WALLPAPER WITHIN A RESTORATION PROJECT
PLANNING FOR WALL TREATMENTS
Planning for wall finishes should begin early in a project and should be predicated on solid research on the specific building to be restored. Basic, potentially expensive decisions about painting and/or papering should only be made after careful examination of the physical evidence in the building, documentary descriptions of the historic interiors, as well as more general written sources. This thorough research should be done before the start of any demolition or restoration work.
Outside expertise may be needed for identification of any wallpapers found during a restoration project. There are a number of museums with wallpaper reference collections that may be contacted to solicit their interest in offering professional assistance in identifying samples (see appendix A). If so, then duplicate samples accompanied by good clear slides of the room and wallpaper would be appropriate to send for examination. Preliminary, generalized, and brief statements of opinion about the date of a wallpaper, may be given free of charge, though many museums may set a minimal fee.
If more extensive information and research is required or requested, consultants' fees may be charged. On-site examination of wallpaper is often necessary, in which case, most of the listed museums can recommend consultants. Travel expenses and fees vary and may seem high on first consideration, but expertise is invaluable in planning the preservation of valuable wallpapers and can prevent costly mistakes.
Many kinds of expertise are needed in researching the various historical and physical aspects of an old building. Architect, engineer, architectural historian, historian, curator, and other trained personnel may all be needed. Ideally, personnel experienced in restoration work should do the preliminary research, both in documents and in the physical structure, and set the scope for the total restoration project.
In determining the appropriateness of wallpaper, there are some specific points to be covered. Part of the examination of a building should begin with any extant records of the business, institution or family connected with it. These should be studied for any references to wallpaper or other interior finishes. Diaries, business journals, bills of sale, public documents and construction contracts should be searched with care. Old photographs and portraits should be examined for visual evidence of patterned walls in the background. If there is evidence that specific rooms were papered, the physical examination of those rooms should be particularly diligent.
If an architect designed the house, his records and/or library might yield clues. Many wallpaper patterns were published in late 19th-century architectural journals. Studying the house-owner's library for publications on furnishings might reveal his taste in interiors, but can hardly be relied upon as conclusive evidence. On the other hand, scrapbooks, bookmarks, drawer linings, shelf paper, were often made from the remnants of wallpaper rolls. Even the clothes of paper dolls and the walls of family owned dollhouses should not be overlooked. Search in old pieces of furniture and under the linings of mirrors, prints, and paintings. Ends of rolls of paper may be still hidden in the attic under the eaves, and old wallpaper sample books have been preserved in these areas as well. Old boxes, trunks, hatboxes, and bandboxes should be examined with particular care, as they were frequently covered and lined as well as recovered and relined with leftover bits of wallpaper. The researcher should check for earlier layers under the topmost layer. Storage areas also may contain "fireboards," rectangular pieces of wood, large enough to cover a fireplace opening. During the 18th and 19th centuries, some fire-boards were decorated with wallpaper to match the rest of the room. Many fireboards were stored and forgotten. Again, these objects should be checked for more than one layer of paper. If possible, any furniture or documents related to the building, but now in the hands of descendants, should be checked for any information helpful in the restoration.
Before repair, demolition, or restoration begins, a search should be made for wallpaper still on the walls in the structure itself. In examining a building, painted walls should be carefully scrutinized under a raking light before test scraping for early paint, to see if the paint covers early paper. Sometimes the horizontal seams in early handmade hanging papers are discernable through layers of paint, as are the vertical edges of later papers. Rooms that have been stripped to what appears to be the bare plastered walls should be illuminated with black light and walls carefully studied for elements of early patterning. Chemical traces of coloring matter printed on papers have sometimes leached through the wallpaper paste and left an impression on the walls which, though in visible to the unaided eye, will appear under ultraviolet illumination.
