Paper is Fundamental

Critics of the book generally focus on the type and when people get into printing, the first thing they get into is type. They learn to recognize the different faces, and become pre-occupied with them. But the paper is more fundamental, because that is where the beauty begins, and in the end, that is all that beauty can come back to the substance of the paper, the field on which the whole thing can act. William Everson, On Printing

I had to get serious about finalizing the paper(s) for the Stockton book, which will be next in the press. It’s a small run, just 36 copies @ 32 pages = 8 sheets per copy = 325-ish sheets total, so some of the small batches of obscure handmades in the HM drawers were candidates. I don’t mind losing a little to trimming but more than a couple of inches seems a waste, so the first limiting factor is how a batch tears down for the book’s 9 x 12 sheet size.

The book will be two halves that meet in the middle, so I could use two different papers, but there couldn’t be too much variation in their weights or the sewn block would be awkward. I had enough of this F. J. Head (feels like it’s hot pressed, has a lovely smooth surface) but it’s quite light, about 80 g. The only other sheet I have similar in weight is Bodleian mouldmade, but it’s practically yellow. There’s going to be more color in the book than normal for HM, and the yellow would detract, so no good. 

This Camber Sand (145 g) would work – it’s not too creamy – but there’s only enough for one half; what would the other be? I don’t have a good companion. 


From a far corner that I thought held only heavy sheets (250
300 g) I found 100 sheets of Canterbury (120 g, off-white), which tears down with just over an inch of wastage in each direction. I guess I’d been saving it for some “special” project, but if this isn’t it I don’t know what will be. 
Walter Bachsinki has completed the two frontis prints, each a six-color pochoir, but I won’t be sharing those until the book is ready for publication. Late fall? We’ll see. 

Getting paper that’s good and interesting has required being constantly alert for whispers that someone is selling sheets they’ve been sitting on for decades. The only handmade sheet I’ve seen from St Armand that seemed a suitable weight for book work was their calligraphy sheet, although I know the mill will do custom orders. There’s Velk√© Losiny but I’ve never printed on their paper. Maybe I should place an order some day (while it’s an option). If you’re forced to buy what’s on offer, the choice is pretty much now restricted to Arches wove (cover is too heavy for most book applications & they don’t seem to make the lovely 120 g laid sheet any longer); Frankfurt; Nideggen (if you can work with the color, and the exaggerated rough sided doesn’t put you off); Rives BFK (tho I find it too soft for a book, the sheet marks easily when handled); or Somerset Book. There may still be some Zerkall Book out there, but that’ll be the end of it. Of the lot I prefer the Arches wove. But it will be fun to print on handmade again for the Stockton book. 


If you’re sitting on any stacks of handmade paper – preferably in the 80 to 150 g range – and feeling the need to cull, please get in touch!