Ottomans tried to express the beauty of the divine in all branches of art. We see them seeking to illustrate mystical beauties in architecture, music and ornamental art. During the period from the 14th to 19th centuries, many religious schools, especially Sufi sects, became a kind of "Art Workshop", educating students by a master to apprentice method. Due to the modesty encouraged by dervish precepts, many works of art even had no signature on them.
Ottomans have also acknowledged calligraphy as one of the main art branches that created several forms to the Arabic alphabet. Meanwhile marbled paper has been used to decorate the scripts, either as a background or in the blank spaces left at the four corners of a page. This is clear evidence that Ottomans envisaged marbling primarily as a work of art. The concept of coloured paper used in bookbinding was as an accessory, and works of marbling art were since olden times framed and nailed to the wall like oil paintings.
The word ebru (cloud, cloudy) or abru (water face) means in Turkish the technique of paper marbling. The term is derived from the word ebre which belongs to one of the older Central Asian languages and it means the "moiré, veined fabric, paper" used for covering some manuscripts and other holy books. Its origin might ultimately hark back to China, where a document from the T'ang dynasty (618-907) mentions a process of colouring paper on water with five hues. Through the Silk Road, this art came first to Iran and picked up the name Ebru. Subsequently it moved towards Anatolia. Specimens of marbled paper in Turkish museums and private collections date back as far as the 15th century, but unfortunately there is no evidence to show at what date the art of marbling paper first appeared in Anatolia.
Around the end of 16th century, tradesmen, diplomats and travellers coming to Anatolia brought this art to Europe and after the 1550s, booklovers in Europe prized ebru which came to be known as "Turkish Paper" or "Turkish marbled paper making". In the subsequent centuries of modern times, it was widely used in Italy, Germany, France and England.
Many specimens in European collections and in the several album amicorum books are on show today in various museums. Early texts dealing with ebru, such as Discourse on decorating paper in the Turkish manner, published in Rome in 1664 by Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680), helped to disseminate knowledge of this kind of marbling art. There is agreement amongst scholars that the so-called Turkish Papers has a colourful influence on the book arts of Europe.