All closets, which are frequently additions in old houses, should be searched carefully. Sometimes old wallpapers are preserved on the walls of closets with nothing more hiding them than a closet door. Search behind anything that has been added over the years: from paneling and partitions to large mirrors, paintings, and bathroom cabinets and from stairs, doors and window frames to moldings, and baseboards. Such examination should continue as the demolition work proceeds, especially with the removal of later additions.
It is not enough to look for wallpapers in only one part of a wall. All edges and outlines, all openings in the walls should be checked carefully for border papers often used with the major patterns. If one pattern is found above the chair rail, the search should begin for a different pattern below chair rail level, and at frieze level, as well as for the borders that may have divided them one from another. Ceilings should also be checked for over all patterns, borders, and center medallions.
When a wallpaper is discovered, measured elevations of the walls and plans of the ceilings should be drawn and coded notations made indicating where the evidence was found. In turn, each area of paper should be photographed in place using black and white as well as color transparency film, carefully including a scale and coding to correspond with the measured drawings.
Within a restored building, preservation in situ of old papers in good condition is the preferred procedure, not only as a responsible course within a conservationist's frame of reference, but also frequently, as the simplest and least expensive. Even if a room is to be adapted for some heavily trafficked use, original papers can be retained as is, behind Plexiglas or other protective covering.
But rarely will an old building retain original papers in presentable condition. If a papered room is found, the paper frequently requires extensive, skilled, and therefore expensive restoration (figure 20). If such restoration cannot be undertaken immediately, the paper could be carefully covered over with plasterboard so that the old papers can be preserved while the room is redecorated and used for whatever purpose until funding and time for proper restoration is available.
Often the old paper, or the supporting walls, are in such poor condition that in the interest of preserving and using a room, the paper must be removed. Before removal begins, the papered room should be thoroughly documented with a set of photographs as described above. Samples including full widths and repeat lengths should be numerically coded in pencil to correspond with any evidence drawings and, only then, should be carefully removed from the wall. It is essential, despite any ensuing research, that a copy of each type of sample be retained by the preservation project.
If a fine early paper is discovered, or if a large expanse of old paper appears which may be salvageable, an expert paper conservator should be called in to investigate the possibility of preserving it. The job of uncovering a quantity of paper that has been covered by later papers, or by paint, is not one for amateurs, nor should anyone, without long experience, be entrusted to remove a large expanse of paper and remount it for reuse.
In making paint scrapings, paper may be discovered under layers of paint. Removal of paint that has been applied directly to the paper is difficult, as often the paper has absorbed the paint. By testing on a few small areas, a solvent may be found that will remove the paint without disturbing the paper, allowing exposure of a representative area of the pattern. Sometimes, the paper layer from the desired historic period may lie beneath the painted paper. Lifting the later layer by steaming and loosening the water-soluble wallpaper paste is usually a simpler process than removing paint.
Walls bearing many layers of paper are frequently encountered in old houses (figure 11). The easiest way to examine the successive layers is to find an inconspicuous area where the whole "sandwich" of layerings has been loosened from the wall, and to remove the whole patch by carefully working a spatula behind it. Then the layers can be steamed apart on a horizontal surface, using a hand steamer (figure 36). To separate layers, the jet of steam should be directed at the paste on the underside of each successive layer until the paste is moistened, separating two layers which can then be pried apart with a spatula. As the paper becomes moist and weakens it should be supported with screening or the blotters.
If steaming proves difficult, and if quantities of duplicate paper are available to back up a loss, the whole "sandwich" of wallpaper layers may be submerged in lukewarm water. When the paste begins to soften (which usually happens before the water-soluble colors begin to run), a spatula may be inserted under the topmost layer, and as the paper loosens, a piece of screening can be slipped under it for support and lifted from the water. After most excess water is removed, the individual layers can be transferred to glass or to waxed paper to complete the drying. Do not dry the papers on newspaper, toweling, or another surface to which the old paste might adhere. Successive layers can be removed in the same manner. There will be more color loss with this method, but it is usually quicker and easier than steaming.
