University of Delaware Library
Bookmark and Share

San Serriffe

Theodore Bachaus [i.e., Henry Morris].

The World's Worst Marbled Papers: Being a Collection of Ten Contemporary San Serriffean Marbled Papers Showing the Lowest Level of Technique, the Worst Combinations of Colors, and the Most Inferior Execution Known Since the Dawn of the Art of Marbling. Port Clarendon, S.S.: San Serriffe Publishing Company, 1978. [i.e., North Hills, PA: Bird & Bull Press].

In 1978 Henry Morris purchased a bulk order of marbled paper from the firm Mer Cie. Their papers were priced at a markedly lower rate than other suppliers, and, though Morris found some of the initial samples discouraging, he placed an order in the hopes that the bulk would include enough usable papers to make it worth the cost. The shipment proved to be amateurish in quality, at best. After Tom Taylor ridiculed them as the worst marbled papers he had ever seen, Morris saw a use for the shipment, and thus The World's Worst Marbled Papers was born. The marbled papers were published as samples of the worst marbled paper in the world, accompanied by an introduction and critical commentary on the art and aesthetics of the truly awful. Hoping to avoid a lawsuit, Morris printed the book pseudonymously under the fictitious imprint of San Serriffe, which was originally invented by The Guardian for a 1977 April Fool's joke. The disguise was not entirely successful. A salesman from Mer Cie later learned of the publication and was so amused that he purchased a copy for himself. (Mer Cie soon discontinued selling the marbled paper in question.) Shown here is a sample which Morris named "chocolate spot." The text claims that it was inspired by the sight of dried chocolate syrup at a soda fountain.

Map of San Serriffe, from The Guardian, 1 April 1977. (Photocopy).

San Serriffe wanted poster for Theodore Bachaus, [1979?].

The poster states that Bachaus is wanted "for conspiracy to produce and distribute a book entitled The World's Worst Marbled Papers."

San Serriffe Paper Ltd.

Silvie Turner and Birgit Skiold. Handmade Paper Today: A Worldwide Survey of Mills, Papers, Techniques and Uses. London: Lund Humphries, 1983.

San Serriffe visitor badge, [n.d.]. Bird & Bull Press Archives. Morris made this one-of-a-kind badge after his prank saw print.

Photocopy of text from Handmade Paper Today regarding San Serriffe Paper Mill, with Morris' handwritten comments. Bird & Bull Press Archives. Morris has added additional sarcastic comments, including a note that the paper mill has begun hiring specially trained gorillas to lift their 120 pound sheets of paper.

While researching their book Handmade Paper Today, authors Silvie Turner and Birgit Skiold mailed Morris a form letter requesting information about his paper mill. Morris responded with a facetious description of the San Serriffe Paper Mill, which he said occupied 20,000 square feet near Erie, Pennsylvania, and made papers weighing up to 350 pounds. He later said that he wanted to see if the authors or editors would catch the joke. The authors did not get the joke. Instead, they published it.

Theodore Bachaus [i.e., Henry Morris].

The Booksellers of San Serriffe. [newtown, PA]: San Serriffe Publishing Company [i.e., Bird & Bull Press], 2001.

This book documents the booksellers of Henry Morris' fictitious country of San Serriffe. Morris stated that three of the booksellers are thinly veiled parodies of real booksellers; the others are his inventions. The engraving shown here is by Wesley Bates.

Theodore Bachaus [i.e., Henry Morris].

Typewritten letter, 9 April 2001, with enclosed San Serrifean postage stamps.

In order to provide a further layer of authenticity, The Booksellers of San Serriffe was issued with a personal letter from Theodore Bachaus, placed inside a mailing envelope which bore a canceled San Serriffe postal stamp. Some of Morris' customers mailed the letter back to him, perhaps thinking it a genuine letter intended for Morris. Apparently the post office also believed the postage stamps were genuine, as Morris later tried mailing ten letters with the San Serriffean postage, all of which were delivered.

This page is maintained by Special Collections.
[an error occurred while processing this directive]

  • UD Library Special Collections  •   181 South College Avenue  •   Newark, DE 19717-5267  •   USA
    Phone: USA +1 302-831-2229  •   ©2014