochre.
3. Reds are almost exclusively decoctions of Brazil wood.
4. Blues are either Prussian blue, or blue verditer.
5. Greens are Scheele's green, a combination of arsenious acid, and oxide of copper; the green of Schweinfurth, or green verditer, as also a mixture of blues and yellows.
6. Violets are produced by a mixture of blue and red in various proportions, or they may be obtained directly by mixing a decoction of logwood with alum.
7. Browns, blacks, and grays. Umber furnishes of the brown tints. Blacks are either common ivory or Frankfort black; and grays are formed by mixtures of Prussian blue and Spanish white.

All the colours are rendered adhesive and consistent, by being worked up with gelatinous size or a weak solution of glue, liquefied in a kettle. Many of the colours are previously thickened, however, with starch. Sometimes coloured lakes are employed. See LAKES.

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