The Fiber Wire

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Rare Book School Wrap Up

I just got home from my paper geek-out week at the Rare Book School, at the University of Virginia. Two of the afternoon sessions consisted of a special collection showcase – a show and tell of books important to the study of paper history. One of these books was Papermaking By Hand in America, by Dard Hunter. This book was printed on paper made by Dard Hunter with type cut by his son.

“The last work of the Mountain House Press and the author’s magnum opus, this book provides a history of American papermaking by listing and describing the first paper mill in each state from 1690 until 1811, six years prior to the introduction of the first paper machine into the United States. There are in the book 123 facsimiles of documents and watermarks and forty-two reproductions of labels used by these early paper manufacturers. – from Donald Heald’s Rare Books, Prints & Maps

Limited edition books by Hunter are pricey and, unless you are lucky enough to come by one in a boy scout paper drive, you’ll most likely be traveling to a special collection to read one. However, at the Rare Book School I learned that the J. Willard Marriott Library at The University of Utah digitized Papermaking By Hand in America. You won’t get the pleasure of handling the handmade paper or examining the facsimiles up close, but the text will be a good read. Access it here.



For interested readers, here is a list of the remaining topics we covered in the course

Class Lectures and Hands-On Topics

Labor and Production. Tour of a typical mill; rag consumption; production quotas and labor regulations; wages; specialized skills (sheetforming, sizing, finishing).

Labor v. Management. Organized labor, customs of the trade.

The Paper Trade. Economics of the mill, political restraints; government support; sources of capital; prices and profits.

Modern Papermaking. Invention of the papermaking machine; industrial techniques; conservation consequences.

American Papermaking. Ebenezer Stedman; Dard Hunter and contemporary American hand papermaking.

Watermarks. Function of watermarks; sources for identification; watermarking techniques; watermark identification exercise.

Barrow and Barrett Research on Paper Permanence. Paper research and production at the University of Iowa Center for the Book. Burnishing of European style sheets.

European Papermaking II. Sheetforming, drying, gelatin sizing and finishing. Hands-on gelatin sizing; paper identification and dating. Aesthetic in handmade paper.


4 comments on “Rare Book School Wrap Up

  1. vdbolyard
    July 1, 2015

    wow! i’m so glad you’ve had such a productive two weeks. your head must be bursting with ideas and new learning!

    i came across the trade (navy cloth cover) of his Papermaking. i paid under a dollar for it. it was in a *junk* shop that has since become a weekly auction place. years later, i saw a sister copy of that book for sale at a booth in a book arts fair for around $80. i know it’s not the *good* book, but it’s a pretty nifty find.


    • thefiberwire
      July 2, 2015

      A find’s a find and that sounds like a super satisfying one! Thank you, by the way. My head is bursting, for sure. 😀


  2. Dru Nordmark
    July 1, 2015

    My brain hurts thinking about all the new information you tucked in yours in such a short amount of time! Hope you remain inspired for many moons to come from your paper geek-out week!


    • thefiberwire
      July 2, 2015

      Thank you! Many of us were surprised how tired we were at the end of the day but, you are right. It was a lot of information in a short amount of time! ❤


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