Category Archives: Paper

Where to study wall paper design

If you are in Paris and want to borrow an art book, one of the only options is the Bibliothèque Forney on rue du Figuier in the Marais. Inaugurated in 1886, the library bears the name of the industrialist Samuel-Aimé Forney, who gave the City of Paris a legacy for the education of craftsmen. Today, it remains a free lending library.

Originally located in the heart of the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, the Forney became so successful that in 1961, it was transferred to the renovated Hotel de Sens, one of the few examples of medieval civil architecture still found in Paris. Built from 1475 to 1519 on the order of Tristan de Salazar, Archbishop of Sens, the building has had many residents over the years. In the 19th century, for instance, there was a rolling company, a laundry, a canning factory, a hair hairdresser, and so on. In 1911, the city of Paris bought the building, which was extremely dilapidated. Restoration work begun in 1929 did not end until 1961, when the library moved in.

The restoration was very sympathetic. Architectural ornaments throughout the building honor of the draftsmen, bronziers, cabinetmakers, and other craftsmen who came to work here and borrow books.

The wall paper collection at the Forney is extensive, both woodblock printed and hand painted. This case holds samples that not only show the final design but also the colors and the sequence of the woodblocks used to create that design.

Rare and modern source material is available to the general public, but to artists and artisans in particular. Workshops and demonstrations are held on a regular basis, with an exhibition gallery on the first floor.

If you can’t get to the Forney itself, you can read about it:
Jacqueline Viaux, Bibliographie du meuble: (mobilier civil français) (Paris: Société des amis de la Bibliothèque Forney, 1966). Marquand (SA) Z5995.3.F7 V5
Bibliothèque Forney. Catalogue matières: arts-décoratifs, beaux-arts, métiers, techniques (Paris: Sociéte des amis de la Bibliothèque Forney, 1970-75). Marquand (SA) Oversize Z5939 .P225q
Bibliotheque Forney. Hôtel de Sens, Bibliothèque Forney (Paris: La Bibliothèque, 19830. Marquand (SA) Z798.B54 B53 1983

Les vapeurs ou le jour des memoires

Les Arts Décoratifs has three locations in Paris, but we chose to visit the collections and documentation at 107, rue de Rivoli. Windows there offer a view of the Louvre on one side and the Eiffel tower on the other.

The collections of the decorative arts are among the largest in France, comprised of thousands of pieces from the various fields of the decorative and applied arts. Many new donations, purchases and bequests are added to the collections every year.

The library and documentation center house a wide range of materials including books, manuscripts, prints, engravings, photographs, archives of artists and professionals, and ephemera. Established in 1864 by the founding members of the UCAD (Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs), it was their hope to provide artists with a store of forms and images for their inspiration. One of the most extraordinary resource is the volumes of the Maciet collection, a bound selection of reproductions and original works on paper organized by topic. In these volumes, one might find a 19th-century photograph by Henri Le Secq (1818-1882) documenting a Paris street pasted next to a printed menu of a restaurant on that street.

The organization’s documentation notes, “When art lover and collector Jules Maciet (1846-1911) crossed the threshold of the library of decorative arts in 1885, he understood that books alone could not satisfy the demands of artists and artisans: It would take images, lots of images. …Thus, from 1885 to 1911, the date of his death, Jules Maciet became an image hunter, bringing together hundreds of thousands of prints, photographs, documents from all sources from catalogs, books and magazines. He slices, sorts, and sticks them in great albums and imagines a methodical classification in the encyclopaedic spirit of the nineteenth century.”

We pulled the volume on Japanese pochoir and found a complete rare book reproducing stencil color disbound and pasted in. Happily, a box of original Katagami (Japanese paper) stencils were brought out to compliment the research.

Also on the table was a stunning volume of pochoir colored caricatures from the series Le Bon Genre, which we recognized from Princeton’s Charles Rahn Fry Pochoir Collection. Here’s a plate that seems to fit the visit: “Les vapeurs ou le jour des memoires” (The Vapors or the Day of Memories).

