Replicating a Victorian Coated Stock


I was recently asked by a colleague how I had made the replacement flyleaves, a typical Victorian coated stock, for the First ALICE IN WONDERLAND shown. Perhaps it is of interest to a wider audience.

Back in the day the papers were made by printing an opaque paint, somewhat like a gouache, made of gum or hide glue, clay, and color onto a thin and usually poor quality paper. The result is an acidic sheet, often quite brittle with age, the colored side of which, being rather absorbent, readily shows marks from handling and which is quite difficult to clean or repair without damaging the surface. Closing tears or infilling losses is problematic as any wetting inevitably seems to leave a trace.

I think most of us who regularly repair and rebind books collect orphaned sheets in the hopes of marrying them to other volumes but in my shop I rarely seem to find really good matches and so, more often than not, make new sheets.

This is not very difficult though it took me a bit of trial and error to come up with a coating which is “archival”, easy to both mix and apply, and which replicates the many qualities of the original.

My coating is made by mixing casein paints to the correct shade and then adding a small amount of acrylic medium, about 1 tablespoon of medium to one cup of casein thinned to the consistency of thin cream. You can substitute an acrylic paint for the acrylic medium if you want to further adjust the casein color. I use this formula for all colors except yellow, see below.


The casein produces a surface all but identical to the model but, being a somewhat brittle paint, needs the acrylic to form a more flexible paint film.

This mixture is painted onto a pre-toned paper using a small 4″ wide foam roller from the paint store, slightly overlapping the stokes, and painting first side to side and then top to bottom and rolling out the overlaps. As the paint dries any remaining marks from overlap disappear.

You can of course use a wider roller but that requires making up a larger quantity of paint much of which gets lost in cleanup.

You can also silkscreen the color onto the paper. This is good for production work but I rarely do so because of the added labor of cleaning the screen afterwards.

If you do silkscreen you may want a thicker mixture depending upon your screen mesh size.

The dried surface is fairly matte and sometimes you will need a slightly more shiny finish. This is made by simply polishing the coating with a wad of soft paper toweling, using a light, circular, tight stroke, until you get the shine you need.

Color matching is a learned skill which improves with practice. Don’t hesitate to use a paint swatch book or mixing chart to initially get you close to the shade you want.

You  should incorporate swatches and mixing notes into your shop diary.

The casein will harden with time becoming ever more water resistant but the paint will retain its flexibility which is especially important in the joint. You don’t want the color flaking off as the joint moves, a problem I encountered when using a gouache/acrylic mix.

Yellow is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish.

I get the best results by making a stain of very dilute acrylic paint in water (inevitably you want the tiniest touch of red in with the yellow) and then painting directly on the paper using a hake and many strokes from side to side alternating with top to bottom. Brush until the color field levels. Once dry you can repeat the process to deepen or otherwise adjust the tone further.

This method reproduces the translucent effect you see in yellow coated stocks.

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