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Helma Schaefer


In her article, the author discusses the merits of the German craft bookbinder Paul Kersten (1865-1943) in the development of modern decorative papers as an expression of artistic individuality in the field of applied arts. From the Middle Ages, decorative paper had been used in decoration and bookbinding. Bookbinding workshops had traditionally made starched marbled paper. The interest of Paul Kersten, coming from a bookbinding family, in these papers had already dated from his youth. During his travels abroad, he was aware of the poor state of the bookbinding craft, which was affected by the mass production of books and book bindings as well as the industrialisation of paper production at the end of the 19th century. Kersten helped to introduce Art Nouveau into the design of German bookbinding and the methods of the modern production of decorative papers. At first, he worked as a manager in German paper manufactures and then as a teacher of bookbinding. His work was later oriented towards Symbolic Expressionism and he also tried to cope with the style of Art Deco.