Ploughing Thru English Handmade Papers

Mentioned last week that the current project was an excuse to add to our collection of books about paper: got a copy of English Hand Made Papers Suitable for Bookwork, published in an edition of 75 copies by the Plough Press in 1972. The large frontis watermark is of a vatman in action is by Wookey Hole Mill. 

As per the title, it was author/publisher Geoffrey Wakeman's intention to show all the papers, of suitable weight for books, currently being made in England. Sadly, the book ended up being more a tombstone than a touchstone: the two major mills featured - Barcham Green and Wookey Hole - closed shortly after its publication.

Wakeman's Plough Press is notable for its interesting and original books related to printing & printing history, but he was a crap printer. He knew he should dampen handmade paper for printing, but he usually didn't (as looks to be the case with the book at hand); more's the pity. The inking's shifty & the impression is weak. Still, the content is useful.

Most of the samples are (folded) full sheets, printed on the first recto. The sections are divided with sheets of colored paper - "badgers" they apparently were called - one-off batches named after friends etc. Lots of inclusions. Not very interesting, but they serve their purpose. The real puzzler with this book is the wretchedly banal binding: institutional green buckram. It doesn't even rate ugly, just homely. Looks like the kind of thing a public library would do to keep a book in circulation for a few more years. According to the Plough Press bibliography, the edition was issued in quarter red morocco (by Gray's of Cambridge), with "come copies in art canvas." Our copy, and the others currently listed online, is in the horrible green buckram: is that what he calls art canvas? If anyone has a copy in the quarter leather binding, please get in touch.

All this kvetching aside, it's a kool book and immediately proved extremely useful for the project at hand. A project that hits the press this week. We're starting with just the Updike extract, and will do the preliminaries and colophon after all of the samples have been printed. Here's a shot of the lovely, never-yet-distributed font of 12-pt Caslon italic we'll be using for the paper names.