Kickstart Your Paper Collection

For all you decorated paper enthusiasts, item #1 from bookseller Barry McKay's latest catalogue:


"This collection of 161 examples of Franco-German paper decoration was salvaged by a German bookbinder in the 1990s from a collection of slender volumes of birth, marriage and death certificates from the Rhineland Palatinate in present- day Germany. The compilation of such volumes was introduced by French authorities after their occupation of the region in 1790. The French headquarters was the garrison town of Landau in der Pfalz, which is still the main town of the area. The region was an arrondissement of France between 1792 and 1813; thereafter it passed variously to Austria, Bavaria, and Prussia during the nineteenth century.

"The papers in this collection were salvaged by a German bookbinder in the 1990s. The papers are from covers of registers that were made to order in Kaiserlautern between the 1790s and the third quarter of the 19th century. The paper used for decoration during the region’s French occupation was manufactured in France. Thereafter the paper was manufactured at two mills by Roedter, and Gossler, in the village of Frankeneck near Neustadt and der Weinstrasse.

"Until about 1800 the boards consisted on of two pieces of thick paper laminated together, generally a coloured wrapping (usually blue) was used with a white lining paper. Thereafter a low-grade laminate cardboard was used. Some of the binding covers consist of a single sheet of coloured paste paper while others are formed of two pieces pasted together to form a whole.

"In the earlier period the volumes appear to have had manuscript labels pasted down on the front cover, perhaps with a distinctive shape for each year. ‘shadows’ of these labels are clearly visible on a number of the examples. From the early-mid 1820s, printed labels with the title and date set within ornamental borders were used in place of the earlier manuscript ones.

"The patterns found on these papers fall into four, very broadly classified, types: a sprinkled pattern, a simple dabbed- brush pattern, a paste & pull pattern, and a paste & pull pattern further ornamented with a circular patter thereon. The latter pattern is one that, based on our own experience, is achieved by dabbing a dry binders’ brush vertically down onto the coloured paste while it is still wet.

"Blue (of several shades) is the predominant colour used although there are also examples using black, green, red, purple, and sepia pigments."

The link to Barry's site (barrymckayrarebooks.org) doesn't seem to be working; if interested write to him (mail [at] barrymckay1.plus.com). The collection is yours for £3,950. Better hurry before Claudia finds out about it...


A Secret Stack

Day late & a dollar short; here's what I got. Having trouble with the news feed for Decorating Paper, so those Q&As are on hold. Maybe one more to come, we'll see. I've spent the past week working on a secret project. Just finished the binding today. Can't say much about it for now. It's a surprise for the authors, who will be receiving the entire edition of 10 copies to distribute however they see fit. If they don't hate it, I'll come clean with some details in a few weeks. If they do hate it, maybe your local Dumpster diver will find a copy.


Just found out that a Web site for the Limited Editions Club has appeared. I've been wondering what was up with LEC. Sidney Schiff's death in 2010 probably put was the cause for an interruption in its activities. The new site shows titles still available, all from Schiff's tenure. By the time he bought the LEC, it had gone through some pretty grim years in the '60s and '70s, producing a lot of indifferent and banal titles. Schiff's plan was to focus on the other end of the market, reducing edition sizes and recruiting established contemporary artists to create original works for the texts. He really turned things around, and made the LEC into a very different (& in my opinion, much more interesting) kind of publisher.

(An aside for readers who followed the Agrippa post & project from earlier this year: the Paz/Motherwell project that Agrippa publisher Kevin Begos spoke about can be seen on the LEC site.)

Not much information on the site beyond the titles in print. Nothing about new projects. The bookseller Carol Grossman has been working on a history of the LEC for some time, to be published by Oak Knoll. Publication seems to keep getting pushed back. An article she wrote for Biblio in 1999 can be found here. This is another good summary of the LEC's history.


Decorating Paper Interview 4a: Patria

Someone who shall remain nameless isn't being very helpful when it comes to doing her writing assignments, so this installment of the Decorating Paper interviews features just Barbara (who probably has never missed a deadline in her life) telling the story about one of the more uncommon papers included in the compendium...

BH: Decorating Paper includes an especially lovely set of papers from Patria, a French manufacturer.

We didn't know much about these papers, but we knew from the labelling that they were sold in 1920, and we knew the names of the pattern designers. However, we could not track down information about the process used to make them and suspected that they were block printed. Then, through a chance discovery of an article called “New French Colored Papers,” by V. Fauchier-Magnan, in a magazine called La France, An American Magazine (volume 2, 1920) we found out that they were made by stencilling, a process known as “pochoir.” This detail was found too late to include in the book, but we were at least able to place the papers in the correct section.

