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 marked 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. A list of contributors and images of the 169 ‘marbled pages’ can be found on the Emblem of My Work blog, and copies of the Emblem of My Work Catalogue, a boxed collection of prints of each of the 169 commissions along with the artist or writer’s information and materials, are available in the online shop.

Please find below a selection of different examples of marbled pages, to find a specific item in The Laurence Sterne Trust Collection and use the search bar at the top right of this page.

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The Works of Laurence Sterne (1783)

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The Works of Laurence Stern [sic] (1769)

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The Works of Laurence Sterne M. A. (1780)

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The Works of Laurence Sterne M. A. (1782)

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The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman.

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