Since there is usually little hope for restoring paper which has been covered over and abused, the goal is to preserve samples as records upon which to base reproductions. Steaming is the easiest way to preserve good samples without sacrificing the colors that would be lost in submersion. However, the steaming process should only be done if duplicate repeats of the papers are available, as successive top layers will have to be sacrificed in uncovering a good sample of each pattern.
Physical examination of the wallpapers for evidence of the paper and coloring technology is the most important starting point in determining an approximate date. But in narrowing down the time frame, this process alone is of limited help. At some point, documentary and stylistic evidence must be examined.
The bibliography to this report provides guidance toward publications helpful in recognizing early wallpaper styles. But these volumes are rare and difficult to consult outside of major research libraries. Because literally thousands of patterns in hundreds of "color ways" (or schemes) were annually introduced by numerous manufacturers throughout the 19th century, no publisher could afford to illustrate all the available patterns and colors. The most elaborate and expensive high-style papers, especially the 19th-century scenic papers, are the ones most likely published and identified. Searching for more ordinary repeating patterns in publications is usually a fruitless task.
As mentioned previously, any of the museums with wallpaper reference collections might be consulted for assistance. Also, at the Cooper-Hewitt Collection there are color slides and photographic prints of thousands of dated and identified patterns with which the researcher can compare his findings. In addition, sets of color slides showing wallpapers of a given period can be ordered by mail.
Once the general period of the paper is determined, if precise identification of maker and designer is wanted, patent illustrations from France, England, and the United States could be consulted. Illustrations of the official documents are being gathered at the Cooper-Hewitt, but the archive is far from complete.
Rarely, makers' marks are found stamped on the backs of early papers, but more frequently are found printed along the front margins of later 19th- and early 20th-century papers. These marks, along with English and French excise tax marks (figure 13), can help in precise datings of papers. Files of makers' names and working dates are being assembled at the Cooper-Hewitt.
The National Archives of Britain, France, and the United States include design patents and registers of designs which provide useful means of identifying some old wallpapers.
The earliest American wallpaper design patent on file in the Patent Office in Washington, D.C., dates from 1866; and these records include an interesting array of designs through the turn of the 20th century. However, a relatively small proportion of all wallpaper patterns actually produced in this country are found in these records, as design patents offered such little protection to a designer or manufacturer that most did not obtain them. By simply changing the scale of a pattern, or some detail, one could have claimed to have invented a "new" pattern, which was not protected by the original patent. Therefore, the time, inconvenience, and cost involved in searching these records and stacks of uncategorized photographs for positive identification might be to no avail.
The British records indicate that design patents were more heavily used by designers and manufacturers in England than were their counterparts in this country. In deep storage outside London are the records of the Board of Trade, Registers of Designs from 1839 onward. Since English manufacturers printed the registry number of a paper in the margin, and since these numbers are on file, they can be most helpful in dating and identifying the wallpapers. When a registry number is found, one can write to the British National Archives for identification. For American restorationists, the files of British wallpapers dating from 1875-1915 often prove particularly helpful.
French wallpaper design patents most frequently prove helpful in identifying patterns dating from the turn of the 19th century. Samples of marvelous patterns of Napoleon's era are on file at the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris. However, personal inspection rather than mail inquiry is usually required for researching these records.
The following are suggestions for assessing the alternatives for wallpaper treatment including: preservation of a paper in place, restoration of the original paper, custommade reproduction of the original paper, or the purchase of wallpaper patterns appropriate to a given date and available on the market.
Preservation of a Paper in Place
Very rarely does the preservationist find a room with the wallpaper from the target date of the restoration in situ and in good condition. Once the identity and the date of the paper have been verified, preservation in place is the most ideal, and possibly the cheapest solution. Superficial cleaning of the paper by vacuuming, while protecting it with fine nylon screening, may be all that is needed. Cleaning with a draftsman's vinyl cleaning pad is most effective on horizontal surfaces, but may also be tried on the vertical wall. It is very important that these only be used on smooth surfaces of wallpaper in good condition and that all residue be thoroughly cleaned off by careful brushing with a very soft camel hair brush.