Patria, a Paris studio, created bookbinding papers to make up for the shortfall caused by World War I, when the papers normally purchased from Germany were no longer available due to importation bans.

Patria was the operation of Emile Greningaire, who came from a long line of Parisian “colorists.” The designs were created by numerous well-known pattern designers of the day and were executed in delicate stencilling by war victims. In numerous instances, patterns were produced by two processes: stencilling and block printing. With the aid of sample books, we are able to attribute the different patterns to their designers.

Next week we'll have part 4b, about contemporary decorated papers being made on 18th-century papers...


[Intermission: Print It Black]

The next Q&A (#4) with Claudia and Barbara about Decorating Paper will go up next week. Need to get a few more pix & details. Meanwhile, FYI, the edition is fully subscribed. Copies may still be available from the booksellers listed at right, but don't dawdle; I think most have already been placed.

Spending a few days doing an Intro to Intaglio Printing intensive at New Leaf Editions. Have plans to start combining intaglio and letterpress here in the studio, i.e. both on the same sheet. Finally got a proper bed for the little etching press HM acquired last fall & have started to play with it. First stage in a longer experiment; the purpose of all-black sheets will be revealed at a later date.

Tonight Vancouver Alcuin Society will be presenting the Robert R Reid Award for printing to Jan & Crispin Elsted of Barbarian Press. Huzza!


Decorating Paper Interview #3: How?

A shaky photo taken by an ally who gained access to Claudia's bindery, showing the first batch of completed Decorating Paper sets. This week the final piece will be set in place: the samples in each copy will be calligraphically numbered in sequence, and a separate reference sheet providing details about each sample will be included. Claudia needed to get the bindings and sequencing finalized out before we could set and print these sheets.

This week's Q&A asks a few technical and logistical questions about creating a reference that spans two volumes and over 500 unique paper samples...

How many methods/techniques are illustrated/included in the book; how many paper samples are there in total; and how many of those samples were created by you for the book vs being sourced from others?

Barbara Hodgson: Decorating Paper covers eight of what we’ve identified as major paper-decorating methods. Within each category, we discuss various techniques. This is how we’ve organized the book, dividing the subjects into the two volumes, the first for papers made by hand, the second for papers made by some kind of printing technique.

Volume One:
  • Random-Patterned Papers: Sprinkled, False-Marbled, Crinkled
  • Pulp-Patterned Papers: Watermark & Water-Pattern, Pulp Innovations
  • Paste Papers: Paste-Paper Techniques, Paste-Paper Style
  • Marbled Papers: Suminagashi, Turkish & European Marbled Papers
Volume Two:
  • Stencilled & Resist Papers: Katazome; Screen Printing; Silhouette Paper; Brushed, Sponged & Wiped; Spattered, Sprayed & Airbrushed; Batik; Shibori; Itagime
  • Lithographed & Glazed Papers: Lithography & Chromolithography, Offset Lithography, Glazed & Metallic
  • Embossed Papers: Dutch Gilt, Blind & Metallic Embossed, Leather Imitation
  • Relief Printed Papers: Woodcut; Karakami, Chiyogami & Zuancho; Domino & Calico; Remondini & Rizzi; Flock; Wallpaper; Rotary Block & Letterpress; Linocut & Stamps
In many instances, the techniques are subdivided. For example, under water-pattern techniques, within the category of pulp-patterned papers, we discuss mizutamashi (water-drop paper), suiryushi or ryusui (flowing water), rakusuishi or resugami (stencilled spray water, “lace” paper), hikikakegami, and danshi (“Sandalwood” paper).

What’s the most uncommon, strange, and/or hard-to-source sample in the book?
Claudia Cohen: The easiest to find are the marbled papers, because they’re the most common. The hardest to find were the 18th century ones. The resist paste papers (mentioned in Q&A #1) also are very hard to come by. It was a technique used for such a brief period of time, and you certainly can’t buy it commercially now.

I inquired with a lot of book dealers in Europe, but very few had any papers to sell. I bought some papers from auctions in Holland. There’s an auction house there that has two auctions a year, and I got some really nice early papers in an odd lot. You never know what you’ll get with those. There seem to be a lot of serious paper collectors in Holland, so it’s a good place to go looking.