Le Bon genre; réimpression du recueil de 1827; comprenant les “Observations…” et les 115 gravures. Préface de Leon Moussinac (Paris: Les Éditions Albert Lévy [1931]). “Les planches ont étés gravées par E. Doistau, imprimées par R. Tanburro, et coloriées par J. Saudé … Il en a été tiré 750 exemplaires”–Verso of p. preceding t.p. Princeton’s copy is no. 444, from the Charles Rahn Fry Pochoir Collection. Graphic Arts Collection (GAX) Oversize 2004-0020F


Musée du quai Branly

The Musée du quai Branly holds almost 370,000 works of art and 700,000 iconographical images (photographs) originating in Africa, the Near East, Asia, Oceania and the Americas. The work is considered for its aesthetic value, not its ethnographic appeal (that work is currently at the Musée de l’Homme). The walk up to the front door is made through a dense forest of trees and grasses, with the Eiffel Tower seen around the corner of the building.
The Jacques Kerchache Reading Room on the top floor of the museum holds over 100 researchers at one time, tempting them with a view as far as the Sacré-Cœur Basilica. Public spaces throughout the building are decorated with pieces from the museum collection.

The collection offers examples of printing and drawing on many different surfaces, including this piece of Masi or Tapa cloth from the Bismarck archipelago, off New Guinea in the southwest Pacific Ocean. The work of art was made in the early twentieth century and is shown in comparison with Pablo Picasso’s painting made around the same time.

“Generally, to make bark cloth, a woman would harvest the inner bark of the paper mulberry (a flowering tree). The inner bark is then pounded flat, with a wooden beater or ike, on an anvil, usually made of wood. In Eastern Polynesia (Hawai’i), bark cloth was created with a felting technique and designs were pounded into the cloth with a carved beater. In Samoa, designs were sometimes stained or rubbed on with wooden or fiber design tablets. In Hawai’i patterns could be applied with stamps made out of bamboo, whereas stencils of banana leaves or other suitable materials were used in Fiji. Bark cloth can also be undecorated, hand decorated, or smoked as is seen in Fiji. Design illustrations involved geometric motifs in an overall ordered and abstract patterns.”–Dr. Caroline Klarr

See an example: Sara Featherstone Robinson, Hina-Malama, moon-goddess of the Polynesian Islands: a tapa story woven from ravelings of old Polynesian myths and chants (Berkeley, Calif. [1926]). Binding note:    Illus tapa cloth wrap. Brown title and illus. Cotsen Children’s Library (CTSN) Pams / Eng 20 / Box 37 31533

A Practical Guide to the Varieties & Relative Values of Paper

The study of paper is not virtual. You hold it in your hand and feel the weigh of the sheet. You bend it to see which direction the paper fibers are running. You place it over a light and search for a watermark, then shine the light at an angle to see the texture of the surface. Are there chain lines? How big was the sheet originally and how many times was it cut to make the present page?

It is an intimate investigation best learned with paper samples that have already been identified and documented and yet, finding such rare samples is, of course, difficult.


Among the earliest encyclopedic gatherings of different types of paper is Richard Herring’s A Practical Guide to the Varieties & Relative Values of Paper, first published in London in 1860. The Graphic Arts Collection now owns a copy of this very rare volume.

Herring’s Guide was and is the most comprehensive published paper specimen book issued in the nineteenth century up to 1860. Herring calls for 246 samples but the copy recently acquired by Princeton has 244. Copies in the British Library and St. Bride’s Library each have only 242 samples. Undoubtedly, these volumes were each unique, hand bound treasures.

“The object of this work,” writes Herring, “is to furnish similar assistance to the stationer to that which afforded to the bookseller by the London catalogue. It is so arranged that by a very simple mode of reference to two hundred and forty-six samples of paper, which are appended to the work, no fewer than six hundred and eighty-one distinct kinds, with the relative prices of each affixed, are represented . . . Nearly every variety of paper, with its characteristic technicalities, dimensions, and weight, has been accurately given . . . .” –preface.