If a number of layers of wallpaper are found, a basic decision should be made within the context of the goals of the overall project regarding which of the wall finishes should remain exposed. In the case of a 19th-century paper found in a 18th-century house, careful consideration should be given to the validity of removing a historically significant layer of decoration in favor of returning the room to an earlier date.
If the decision favors removal of the topmost layers of paper, every attempt should be made to: (1) check that even earlier layers that should be preserved do not lie under the desired finish layer, and (2) arrange in advance for the preservation of whatever papers have to be removed. Do not dispose of the wallpapers, but notify local preservation interest groups of the availability of such papers or advertise in one of a number of publications circulated among preservation projects. A project in need of your extra paper could finance its removal and restoration. A partial list of such publications is included in appendix B.
Preservation of wallpaper in situ involves not only superficial cleaning and minor restoration, but also a careful check of the condition of the walls behind it, especially for areas of moisture. If any alterations are to be made to the structure, particular care should be taken to protect the papered walls during construction from damage by man made or natural causes. During any alterations to the roof, special precautions should be made to protect a papered room against leakage. If a wall or wing is removed suddenly exposing a formerly interior papered wall to outside weather, special protection should be constructed. Drastic changes of temperature and humidity could prove disastrous to wallpaper that has been well protected from the elements.
Because pigments used to color wallpapers are light-sensitive and subject to fading, ultraviolet filtering Plexiglas should cover windows, and artificial lighting should be kept to a level of 15 foot candles using incandescent lights. Installation of shades or blinds may prove necessary if a papered room has too much direct sunlight. A further safeguard is constant temperature and humidity control, which will help preserve the life of the papers, pigments, and adhesives.
Some basic practices to avoid: DO NOT use Scotch tape, rubber cement or Duco cement to repair minor tears. Instead, use only chemically pure wallpaper paste to readhere torn papers to the walls. DO NOT varnish or shellac the paper or spray it with a fixative, as these tend to darken and discolor the paper as well as add a glossy sheen, uncharacteristic of wallpapers. If protection is needed for old papers, especially near door ways where visitors will be tempted to touch them, cover the papers with sheets of Plexiglas, mounted on blocks that hold it about one-fourth inch or so from the wall, allowing circulation of air and preventing condensation under the plastic.
Removal and Rehanging of Large Areas of Wallpaper
Skill and experience are required to successfully remove and rehang whole walls of paper. An experienced paper conservator should be consulted and any subsequent work carefully supervised. The techniques for removal may be as complicated as facing the paper with a strong tissue on which it can be held together while it is lifted from the wall and carried, or as simple as carefully scraping the paste away from underneath already loosened paper to coax it off the wall.
Once removed, the paper should be cleaned, backed with acid free lining paper, and mounted on chemically pure muslin before it is rehung. One source for this lining material is Charles Gracie, at 979 Third Avenue, New York (1977). If it must be stored before hanging, every effort should be made to avoid rolling the paper. For long periods of storage, it should be laid flat on blotters or on good acid free paper with masonite or plywood boards underneath to keep it flat. When papers are rolled, the thick pigments on the surface can easily be dislodged and flake off.
In rehanging, only very pure water soluble paste should be used. An alternative would be to simply tack the already carefully backed wallpaper to the wall so that it can be easily removed for cleaning or rehanging at a later date.
In some cases, papers pasted directly on unfinished boards resist removal even by the most skilled paper conservator. If the patterning is to be preserved at all, then the board itself must be removed and stored, ideally in a dark, temperature and humidity controlled storage area. One sample of a full repeat might be left on display in the room to be restored.
