The Collection | The Marbled Page
Tristram calls the marbled page ‘the motly emblem of my work’. It is meant to reflect the element of chance that is so characteristic of his narrative project. Emphasising this, the marbled page is unique in each copy of the first edition due to the marbling technique. The marbler folded in the edges of the page (thereby creating margins) and rested it on a mixture of inks. When dry, the page was refolded so that the reverse could also be marbled. The page numbers, 169 and 170, were then hand-stamped.
To keep costs down, modern editions of the novel do not feature a page marbled in this way. Some do not include one at all.
2011 marks the 250th anniversary of the publication of the marbled page in volume 3 of Tristram Shandy. To celebrate, the Laurence Sterne Trust held an exhibition and auction, inviting 169 artists and writers to each create an ‘emblem’ of their work, or a response to Sterne’s page. The auction is now ended, but images, information and materials can be found on the Emblem of My Work blog, and we are hoping to publish a catalogue of the commissions soon, similar to the Black Page Catalogue – currently available in the online shop.
Below are some examples of the marbled page from the collection. We will be expanding these pages as we continue to digitise our archives.