Friday, March 4, 2011

Norwegian Arts and Crafts Book Papers

One day many years ago, while visiting Norway, I wandered into a small bookshop in the old part of Oslo. There on a long table were stacks of patterned papers. I soon learned that these were from the workshop of the famous Norwegian bookbinder and book artist H.M. Refsum.

Refsum worked in Kristiania (later called Oslo) from the mid 19th to the early 20th century. A master bookbinder in leather, but he really seemed to excel at decorating paper, which he used as endpapers, and also to cover books.

He employed a number of familiar paper printing techniques, such as


Woodblock or Linoleum Printing,

and Stencilling.

But he also experimented with texture,


Finger Painting,

and other techniques to manipulate the paints and ink on the surface of the paper.
His color palette and aesthetic seem to have been greatly influenced by the natural history of his native country, for example Reindeer Moss, the fjords, mountains, and the

Marine Environment - coral, sea urchins and jelly fish.

In the field of Book Arts, H.M. Refsum might be to Norway, what William Morris was to Great Britain.

A hundred years later his decorative papers still look fresh and modern.

Loving Refsum's turn-of-the-century take on sixties' tie-dye,


  1. Thank you for your tips on China! As you say these are still fresh and modern!

  2. These are some of the most beautiful papers I've ever seen in my life! Thanks so much for this post, Marjorie. I'll never forget it.