Antiquarian Charles Wood III writes, “The range and variety of papers is astonishing and endlessly fascinating; there are writing papers, printing papers, cartridge papers, wove papers, filtering paper, drawing papers, glazed boards, milled boards, etc. etc. The author was a in a unique position to produce this work; he was stock-taker to Her Majesty’s Stationery Office.”


Here is one of the original advertisements in Bookseller: The Organ of the Book Trade and Many Other Trade Publications, in which Herring wrote:

A Practical Guide to the Varieties and Relative Values of Paper by Richard Herring, in a convenient quarto Guinea volume. Prefixed is a very able history of the Art of Paper Making, full of interesting facts this had previously been contributed by the author to the new edition of Lire’s Dictionary. Next, we have a list of the Varieties and Relative Values of Paper with the sizes of every description and the prices per ream, all the references being to actual specimens of paper contained in the latter portion of the volume. The samples embrace nearly every kind of paper made, together with some of glazed and milled and bag-cap boards. The work, altogether, is so useful that we have little doubt a large number of Stationers will be glad to avail themselves of it.—Bookseller. [The Maker’s price for each sort, including the duty of three halfpence per pound, was exactly two-thirds of the price quoted in this list when the Paper Duty was repealed.—R.H.]

Richard Herring (born 1829), A Practical Guide to the Varieties and Relative Values of Paper: Illustrated with Samples of Nearly Every Description and Specially Adapted to the Use of Merchants, Shippers, and the Trade: To Which Is Added, a History of the Art of Paper Making (London: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts, 1860). Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2017- in process.

Thank you to everyone who helped make this acquisition possible.

Bookplates inside front cover:

See also Herring’s earlier catalogue with only 25 samples, from the collection of Elmer Adler:
Richard Herring (1829-18 ), Paper & Paper Making, Ancient and Modern; with an Introduction by the Rev. George Croly (London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1855). xvi, 125, 24 p., [5], 25 leaves of plates (2 folded) : ill., 25 samples (some col.); 23 cm. “Founded upon lectures recently delivered at the London Institution”–Preface. Samples comprise 8 sheets with watermarks (3 line, 3 light and shade, 2 impressed), 5 of writing paper (2 laid, 3 wove), 4 of wrapping paper, 2 of paper made from 80% straw and 20% rope, 1 made almost entirely from wheat straw, 1 of printing paper and 1 sample each of water leaf, unsized, sized and glazed paper. Graphic Arts Collection (GAX) TS1090 .H477 1855

The Watermark Collection

Thomas Keith Tindale and Harriett Ramsey Tindale, The Handmade Papers of Japan; foreword by Dard Hunter (Rutland, Vt.; Tokyo, Japan: Charles E. Tuttle, 1952). Published in an edition of “not more than two hundred and fifty copies.”

Portfolio (v. [4]) contains foreword by Haruji Yoshida (director general, Government Printing Agency) and catalog (5 p.), and 20 sheets of colored papers made at the Oji Paper Mill of the Government Printing Agency in Tokyo, each with a pictorial light and shade watermark made by the tesuri-kako-ho (hand-rubbing) method from engravings by Seishiro Suzuki, Yayoji Shiomi, Kinnojo Kawashima and Sadakichi Kataoka.

Gift of Edwin N. Benson, Jr. Class of 1899 and Mrs. Benson in memory of Peter Benson, Class of 1938. Graphic Arts: Reference Collection (GARF) Oversize TS1095.J3 T5q

Overhead lighting
Back lighting
Snow and Crow. Engraving by Kinnojo Kawashima. The watermark is on grey paper and is of a crow resting on a blossoming branch which is covered iwth snow. Note the detail of the bird’s claw.



