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Book Making And Book Selling

( Originally Published Late 1800's )

PAPER is made in Japan of the bark of the true paper-tree, after the following manner. Every year when the leaves are fallen off, or in the tenth Japanese month, which commonly answers to our December, the young shoots, which are very succulent, are cut off into sticks about 3 feet long, or some-thing less, and put together in bundles to be afterwards boiled with water and ashes. If they should grow dry before they can be boiled, they must be first soaked in common water for about twenty-four hours, and then boiled. These bundles, or faggots, are tied close together, and put upright into a large kettle, which must be well covered, and then they are boiled till the bark shrinks so far as to let about half an inch of the wood appear naked at the top. When the sticks have all been sufficiently boiled, they are taken out of the water, and exposed to the air till they grow cold; then they are slit open lengthways for the bark to be taken off, which being done, the wood is thrown away as useless, but the bark dried and carefully preserved, as being the substance out of which they are in time to make their paper, by letting it undergo a further preparation, consisting in cleansing it anew, and afterwards picking out the better from the worse. In order to this it is soaked in water three or four hours, and, being grown soft, the blackish skin which covers it is scraped off, together with the green surface, of what remains, which is done with a knife which they call Kaadsi Vusaggi, that is, a Kaadsi razor ; at the same time also the stronger bark, which is full a year's growth, is separated from the thinner, which covered the younger branches, the former yielding the best and whitest paper, the latter only a dark and indifferent sort. If there is any bark of more than a year's growth mixed with the rest, it is likewise picked out and laid aside, as yielding a coarser and worse sort of paper; all gross knotty particles, and whatever else looks in the least faulty and discoloured, is picked out at the same time, to be kept with the last coarse matter.

After the bark has been sufficiently cleansed, and prepared and sorted according to its differing degree of goodness, it must be boiled in clear lye. From the time it begins to boil they keep perpetually stirring it with a strong reed, pouring from time to time so much fresh 1)e in as is necessary to dense the evaporation, and to supply what hath been already lost by it ; this boiling must be continued till the matter is grown so tender, that, being but slightly touched with the finger, it will dissolve and separate into flocks and fibres. Their lye is made of any sort of ashes, in the following manner. Two pieces of wood are laid across over a tub and covered with straw, on which they lay wet ashes, and then pour boiling hot water upon it, which, as it runs through the straw into the tub underneath, is imbued with the saline particles of the ashes, and makes what they call lye.

After boiling the bark as above described, follows the washing of it, which is of no small consequence in paper-making, and must be managed with great judgment and attention. If it hath not been washed long enough the paper will be strong, indeed, and of a good body, but coarse and of little value; and if, on the contrary, the washing has been too long continued, it will afford a whiter paper, but such as will not bear ink. This part of paper-making, therefore, must be managed with the greatest care and judgment, so as to keep to a middle degree and avoid either extreme. They wash it in a river, putting the bark into a sort of sieve, which will let the water run through, and stirring it continually with the hands and arms, till it comes to be diluted into a delicate soft pulp, or mucilage. For the finer sort of paper the washing must be repeated, but the bark must be put into a piece of linen instead of a sieve, because the longer the washing is continued the more the bark is divided, and would come at last to be so thin and minute that it would run out of the holes of the sieve and be lost ; and at the same time also, what hard knots or flocks, and other heterogeneous useless particles remain, must be care-fully picked out, and put up with a coarser sort of bark for worse paper. The bark having been sufficiently washed, is put upon a thick, smooth, wooden table, in order to its being beaten with sticks of the hard Kusnoki wood, which is commonly done by two or three people until it is wrought fine enough, and becomes withal so thin, as to resemble a pulp of soaked paper, which, being put into water, will dissolve and disperse like meal. The bark being thus prepared is put into a narrow tub, with the fat, slimy infusion of rice and the infusion of the oreni root, which likewise is very slimy and mucilaginous. These three things being put together must be stirred with a thin clean reed till they are thoroughly mixed and wrought into a uniform liquid substance of a good consistence. This succeeds best in a narrow tub, but afterwards the mixture is put into a larger one, which is not unlike those made use of in our paper mills. Out of this tub the leaves are taken off one by one, on proper patterns made of bulrushes, instead of brass wire, called mys. Nothing remains now but a proper management in drying of them. In order to this they are laid up in heaps upon a table covered with a double mat, and a small piece of reed is put between every leaf, which, standing out a little way, serves in time to lift them up conveniently and take them off singly. Every heap is covered with a small plank or board, of the same shape and size with the paper, on which are laid weights—first, indeed, small ones, lest the leaves, being then wet and tender, should be pressed together into one lump, but, by degrees, more and heavier, to press and squeeze out all the water. The next day the weights are taken off, the leaves are lifted up one by one, by the help of the small stick above mentioned, and with the palm of the hand clapped to long rough planks made for this purpose, which they will easily stick to, because of the little humidity still remaining. After this manner they are exposed to the sun, and, when quite dry, taken off, laid up in heaps, pared round, and so kept for use or sale.

