Friday, September 3, 2010

paper making

Middle Mill
A few days ago I wrote about Middle Mill and what a pretty valley it was, whilst we were there my love said to me that it would be a good place to make hand-made paper in, with the clean water of the river Solva, and the open nature of the valley with the wind going through. So I noted this passing comment because one of his dreams was to make paper at one stage, and indeed he has written on the old way of hand-made paper making in Japan. But yesterday they did a programme on the radio about the beginnings of Penguin books and he recognised the name of Tanya Schmoller on the radio, which set him off on one of his stories which was the fascinating discovery of boxes of Japanese papers that had lain forgotten in the Victoria and Albert Museum, and was rediscovered by Hans Schmoller sometime in the 1980's.

The tale is long and would need several chapters, but this morning he unearthed all the correspondence on the subject, and I have ploughed through them absorbing those tiny details which makes history either an interesting or boring subject to those who choose to read it!

Schmoller did write a book (very expensive), but he started from an old government paper (Reports on the Manufacture of Paper in Japan 1871), that he had found in Japan. This report was undertaken by the then Consul of Japan - Sir H.Parkes, and he asked three sub consuls to seek out the information in their areas.

It is extraordinary how our cultures are dictated by what is to hand, mostly I focus on the stone of prehistoric man, but in Japan it was the plants and trees that dictated the use of many of the material goods they made. Bamboo of course springs to mind immediately, but hand made paper was made from many different plants and trees and underwent very many different processes.

So that paper coats were made (a woven paper string in this instance) but waterproof; hats, boxes, a hundred different types of paper for different acts of formalised writing, the list goes on... and I would need to type out the whole report to give some idea. When Schmoller made the discovery, and unearthed the 'lost' boxes, it was found that not only were some of the boxes at the V&A but also at Kew Gardens, this, for the identification of the plants used. The photos below will give some idea of what was in the boxes, a rare 18th Japanese book was found in one of the boxes, although it had been reprinted, or to be more accurate copied by an American artist in the 20th century, showing the process of early paper making.

Schmoller was a typographer at Penguins', and he and his wife collected the different types of patterned paper that were around in the 1950s and onwards, much of this collection seems to have distributed around museums and universities (need to check).

The report must have been asked for by the British government, Schmoller calls his book Mr.Gladstone's Washi (paper) below is a sketch by one of the consuls........................

19th century sketch by one of the consuls

The boxes

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