Consideration for the aesthetic appearance and for the teaching possibilities of leaving worn paper exposed next to the new reproduction should be assessed in deciding whether or not to leave samples of the paper on display in situ. Sample areas can be preserved in place under ultraviolet filtering Plexiglas covers and will not detract from the general appearance of the room, if they are in in conspicuous locations. However, the sample can probably be preserved with the least amount of color fading and future deterioration if it is removed from the wall and stored as described be low. Unless there is great difficulty in removal, this probably is the preferred procedure.
When paper is removed from a wall, samples including a full repeat of any patterning should be preserved, layers separated, cleaned, and then encapsulated in polyester film following the procedure developed by Peter Waters at the Library of Congress (figure 37 to figure 39). A very similar method is described in a two-page instruction briefing on the encapsulation process used by George Cunha at the New England Documentation Center, North Andover, Massachusetts and is available from the center.
The relatively simple procedure using tape to seal paper samples between two layers of a polyester film, polyethylene terephthalate, which is most widely known under the brand name Mylar, has many advantages over old methods for matting paper samples. Encapsulation protects papers very well, so that they can be handled safely for study, allowing full view of both sides of the paper. Because static electricity holds the paper sample firmly in place, and the plastic supports it completely, it is not necessary to mend tears in samples. In addition, the paper can be very quickly removed from the Mylar if there is any need to do so by simply cutting through the film.
Both the Mylar and the tape (3-M product, Tape #415) have been tested and subjected to accelerated aging tests, and should last indefinitely if stored and handled properly. When they are not in use or under study, the encapsulated samples should be kept in light-free storage, with constant temperature and humidity control.
Great care should be exercised in repairing damaged papers. Crucial to this is the selection of a competent worker chosen on the advice of a reputable paper conservator and who would work within clearly established guidelines which dictate choice of materials and procedure. Repairs to valuable papers important to a historic restoration should be undertaken only by an experienced paper conservator.
The most common problems are: (a) adhesive breakdown, that is: wallpaper falling off the wall, (b) flaking colors, (c) lost colors and areas of pattern, and (d) waterstaining. The following suggestions apply to restoration as well as to subsequent maintenance procedures.
Frequently, old wallpaper paste will lose its adhesive strength due to either excessive dryness or moisture. Moisture may indicate that the wall be hind the paper is wet, in which case mechanical and structural causes for this should be investigated and corrected.
Before readhering paper which has been separated from the wall, the surface of the wall should be carefully cleaned, and all old paste should be removed from the wall and from the wallpaper. This can usually be done by delicately scraping with a small knife that has a curved blade. Paper in good condition, only partially loosened from the wall, can be readhered with first quality water soluble wallpaper paste. Paper in weakened condition, worn and frayed, should probably be removed, mounted on lining paper and rehung with first quality paste.
Fine wallpapers printed in distemper colors over a ground coat of thick distemper color are subject to flaking, due to an inherent weakness in the bonding capabilities of the color to the paper. Do not employ the ruinous 19th-century varnishing method for remedying this problem and do not simply attempt to spray with a fixative. Not only will an undesirable shiny finish be created by either of these methods, but neither will serve to properly readhere the pigments to the surface of the paper.
To readhere flaking colors, cautiously brush and/or flow a synthetic adhesive over the affected area, gently forcing the liquid behind the flakes. As they become moistened and relaxed, cover a small area with glassine and mechanically stroke, pressing the loose pieces back against the paper. This is painstaking, meticulous work which must almost be done flake by flake by a careful, patient, and skillful hand.
The correct synthetic adhesives to use will vary according to the color, thickness and surface appearance of each area of flaking paint. They may include polyvinyl alcohol of varying viscosities, one or two percent methyl cellulose dissolved in water, polyvinyl acetates of varying viscosities in toluene or Acryloid B-72 (a polymethacrylate) in xylene.
Where colors and pattern elements have been lost, in-painting may be undertaken using Windsor and Newton watercolors or gouaches. Samples of the colors should be allowed to dry so that they may be compared with the areas to be in-painted before they are used. Particular attention should be given to the gloss of paints to be used.
