Author Topic: Acidic, wood-pulp paper.  (Read 26 times)

Offline Daniel McGill

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Acidic, wood-pulp paper.
« on: September 11, 2019, 01:25:50 AM »
Dear members and guests,

I would like to post questions of wood-pulp paper. Is it still available? Where would you get it?

Although modern paper is superb in versatility, I would love to write on the paper that was used by past masters in penmanship.

Does anyone know any answer to my posed questions?

Offline K-2

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Re: Acidic, wood-pulp paper.
« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2019, 06:52:15 PM »
Chemically pulped & bleached cellulose paper (i.e. bleached wood pulp paper) is sold as "kraft paper" these days.  Butcher paper is a type of kraft paper.  So is cartridge paper.   I'm not sure it's the exact formula the old pen masters you're thinking of used though.  Wood pulp paper enters the consumer market in Europe somewhat after my academic specialty ends.  I'm supposing cartridge paper might be quite similar though.  Fully bleached kraft paper is very strong and very beautiful, and bright white.

Most of the paper that was have from say, England in the 17th-18th centuries is made of linen, sourced from old clothes.  It was very expensive, because it was a byproduct of the life-cycle of clothing, and clothes were the most expensive single item that most people owned, on account of the amount of grueling manual labor required to produce them -- from harvesting the linen (or wool or cotton in some parts of the world - like the American South) to washing, carding, spinning, weaving, and finally cutting and sewing it into garments, all by hand.  It's telling that the first thing that got industrialized in the Industrial Revolution was cloth-making, and the first "computer" run on wooden punch cards was a jacquard loom.

Before industrialization, people saved their clothes, reused, refashioned, repaired, and finally recycled them into paper, because even the rags had value.  The rag pickers bought rags and then separated the fibers out from the old clothes and sold them to paper makers to turn into paper.  The single most expensive element in the first edition of Shakespeare's First Folio (1623) was the paper.  It was so expensive that they didn't waste any on editing - they edited on the fly, so every copy is different.

This type of linen (or cotton paper) is very very durable though.  It can last for centuries, remaining soft and supple.  Wood pulp paper, on the other hand, degrades rather rapidly when exposed to light, since the acidic bleaching compounds literally digest the paper from the inside out.  It smells great thought, because as it happens, it releases volatile chemicals similar to vanillin (which makes vanilla smell good too).  Hence, that special smell in old bookstores.