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The Papier Mache Or Wet Mat Process

( Originally Published 1927 )



Thus, in the period between 1828 and 1829 the papier mache or wet mat process of stereotyping was invented. This invention represented a tremendous advance in the art of stereoptyping and up to this present day paper mats have dominated the art.

CLAUDE GENOUX, a French printer, is the inventor of the so-called "papier mache" (mashed paper) or "wet mat" method of stereotyping.

Some contemporaries claimed that an Italian, named VANONI, by trade a maker of plaster casts of statuary, invented a system of forming molds for papier mache in London in 1846 and thus, indirectly, gave the idea for the invention of matrices from that material. Others claim that in 1840, six years prior to Vanoni's arrival in England, a patent was granted to POOLE, printer in London, for "improvement in casting for printing purposes"; and that the subject patented was the papier mache stereotyping matrix.

Genoux's patent upon papier mache matrices, however, was granted eleven years before Poole received his patent, and seventeen years before Vanoni was heard of. While Genoux was working as compositor in the printing establishment of Rusaud in Lyons, France, he conducted his experiments, made his invention and was granted a patent upon same on the 24th of July, 1829.

The text of the wet mat patent granted to Genoux by the French Government read as follows : "Patent Number 3965, granted for a period of ten years to Genoux (Jean-Baptiste) of Lyons, for a perfected process of stereotyping."

"The matrix which I have the honor of submitting to you is composed of seven layers of paper; the last, or uppermost layer is oiled and reddened (sanguine). Between these layers I lightly apply by means of a brush a mastic composed of clay, hide-glue and a little oil. Any sort of mastic may be employed; I have adopted this special one on account of it being more economical."

"I place this combination of layers upon the type form and I make an impress with the aid of a roller, proceeding as in taking off a simple proof. I place the whole in the press and cause same to dry. After it is dried I paste a cardboard frame all around the back of the matrix in order to give more depth to the face of the type; thereupon I place it between two iron plates, upon which I have pasted several sheets of paper, there where the cardboard frame of the thickness which I desire to impart to the mold, has been applied."

"I pour the fused metal through a large aperture made in one of these plates, and thereupon the mold is perfect."

"My invention is entirely in the paper, being that without its help I cannot obtain anything perfect."

On the 30th day of August, 1836, a "patent for improvement containing additions" was granted to Rusaud of Lyons, purchaser of the first Genoux patent. The preamble of this document reads as follows:

"When Mr. Genoux ceded his process of stereotyping to Mr. Rusaud, his first tests were far from the hopes he had given birth to; a large number of plates could not be used, because they were badly executed, and very often the matrix broke at the first cast. Also, Mr. Genoux having sold his process in several localities, the purchasers did not succeed in deriving any benefit from their acquisition. Genoux personally came to Lyons two years after he had sold his process to Rusaud, well aware of the fact that the latter's foundry was the only place where Genoux's process had been put in practice and demanded to be admitted in Rusaud's shop in order that he might be initiated in the new discoveries and improvements made since the sale of the original process."

"It was due solely to his work, expenditure and perseverance that Mr. Rusaud has conquered over all difficulties and obtained satisfactory results."

The patent further contains minute and exact explanations of the improvements claimed to have been effected by Rusaud; for instance he employs a soft wooden roller in the stead of Genoux's hard wooden mangle; he constructed a novel oven to dry the mats before casting, made concave and convex plates, used woolen blankets, etc.

On the 26th of November, 1836, a second patent of improvements and additions to the original Genoux patent was granted to Mr. Landrin of Paris, another of the many purchasers of the original wet mat process. This amendment contains a number of improvements in the handling of wet mats.

Genoux sold his patent to his employer Rusaud, who in turn transferred it to another printer, J. A. Pelagaud by name. Genoux thereupon journeyed to Germany with the intention of finding there a purchaser for his patent rights. An article appeared in 1834 in Dingler's Printing Trade Journal, reading as follows: "Monsieur Genoux, French book printer, gave a demonstration in Vienna a short time ago of his new method of printing with solid fixed types ('Stereotyping'), of which he is the inventor. In accordance with his invention, Genoux first prepared a material which he called 'flan.' This material was inform and thickness about that of a paper book cover. Into this material he made an impression of the form he had composed, thereby making a matrix. Into this seemingly very weak mold, he poured lead, thereby casting a metal plate of about the thickness of 40 to 45 one-thousandths of an inch. This plate was a reproduction in relief of the form impressed on the `flan,' and was of greatest cleanliness and precision."

In 1834, the same year this article appeared, Genoux sold his patent rights to George Jacquet, owner of the royal-printing-establishment in Munich. Jacquet then advertised to the trade that he stood ready to sell, against payment of a honorarium, the necessary information regarding the manufacture of these "wet mats" to printers.

Although, compared to the old plaster process, this paper method of stereotyping did wonders as far as rapidity, cheapness and beauty of the plates were concerned, still it took a very long time before this process was universally acknowledged.

In fact, it was not until over seventeen years had passed since the granting of Genoux's basic patent that a master printer, TETIN by name, founded a stereotyping shop in Paris in 1846 using Genoux's invention, which, by the way, Tetin in due time greatly improved.

Genoux's method of stereotyping was to paste four or five sheets of dampened tissue paper lightly together on a sheet of plate-paper, lay same on the surface of the type, strike the laminated sheet with a heavy brush until the soft papier mache had taken an exact impression of the type. On this "flan" or matrix, as it was then called, a sheet of plate paper was spread and beaten in by another application of the brush. This completed the matrix, which was then dried and hardened. Casts were taken from the mold thus obtained by simply placing it in a flask (flat caster) and pouring stereotype metal upon it by means of a ladle.

The advantages of Genoux's papier mache (wet mat) process presented over the plaster of Paris method were:—The comparatively short time it took to accomplish; that series of plates could be made from one and the same flan. (In the plaster process the mold is destroyed in releasing the "shell" or cast, therefore only one plate can be produced without remolding.) That the mold could be preserved indefinitely for later use, that molds could be packed and sent any distance without damage, and finally that the paper molds could be bent without damaging them.

The papier mache process of Genoux is the basis of all paper stereotyping, as it is practiced to this very day. It is unchanged in principle, although the materials used have been improved, certain drawbacks overcome, and the machines used for the different manipulations augmented and modernized.

The word "flan" is above used as a designation for a "papier mache" matrix. The term is attributed to Genoux, who employed same in his original patent, and also to James Dellagana, a Swiss stereotyper of London. The English phonetic form for this French word "flan" is "flong." The explanation for the word "flan" is that in Paris there exists a kind of pastry called "flan" made in layers, and which has the appearance of piled up, somewhat flabby, buckwheat cakes. The resemblance between a layer of such flabby cakes of "flan," and the pasted layers of the wet papier-mache mats, suggested the name for paper stereotype matrices. This name has, however, never been universally adopted, and is practically in disuse everywhere except in France and England. The generally employed term for a papier-mache mat is "wet mat."

Up to approximately the year 1852, stereotyping as practiced by the various methods described so far in this booklet, was employed solely in the printing of books. In the above year Genoux's papier-mache or wet mat stereotyping was adopted by the French daily newspaper "La Presse" in Paris. This step opened an immense and fertile field to the art of stereotyping.



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