When in-painting, every effort should be made to reproduce the block printed effect of the buildup of layers of flat opaque colors in shapes that have strong edges. Solid areas of coloring in block printed wallpapers have none of the brushstroked qualities of shaded easel painting. Of course, by the same logic, if in fact the paper is hand painted, brushstrokes are in order, and an attempt to reproduce the look of machine printing should be made when machine printed papers are being in-painted.
With repeating patterns, it is relatively easy to reproduce missing elements. With nonrepeating scenic papers, every effort should be made to secure a good clear photograph of the missing area from a duplicate set of the paper, and to reproduce the missing elements as they appeared originally. Illustrations of scenic papers may be available from the Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York, from the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in Paris, or in several published sources (see bibliography).
There are a number of methods available to an experienced and skilled conservator for removing water stains from paper, when working on a horizontal surface. One of the simplest is to place a blotter or a little Fuller's earth under the paper, then to work with water, tamping or rolling this solution with a cotton swab so that the solution passes through the paper. It is then followed by pure water, which is tamped through the paper in a similar manner to washout the bleach. A more difficult method involves using an etherial solution of hydrogen peroxide (equal volumes of hydrogen peroxide and ether), and again tamping with a cotton swab. But this method is physically dangerous, and it is suggested for use only by the very experienced.
The removal of water stains presents a wide variety of conservation problems. This, coupled with the difficulties of working on a vertical surface with water-soluble colors on wallpaper, suggest that in-painting or over-painting might be a more practical solution to unsightly waterstaining.
Custom-made Reproduction of Original Wallpapers
When physical or documentary evidence indicates the need for a wallpaper pattern that is not currently available commercially, custom reproductions can be silk screen printed. Unless there is a particular interest in reproducing the early processes of block printing or paper making, such expensive refinements as the carving of printing blocks and the handmaking of small sheets of paper to be glued together to form rolls for hanging, can be bypassed in good conscience. Most restorationists agree that it is not necessary to repeat the original printing process as long as the finished appearance of the reproduction matches as closely as possible that of the historic paper. Also, in the long run there would be no confusion as to the paper being a reproduction.
The cost of silk screen reproduction depends on the number of colors included in the pattern to be reproduced, as a separate screen must be cut for each color. To make the screens (which are sophisticated stencils), a full-size repeat of the pattern is needed. A pristine sample of wallpaper can serve, but most often carefully painted renderings of a complete pattern repeat must be made at full scale. Because these images are usually transferred photographically to the screens, the character of the artwork is crucial to the success of the finished product. Details indicating the original production process should be skillfully included. A rendering of a block printed paper should reproduce the strong edged, thick opaque shapes as closely as possible, with no suggestion of a brushstroke visible. A rendering of a machine printed wallpaper should reproduce the thin-bodied character of the colors, the sharp lines around shapes, and the vertical graining produced by the rollers. If you have only one sample of an old wallpaper for an artist to copy, protect that sample carefully. Do not simply send it to the artist or manufacturer. Either require that the artist come to the sample, or accompany the sample and supervise its use. Allow no markings or tape to be used which will deface a unique sample of paper. It is a document which should be carefully preserved as part of the restoration project.
The restoration supervisor should review the art work carefully and critically and insist on having proofs of the printed product to compare side-by-side with a sample of the original. Do not settle for fuzzy generalizations of pattern elements that are distinct and crisp in the original. If working from worn discolored fragments, or from photographs, colors may be checked against pristine samples in museum collections that date from the same period as the paper being reproduced. Most colors should be chalky and matte but in some early papers, highlights were printed in shiny, oil-based colors, and this quality should be reproduced. Mica, "spangles," flocking, and other textural additives on patterns of the 18th and 19th centuries should be reproduced if they were incorporated in the original models, as well as any embossed elements. When the screen printer is not prepared to emboss, firms can be located that are able to do such unusual and specialized work.
