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I’ve been tracking Tristram Shandy’s famous marbled pages down for a while now. Every one is different, because that’s the nature of marbling. But this one in Queens Library is my favourite so far, for lots of reasons. First of all, there’s been a bit of poor planning. It’s been pasted inbetween page 112 and 113, but because so no space has been left it’s an addition rather than a substitution. Consequently the pages don’t add up. Here’s a book with not one but 2 page 111s and 112s. The other nice thing is that you can really see the production process in the pencil lines marking off the margins in preparation for the marbling. The paper remembers, even after all these centuries, where it has been folded backwards and forwards so both sides could be dipped into the bath of paint. Best of all, though, the hapless papermarbler has left us not just one finger print but two. A lot of book history lately has been about recovering the labour of printing and composition, about seeing the book as an object that had to be made not just by the author but by many hands. Here is a direct trace of that labour, and those actual hands. Someone, probably working in less than ideal conditions, pushed for time has accidentally left his (?) trace on the page. As a bonus, there’s a hole, presumably from later damage, where the text peeks through. Sterne’s ‘motley emblem’ becomes even more motely

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