: New: Book Report: Paper

Some months back, I learned that back in pre-USA days, the American Colonies had to import rags from the old country to make paper with. I thought that was weird. My mom noted that Mark Kurlansky had written a book about the history of paper which might clear things up for me. And it did. It turns out: everybody had a rag shortage everywhere. Paper-makers went out of business because they couldn't get cheap rags. It was a problem in the American colonies. It was a problem back in England, too—England imported a lot of paper from the Netherlands. It's not really clear to me why the Netherlands had rags. Maybe they were willing to pay for them? The book mentions plenty of instances of paper-makers complaining about the difficulty of gathering rags; but it's not clear that many of them did anything more than complain and close up shop.

Fortunately, later technologists learned that it was cheaper to chop down huge swaths of forest than to recycle rags, and soon there was plenty of cheap paper. Good thing we didn't need those forests for climate maintenance or whatever, yep.

Anyhow, the book isn't just about ragpicking. There's book-making, art, brushes, typesetting. It's a fun read.

Tags: book

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