One of the nicest samples in the book is the block-printed dominoté, a yellow sheet with small dots (see above). Those were made no later than 1820. I bought four sheets of the same pattern in two different auctions, which was a real coincidence. To find four whole sheets of old paper is very rare. Then one the hardest thing’s about doing this book is cutting up a sheet of 18th century paper, to make the samples!

Another sheet in the book that was hard to find is the Rizzi (below). Those came from a trade with another collector. I was lucky enough to stumble across multiple sheets. I was told by a bookseller who had them that the reason Rizzi papers have become so uncommon is that Tanya Schmoller hoovered up all the samples she could find for her book about them (Remondini and Rizzi: A Chapter in Italian Decorated Paper History, Bird & Bull 1990). I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s a good book. It’s the reference book on Remondini papers. 

BH: One particular technique eluded us: silhouette paper. This is one of the earliest types of decorated paper, originally created in Persia and Turkey, and popular in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. They were often used to decorate albums. It’s a simple but fiddly technique, felt or leather is cut into patterns, soaked in dye, and then pressed between papers. The colour transfers to both papers. I made dozens of small transfers, using leather, wool, felt, and chamois cloth for the patterns; dyes or paints for the colouring; and a variety of papers. None resulted in anything that I thought worthy of the book.

Papers that we made ourselves include ebru [Turkish marbling - the round samples shown on this page were all made by Barbara], shibori (Japanese tie-dye paper), kakishibu-coated crinkled paper, paste papers, and marbled papers. 

Were any of the techniques discussed hard to research (i.e. a lack of information) or difficult to find examples of? How many of the techniques are essentially obsolete, or even forgotten, now?

BH: Several techniques are now a rare specialty, for example, batik paper (samples below). This is made with a wax-resist technique, similar to the way batik cloth is made. Our information for how it was made commercially came from August Weichelt's Buntpapier-Fabrikation (1927). Translating Weichelt’s German text was made extra specially difficult for this reader of rudimentary German, as many of the technical terms are obsolete and not found in any dictionaries, print or on-line. I made a glossary of such terms that I could find, cross-referencing and slowly filling in the missing words (a process made somewhat simpler by the delight Germans take in making compound words). I eventually managed to piece together the rough technique. If someone ever translates Weichelt’s book into English, they will be doing the world of paper a big favour.

But the saga of batik paper doesn’t end with Weichelt. It was also made by artisans, including Emil Kretz (Swiss) and Ingeborg Börjesson (Danish born). But, where we classified the commercial technique as wax-resist stencilling, we classified the artisanal type as paste-paper, because of the actual application of colouring. Although we are able to follow the general methods that Kretz and Börjesson used for making their papers, each no doubt carried to their graves that “something special” that makes their papers uniquely theirs.

Tell me a bit about how you decided to physically present the samples in the book. What are some of the challenges or issues you had to deal with?

BH: We chose to present the papers as either small specimens, grouped together to make up a whole sample sheet, or as larger, full-page samples. Specimen sheets are a time-honoured tradition among paper makers and are still used today. Because both Claudia and I value specimen sheets as much for their aesthetic qualities as for the information they display, we decided to make our specimen sheets as visually pleasing as possible. We explored the varieties produced by the decorating paper factories of the past, especially those of Aschaffenburg. Ours is designed along the same lines, but we made ours more flexible, to accommodate a variety of different sizes of specimens.

Sometimes small samples appear with the text. Most are clustered at the end of each chapter, ensuring that the flow of the text was not interrupted.

CC: The main challenge with a book like this, with so many tipped-in samples of all different shapes and sizes, is you can end up with a pie-shaped book if you don’t compensate for all the thickness you’re adding with the samples. The Decorating Paper volumes are sewn on a medium-weight Japanese paper concertina. There’s a zig-zag between each signature, sometimes two, so that the spine ends up the same thickness as the text block with all the samples inserted. You have to sew a couple of copies to get it just right.

Another technical issue was how to protect and contain the loose portions of the tipped in samples, and the gatefold spreads. Because remember we wanted people to be able to inspect the back of the samples as well as the front, you had to be able to fold or turn the samples to see the verso. So I had to include tabs throughout the book to hold the larger samples in place - there are scores in each volume - so they don’t flap around.

Another trick I used - which people may think is purely decorative but it had a function too - was adding samples cut in circles throughout the book, often near the fore edges, to help build up the thickness at the outer margin to match the middle of the text block, where most of the bulk of samples lay. It was a structural issue, tempered by aestehtics. I love cutting decorated paper in circles. It’s like a spotlight. It intensifies the pattern.

Next week's post looks at some intriguing contemporary decorated papers being created in the U.K.