Paper’s advent may have done more to shape human culture than anything. Where would we be without it? No books, no deeds, still recording laws on tablets of gold and stone? Scrawled Sonnets of Shakespeare in the dust on the ground? No notebooks of da Vinci with drawings of flight, no newspapers, no letters home, no love letters full of passion, no treaties signed, torn and written again, our histories spoken and not written.
Things would have been different.
So, I say all of this because I’ve noticed a recent trend that is giving me an odd kind of anxiety…many of the lovely surfaces that I’ve grown to know and use in the past fifteen or so years of bookbinding and journaling are falling away…one by one.
Also gone is Fabriano Ingres – an Italian mould made laid paper – though the mill has come back with Fabriano CFM Ingres. The line has gone from 22 colors, like Gialetto, Celeste, Verdastro and Verde Scuro to 6 paltry neutral shades, with names like Bright White, Ivory and Ash.
“No wonder papermaking was held in such awe in bygone days and was known as the “white craft,” for it is a kind of magic—even a kind of miracle.”
Jean Chitty, Paper in Devon, Exeter 1976
Richard de Bas floral inclusion paper, from a centuries old mill in France – full of ferns, bluegrass and cornflowers – four deckled edges – I used to buy full sheets of both the white and cream for $25 a sheet. It was worth every cent. It is no longer available in the United States, though, at least it is still being made and can be ordered directly from the mill in France. I wonder how much longer they will make it if they can’t sell it abroad.
I ordered some cream Frankfurt made by the Zerkall mill in Germany (They have been making paper there since the sixteenth century) – toothy sheets with interesting wavy laid lines and deckled edges. All the supplier carried was white. I ordered the cream from another supplier, they shipped one sheet and backordered 14 of them. My last order of Nideggen, a lovely textured sand-colored paper made by the same mill – came with the available sheets cut smaller than what I had left in my cabinet – and of those one was smaller than the others.
I am beginning to feel as if soon all that artists will have available to work with will be recycled copy paper or decorative sheets from India and southeast Asia. The only solution I can see is to make my own handmade sheets or acquire paper from local hand papermakers.
Not really a bad solution, I guess, since forming sheets by hand would certainly introduce a special intimacy with the ground materials one uses to make a book. But, alas, I still do mourn the sheets I knew and loved – and like all things lovely and gone, once they are gone they are gone for good.