I got several books on the history of paper now and on paper making. Of course Dard Hunter’s book is in there and I will devour them all as soon as I may.
But I finally had some thoughts on why I want to chase this rabbit.
Paper is central to my professional life. There is not a single workday that I am not deciding what paper something should be printed on, figuring out what the paper market is doing, exploring paper options, etc. I am pretty good at feeling a sheet of paper and knowing what it is. I have looked at this idea before but didn’t pursue it. So why now?
One, I do like looking at how the medieval process was and trying to see what we can do it get close. Unfortunately, most of my other “hobbies” aren’t very medieval. I make cordials. But since I can’t distill, and cordials, as we know them, as actually pretty late in period. I use modern liquors in modern mason jars. I make vinegars. The process is probably similar to how it would be insofar that it a natural process. It is going to happen. I don’t have the ability to properly set up the Orleans process and it would be great to grow my own grapes, make my own wine, and make my own vinegars from them. No sulfides to fight. I make glass. This process is deciding modern. If I was doing hot glass, it would be closer to classical style glass.
But the process for hand-making paper has been largely unchanged for the nearly 2000 years. Machine made paper is very different but handmade paper is the same basic processes and the few machines used even harken back to period. The Hollander beater, now electric, but water driven back then, was developed just at the end of period. Things like a screw jack are period.
But more importantly, paper is a chance to do something I think has been missing in the SCA. We have merchants who sell items. Some are medievally made (for a given value) and some are modernly made but look medieval. That is awesome! But we are missing the industry. We are missing the “town” feel. If I can make a good paper and make a reasonable amount, then I can make an industry. The paper supplier supplies to the scribes, supplies to the bookbinders, supplies to the card makers, etc.
We could be doing this with fiber arts and I think I have seen a small amount of these. The spinners supply the weavers, who supply the tailors and seamstresses, who supply the milliners, etc. I think that would be so cool.
For those not in the Middle Kingdom, we give handmade scrolls for awards. Imagine the next level. Instead of Bristol board, the paper is handmade too. One step closer to where we were 1000 years ago.
That is why I want to do this. I know papermaking isn’t hard. I just have to find the time to do it.