F&M College Library

History of the Book - Hand Press Period, 1450-1800

This guide is designed to provide a broad overview of printing technologies during the hand press period, and assist with the ENG 206 "Material Texts" assignment in particular.

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Paper

Paper: Paper predates printing by almost 1,400 years, originating in China in A.D. 105.  Papermaking came to Spain in 1150, to Italy in 1276, to Germany in 1390, to England in 1495, and to Philadelphia in 1695.  In Europe and the United States, handmade paper was made from linen and cotton rags which were beaten in water to produce a smooth, milky pulp.  The papermaker would then dip a wooden-framed wire tray into the vat, pulling it up to let the water drain through the screen mesh.  As the water would drain away, the vatman would gently shake the tray, allowing the matted fibers to interlock and form a sheet of paper.  Paper was made in various sizes, depending on the size of the tray.

Handmade Paper

Handmade Paper at Auvergne, France (:27 sec)

Rittenhouse Paper Mill, Philadelphia (2:23 sec)