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It might be the identification of illustration techniques to 1900, or the history of European bookbinding, or teaching the history of the book.For me, the week of June 11, it was the history of European and American papermaking.
Paper formed on such a uniform surface shows no pattern when held up to the light, unless a wire design intended to form a watermark has been sewn to the screen: Wove paper was particularly appreciated by artists and printmakers because there was nothing to interfere with the design lines of the art (except for the watemark, if any). The makers of the 1807 facsimile of Shakespeare’s First Folio deliberately printed it on wove paper watermarked “Shakespeare” and “J.
Whatman 1806” (and 1807), Whatman’s being the finest paper mill in Europe.
On Wednesday afternoon, we sized half of each sheet in gelatin, as if preparing to make it into writing paper (as opposed to printing paper).
Finally, on Friday, we burnished half of each sized sheet with a stone (agate) to make it into fine writing paper.
Team-taught by Tim Barrett and John Bidwell, our class of academics, librarians, curators, and collectors met from to every day for a mix of lectures, discussions, and hands-on activities.
The hands-on part started the very first afternoon, when we got a sense of the steps involved in hand papermaking by actually making paper, one Asian-style sheet and one European-style sheet each: The next afternoon, we each made two sheets of European-style paper, one from raw flax, the other from cooked and washed flax, so we could see the difference in color and texture.
The Droeshout portrait plate created for the 1807 facsimile is a very close copy of the 1623 original, and could easily be mistaken for the 1623 version when printed on antique paper.
Two such examples in the Folger collection are clearly not intended to deceive, since they are both printed on the blank versos of title pages removed from old books so turning them over reveals the original title and date (Folger ART Vols. The third example, however, is not so easily discovered to be an imposter.
This type of paper, with shadows along the chain lines, is now known as “antique laid” thanks to an improvement in mold design around 1800 that eliminated the suction by creating a slight gap below the laid wires.
Laid paper made using the new-style mold is known as “modern laid” paper: A few years ago, the Folger was offered what the inexperienced seller thought was a seventeenth-century book of engravings, but because it was printed on modern laid paper, the prints were clearly “restrikes” (old plates re-used long after they were first made).