Appendix C includes a list of firms that have done successful screen printed custom reproduction work. The papers were produced in close conjunction with curators, architects and the administrators of the restoration projects. The success of the product depends on the careful and critical supervision of a demanding and observant customer.
Because wallpaper firms normally deal in large volumes, time-consuming customwork means little profit and the charges for producing a special design will be high. In some cases, the cost can be reduced by selling the firm the exclusive rights to the pattern, and allowing the use of the restoration project's name in their commercial advertising.
Any wallpaper manufacturing firm equipped to do screen printing, and willing to undertake the scrupulous task of duplicating an antique pattern, should be able to reproduce an old wallpaper. Essential to this operation are: exacting specifications and a competent artist, either from the staff of the manufacturer or the restoration, to execute the renderings and oversee the work.
Another source for reproducing wallpaper may be a local artist skilled in the art of screen printing. With some time and ingenuity, a pattern can be printed on a one-time basis in a studio, often at reduced expense. If custom reproductions are made, it is advisable to order slightly more than double what is actually needed. The duplicate rolls should be carefully preserved for repairs and for future renewal when necessary.
In addition to having silk screened reproductions made, there is the chance that one of the very few extant block printing wallpaper companies in France or England may still have the original woodblocks and would be able to make new paper in the style needed. As noted before, the Zuber Factory (68 Rixheim, Alsace, France) exported quantities of paper to this country during the early 19th century and retains many, though not all, of its original printing blocks.
Two English firms, Cole and Son Wallpapers, Ltd. (18 Mortimer Street, London W 1) and Sanderson and Sons, Ltd. (Post Office Box 31, 100 Acres Oxford Road, Oxbridge, Middlesex, UB8 1 JT, England), retain quantities of blocks for printing high style late 19th-century designs and many from the early 20th century. If such patterns would be appropriate, inquire about special printings, perhaps sending photographs of the kinds of designs you seek.
Many antique dealers occasionally handle room lots of wallpapers, and the house restorer may happen upon an important old paper in an unusual shop. But several dealers regularly stock antique papers and should be visited if an antique paper is wanted. Antique Chinese papers, and the French scenic papers of the 19th century have commanded a steady market and the prices might range as high as several thousand dollars. If fragments of a specific scenic paper are discovered in a house but are beyond restoration, or if documentation indicated a particular scenic paper that has long since disappeared, there is a good chance of replacing it with an original antique duplication since these elaborate showpieces of the block printer's art were produced in multiples. The best known American dealers in antique papers are:
Purchase of Appropriate Wallpaper Patterns
A careful study of the published information on the wallpapers used at a given date should precede any selection of commercially advertised "period papers" for a restoration. If possible, the photographic files of the Cooper-Hewitt Museum should be consulted first hand. Otherwise, copies of color slides showing patterns of appropriate dates can be ordered through the mail.
A number of wallpaper companies include in their commercial lines adaptations of early wallpaper patterns based on samples of old papers. The old samples are known in the trade as "documents." Frequently in making the reproductions the scale of the original pattern is altered, colors are eliminated to cut printing costs, and of course, modern color schemes are used, though often the "document color" is offered as one alternative among several color ways.
If you want to use a pattern which is a straight forward reproduction of an early wallpaper ask for the "document color," and compare the reproduction with the original sample, which should be retained by the manufacturer or in the collections of the historic house or museum for which it was produced. Check for variations in scale and for color adaptations.
There are many late 18th-century and early 19th-century patterns reproduced and commercially available, but there are very few from the Victorian era, and almost none from the early 20th century. Again, the two English companies, Coles and Sandersons, may be able to supply later 19th-century designs which are carried in their lines.
Wallpaper companies' statements about the dates of their papers must be checked for accuracy. Many adaptations of 19th-century patterns are sold as "colonial." If you find a commercial paper that purports to be of a given date, confirm the validity of the claim through publications and museum collections, or through the expert advice of a qualified person who has made a special study of wallpaper.
Last Updated: 26-Apr-2007