Japan Paper Company, New York City, Philadelphia, and Boston



paper-samples2John Bidwell wrote, “Hand-papermaking is now more of an art than a trade, more of a creative opportunity than a commercial proposition.”

In the early 20th century, paper manufacturers in the United States started making sample booklets to promote hand-made and specialty papers. Each of the small volumes included a variety of materials: bound swatches, sizes, weights, colors, and prices of the papers for sale. Unlike written descriptions, this promotional material demonstrated the tactile qualities and aesthetic beauty of the merchandise to the finite market of luxury, limited-edition publishers.

The Japan Paper Company was one of the leading importers of hand-made papers for fine press editions. When Harrison G. Elliott (1879-1954) became the company’s manager, he greatly expanded the firm’s scope, distributing papers from fifteen European and Asian countries.

Elliott was a good friend and associate of Elmer Adler, while Adler was the director of the Pynson Printers. When he gave up that business and came to Princeton, Adler brought with him his collection of paper sample books. Today, the Graphic Arts Collection has identified and catalogued over six dozen booklets, including a large group from the Japan Paper Company.

Recently, a small collection of full-size sheets were also uncovered, which had been sent to Adler by Elliott in 1938.


1. Oriental Papers. New York City: Japan Paper Company, [19–]. (GAX) 2014-0431N
2. Japanese Tissue Papers Carried in Stock by Japan Paper Company. New York: Japan Paper Company, 1916. (GAX) 2013-0263N
3. Hand Made Papers. New York: The Company, [1917?]. (GAX) Oversize 2010-0002F
4. Privately Printed Books and Their Personal Value as Christmas Gifts. New York: Japan Paper Company, 1921. (GAX) 2004-3723N
5. [A collection of paper sample books from the Japan Paper Company]. [New York: Japan Paper Company, 1924-1939] (GAX) TS1220 .J361
6. Dutch Charcoal Papers. New York City: Japan Paper Company, 1929. RCPXG-7207242
7. Renka Announcements: deckle edge sheets and envelopes imported and carried in stock by Japan Paper Company. [New York, N.Y.: Japan Paper Company, 193-?] (GAX) Oversize 2010-0008Q
8. Handmade Paper: its Method of Manufacture. New York: Japan Paper Company, 1932. RCPXG-5893687
9. Aurelius Hand Made: Handmade Deckle Edge Announcements from Italy … by Japan Paper Company. [New York, N.Y.: Japan Paper Company, 1935?] (GAX) Oversize 2010-0141Q
10. Arnold Hand-Made Deckle Edge Cards & Envelopes: from England … by Japan Paper Company. [New York, N.Y.: Japan Paper Company, 1938?] (GAX) Oversize 2010-0019Q
11. Samples of Letterhead Papers with Envelopes to Match from Japan Paper Company. New York, N.Y.: Japan Paper Company, [1938?] (GAX) Oversize 2010-0017Q
12. Oriental Papers. New York City: Japan Paper Company, [1939?] RECAP-91156800
13. Samples: Bethany, Virgil, Ragston. New York, N.Y.: Japan Paper Company, 1939. (GAX) Oversize 2010-0020Q


For examples of English hand-made papers see: John Bidwell, Fine papers at the Oxford University Press (Risbury, Herefordshire: Whittington Press, 1999). “This edition of 300 copies is set in 14-point Centaur (from matrices belonging originally to Oxford University Press) printed at Whittington on Zerkall mould-made paper, & half-bound with Fabriano Roma paper.”  GAX copy is no. LI. Graphic Arts Collection (GA) HD8039.P33 B5 1999f

Stay overnight in a paper factory

20160702_132719_resizedOn 36th street in Long Island City is a factory building that once housed Isidor Goldberg’s pioneering firm, The Pilot Electric Manufacturing Company also known as the Pilot Radio Company.

