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A thermoplastic molding material. Composition, or compo, was used for interior ornamental reliefs during the 18th century. It was very popular for the mass production of molded objects until the mid-20th century when it was replaced by plastics. Many recipes exist for composition. Early recipes were similar to Papier mâché except the Paper was first reduced to a pulp, then one or more binders (Animal glue, Linseed oil and/or Shellac) were added along with a Pigment and Filler (Plaster, Clay, Alum, Flour, Chalk, Sawdust, Tissue paper and/or Starch). While warm, the mixture was pressed into molds where it cooled and hardened. Other materials such as eggs, waxes, and driers were also added. Synthetic resins, such as Cellulose nitrate, were mixed with sawdust to make inexpensive molded dolls in the early 20th century.

Synonyms and Related Terms


Additional Information

° J.Wetherall "The History and Techniques of Composition" in Gilding and Surface Decoration, UKIC Restoration, October 1991.

° J.Thornton "Compo: The History and Technology of Plastic Compositions" AIC Preprints, Washington DC meeting, 1985.

Sources Checked for Data in Record

  • Dictionary of Building Preservation, Ward Bucher, ed., John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York City, 1996