The curious life of paper

In a chapter I read from A Guide to Early Printed Books and Manuscripts, Mark Bland, the author, describes the important advantages of using paper as a medium for printing and use in a codex over other writing formats. Paper has characteristics which yield information for bibliographic description and provenance investigation. With this in mind, the author presents paper through several different lenses. These different perspectives offer various types of information about paper that catalogers can use to identify the maker, the origin of the paper, and the purpose for making it. Paper has intrinsic value for certain fields of study such as book history, descriptive bibliography, and art history, to name a few. The author introduces paper with terms that the field uses, but in a way that is understandable for novices.

A considerable part of the chapter is devoted to evidence found in and on paper as well as methods of analysis and description. These sections are very useful because it describes steps that catalogers can employ to analyze paper. Throughout this chapter, the author presents opportunities to contemplate about what this evidence can mean to the study of paper and related topics. As I was reading this document, I wrote many questions that I was prompted to think about.

As a MLS student who is interested in rare books, I found this article informative and a great bibliographical resource for other materials about paper. I am eager to find out more about paper and all it characteristics. One particular attribute that is most fascinating is the watermark. Watermarks can reference and indicate important information about for whom the paper was made, when and where. Since this chapter was readable and didactic, I would like to read the rest of the book to see what it says on other topics.

*Bland, Mark. “Paper and Related Materials.” In A Guide to Early Printed Books and Manuscripts, 22-48. London: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.

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