After the Second World War, the building was home to a successful paper mill and later, Samuel Roth ran the Romo Paper Products printing company listed as a stationary and greeting card company. Most recently, the factory has been transformed into a hotel, perfect for historically curious travelers.
20160702_133031_resizedIn the basement nightclub is one of the original paper machines from the La Pietra machinery company. It has been converted into the DJ’s booth, or was the day I visited.

20160702_133007_resizedHere’s a picture [below] from the hotel files, before the basement was converted into a nightclub, which shows the machine a little clearer.
20160702_132509_resizedThere are various decorative book motifs throughout the public areas. In the central stair is a three-story column of books and around the corner are several walls embedded with codex volumes. At the front desk is the original Burroughs adding machine and an early typewriter. It is an enormous building and I’m sure there is more that I missed.20160702_133240_resized

Making Paper

bertram2The Graphic Arts Collection recently acquired a rare trade catalogue from the Scottish firm Bertram, presenting their entire line of papermaking machinery. Note below the watermark printed on each plate so that people can’t steal and reproduce their images.



Paper Makers’ Catalogue ([Edinburgh]: [James Bertram & Son], printed by Mackenzie and Storrie, letterpress and lithographic printers, 1890). Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2015- in process

Happily the Capital Collections site for Edinburgh Libraries and Museums recently posted the history of this important manufacturer and the quote here is a portion of their text:

Bertram Limited, Sciennes was founded in 1821 in Edinburgh and developed into a major manufacturer of papermaking machinery. The firm was founded by George and William Bertram, who came from a family which had been involved in papermaking in Midlothian for generations.

After spending about twenty years in Dartford, Kent learning their craft as papermaking machinery engineers, the brothers returned to Edinburgh to set up their own business, a workshop erected near Sciennes, with a few machines and a small forge. The company moved to new, larger premises around 1859, on the site which it was to occupy for over a century. Another engineering company James Bertram & Son was set up in Leith Walk, by a younger brother in 1845.

In 1860 William Bertram retired after 40 years in the business. He died the same year. George continued to supply not only papermaking machines but other machinery used in the paper making process, including steam engines. David, George’s son took over the business from his father. He was the last of the direct line of Bertrams. When he died in 1907, the family name disappeared from the board.





Progressive Series Showing Japanese Papermaking

paper making in japan coverProcess of Japanese Paper Making of Japanese Shrubs. 16 hand colored collotypes. Graphic Arts Ephemera collection.

paper making in japanThis inexpensive souvenir pack of cards shows the steps of traditional papermaking in Japan. Although the color is decorative, the photographs capture a great deal of useful information.

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The Book of Tomorrow, in 1884

livre de demain4Albert de Rochas d’Aiglun (1837-1914), Le livre de demain (The Book of Tomorrow) ([Blois: Raoul Marchand] 1884). Copy 181 of 250. Graphic Arts Collection (GA) 2008-0772N.

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Described as a tour-de-force of bookmaking and papermaking, the printer Rochas d’Aiglun presented the newest techniques of printing in forty-four separate fascicles, which were compiled and published in 1884. Each fascicle was printed on a different kind of paper, using multiple combinations of color and printing techniques, along with essays on the history of paper, ink, and the use of color in printing.

Princeton’s copy takes the imprint from the preliminary leaf. The ornamental title page is printed in color, with the text inside colored ornamental borders. This copy has the “Avis/Tarif” fascicle on pink paper (not called for in contents section), one extra plate in fascicle 3, and a special extra 16 page fascicle on fine heavy blue paper “L’astronomie.” The Jaune de Voiron paper fascicle (28) has the alternate setting “Dissertation . . .”.

An astonishing variety of different papers are shown in a variety of colors, weights, and textures. Almost every page is printed in at least two colors with the text block enclosed in an attractive typographic border of one or two contrasting colors. Several engravings, silhouettes, and photo-lithographs were created for this work and the last principle fascicle contains ten paper samples from papyrus to Chinese and Japanese papers.

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