I took notice that the infusion of rice with a gentle friction is necessary for this operation, because of its white colour and a certain clammy fatness, which at once gives the paper a good consistence and pleasing whiteness. The simple infusion of rice-flower will not do it, because it wants that clamminess, which, however, is a very necessary quality. The infusion I speak of is made in an unglazed earthen pot, wherein the rice grains are soaked in water, and the pot afterwards shaken, gently at first, but stronger by degrees ; at last fresh cold water is poured upon it and the whole percolated through a piece of linen. The remainder must go under the same operation again, fresh water being put to it, and this is repeated so long as there is any clamminess remaining in the rice. The Japanese rice is by much the best for this purpose, as being the whitest and fattest sort growing in Asia.

The infusion of the oreni root is made after the following manner. The root, pounded, or cut small, is put into fresh water, which in one night's time turns mucilaginous and becomes fit for use after it has been strained through a piece of linen. The different seasons of the year require a different quantity of water to be mixed with the root. They say the whole art depends entirely upon this. In the summer, when the heat of the air dissolves the jelly and makes it more fluid, a greater quantity is required, and less in proportion in the winter and in cold weather. Too much of this infusion mixed with the other ingredients will make the paper thinner in proportion ; too little, on the contrary, will make it too thick ; therefore a middle quantity is required to make a good paper, and of an equal thickness. However, upon taking out a few leaves they can easily see whether they have put too much or too little of it. Instead of the oreni root, which sometimes at the beginning of the summer grows very scarce, the papermakers use a creeping shrub called Sane kadsura, the leaves whereof yield a mucilage in great plenty, though not altogether so good for this purpose as the mucilage of the above-mentioned oreni root. I have also mentioned the Juncus sativus, which is cultivated in Japan with great care and industry. It grows tall, thin, and strong ; the Japanese make sails of it, and very fine mats to cover their floors.

It hath been observed above that, when the leaves are fresh taken off from their patterns, they are laid up in heaps on a table covered with two mats. These two mats must be of a different fabric ; one which lies lowermost is coarser, but the other, which lies uppermost, is thinner, made of thin, slender bulrushes, which must not be twisted too close one to another, but so as to let the water run through with ease, and very thin, not to leave any impressions upon the paper.

A coarser sort of paper, proper to wrap up goods and for several other uses, is made of the bark of the Kadse kadsura shrub, after the method above described. The Japanese paper is very tight and strong, and will bear being twisted into ropes. A thick, strong sort of paper is sold at Siriga (one of the greatest towns in Japan, and the capital of the province of that name), which is very neatly painted and folded up, so much in a piece as is wanted for a suit. It looks so like silken or woollen stuff that it might be mistaken easily for them. A thin, neat sort of paper, which bath a yellowish cast, is made in China and Tonquin, of cotton and bamboos. At Siam the Samnites make their paper of the bark of the pliokkloi tree, of which they have two sorts, one black and another white, both very coarse, rude, and simple, as they themselves are. They fold it up into books, much after the same manner fans are folded, and write on both sides, not, indeed, with a pencil, in imitation of those more polite nations who live farther east, but with a rude stylus made of clay.—Thus far the description of the way of making paper in the East, which the late learned Becmannus was so desirous to know, and so earnestly entreated travellers to inquire into, being, however, mistaken in supposing that it was made of cotton, whereas it evidently appears by this account that all the nations beyond the Ganges make it of the bark of trees and shrubs. The other Asiatic nations on this side the Ganges, the black inhabitants of the most southernmost parts excepted, make their paper of old rags of cotton stuff, and their method differs nothing from ours in Europe, except that it is more simple and the instruments they make use of are grosser.

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