Early Papermaking in China and Japan
Papermaking, using tree pulp, was first invented in the 2nd century BCE in China. Later, it spread to other parts of East and Southern Asia and, from there, to Europe and beyond. It should be noted that many places had forms of writing and other types of writing materials before the Chinese invention of papermaking, but their paper allowed for more writing materials to be created more efficiently.
This book, Old Papermaking in China and Japan, was created by Dard Hunter, an American papermaker based in Chillicothe, Ohio, out of an interest in learning more about papermaking. The book was self-published and handmade in 1932. It documents the different traditional methods used to create paper in East Asia. The process in which paper is made involves making pulp out of tree material, shifting it, and drying it. There are various materials and methods used to get paper.
Dard Hunter pasted in numerous physical specimens of paper, plants, and from other books and sources. Pages 50-51 show an example of one of these materials: the Japanese mitsumata, a type of shrub used to make paper in China and Japan. On page 50, there is an illustration of the species, Japanese mitsumata, scientific name Edgeworthia papyrifera. On the opposite page, there is a sample of the bark of the mitsumata and below it, sample paper made from its bark and pulp, in texture the paper is quite soft and smooth but firm. The example papers used are written in Japanese.
The images on pages 68, 69, 70, and 72 were taken from the book: Arts, metiers et cultures de la Chine… published in 1815 and are not the most technically accurate but provide colorful illustrations to describe the bamboo papermaking process. The bamboo is first cut into long lengths and then set to soak in a river or small pond, afterward they are soaked in lime water and then washed in the river. The outer bark is then removed and the rest is cut into small pieces, placed into water, beaten until it turns into pulp, and then taken to a large millstone to be beaten until becoming soft and fibrous. It was then cooked over a charcoal fire. After being cooked the bamboo pulp was placed into wicker baskets to ferment and then washed in the river one last time to assure clean paper. They then form the paper in large dimensions about 12’ x 4.5’ then they dry the pieces of paper upon boards either in the sun or on top of an oven heated by a charcoal fire. Then the paper was separated into thin sheets and spread against a plaster wall. This type of paper is quite soft and fragile.
--Guest Curator, Naidi Valverde-Romero, 2021-2022 OhioLINK Luminaries Student
Hunter, Dard, 1883-1966
Chillicothe, Ohio: Mountain House Press
Kent State University
Special Collections and Archives
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q TS1091 .H8
Selections: pages 50-51, 68-72, title page, title page verso
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Curated by Kathleen Siebert Medicus with guest contributors