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Wallpaper and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice Decorating with Wallpaper
My wife is celebrating the 200 year anniversary of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice by watching every movie of Pride and Prejudice ever made (several times:). I can’t help but notice the improved quality of the set decoration from the 1940s until the most recent Kiera Knightly production. If you’re interested in recreating a Bennett country manor room or a 19th century drawing room, now is the BEST time to do it because 19th century wallpaper is being made today.

Pride and Prejudice Wallpaper

About 19th century-like wallpaper

A little history… 19th century wallpaper was handmade rag paper with hand brushed ground color and wood block tempera inks.  Tempera inks are water based and very sensitive so installers had to be very careful not to get moisture on the surface of the wallpaper. The wallpapers had to be trimmed on both sides since they did not have continuous roll paper. Edges were hand trimmed and seams lapped to match the same size of the horizontal joints. Most installations had borders at the top, bottom and in the corners, around all the trim, to hold the edges of the paper down.

Jump to today

We are moving back to 19th century-like wallpaper because it is less expensive to make non-coated papers and laser cut acrylic blocks make block printing possible. Also, American manufacturers are struggling to keep inventory. Our European friends seem not to have the same inventory problem and their papers are cheaper to produce. How does this impact you? When you select your Jane Austen room wallpaper, always ask: does the paper need to be trimmed? Is it water sensitive? Where is it made?

Seriously now, if you would like to decorate a room with beautiful wallpaper, here are some manufacturers of 19th century patterns:

Adelphi Paperhangings

Cole & Son

Farrow & Ball



4 comments… add one
  • Judith Decker January 30, 2013, 2:21 pm

    Interesting posts, Patrick. In my past career, I recreated an Ashlar wallpaper for a house museum in PA from extant scraps. I agree that movies and museums are doing a better job of protraying the variety and multitude of wallpapers used in the 19th century. As we know, virtually every room in homes were wallpapered! Williamsburg has reinterpreted several of their buildings more accurately with shockingly colorful and varied papers. Thanks for keeping the art of historic wallpapers alive.

  • Lisa Hassler January 30, 2013, 3:03 pm

    While I would watch Pride and Prejudice a zillion times, just for Mr. Darcy, I have to admit that I also watch to soak up the period interiors. I would love to incorporate beautiful period looking papers into my own home.

  • jeff greene January 30, 2013, 4:05 pm

    Patrick, I always enjoy your posts. I agree that now is an excellent time to use high quality reproduction papers, but there is also an alternative available to museums and others looking for small quanities of wallpaper which are an exact match to documented papers as opposed to finding a period wallpaper which is similar or ‘of the period’. The alternative is digitally reproduced wallpaper. While I am the first to agree that nothing looks and feels like real block printed paper, we have had excellent results laying down a hand applied ground color and then digitally printing patterns that are almost indistinguishable from the original paper whether the orginals were handblocked or roller printed,etc. The beauty of digital printing is that it is still economically viable to print very small runs and you can get exact matchs to the original . The only cavat is that you need to have good quality source material to start and spend the time on the computer to get all the details right as well as the ability to control the color in the printing process in order to assure consistently high caliber results.

    • Scott Hanson February 1, 2013, 2:23 pm

      Jeff Greene, if you are doing digital reproduction wallpaper commercially could you please give us contact information? I have a number of surviving “left over” rolls of 19th century papers that were once used in my house and would like to affordably reproduce several of them to put back. Several rooms still have their period papers in place in good condition, so it only seems appropriate to attempt to return the right papers to the other principal rooms.

      Thank you,


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