Friday, 7 December 2012

A Discourse on Paper

"To omit many other devices in after ages to signify their conceptions, paper was first made of a broad flag (not unlike our great dock) growing in and nigh Canopus in Egypt, which it seems was the staple commodity of that country,  and substantial enough to bear the solemn curse of the prophet, 'The paper-reeds by the brook shall wither, be driven away, and be no more.'

Our modern paper is made of ground rags, and yet this new artificial doth still thankfully retain the name of the old natural paper.  It may pass for the emblem of men of mean extraction, who by art and industry, with God's blessing thereon come to high preferment.  One may find, if searching into the pedigree of paper, it cometh into the world at the downgate, raked thence in rags, which, refined by art, (especially after precious secrets are written on therein) is found fit to be choicely kept in the cabinets of the greatest potentates.  Pity it is that the first author of so useful an invention cannot with any assurance be assigned.

There are almost as many kinds of paper as conditions of persons betwixt the emperor and the beggar: Imperial, Royal,  Cardinal, and so on downwards to that coarse paper called Emporetica, useful only for chapmen to wrap their wares therein.  Paper participates in some sort  of the characters of the countrymen which make it, the Venetian being neat, subtle, and courtlike, the French light, slight and slender, the Dutch thick, corpulent and gross, not to say sometimes also charta bibula, sucking up the ink with the sponginess thereof.

Paper is entered as a manufacture of this county, because there are mills, nigh Stourbridge fair, where paper was made in the memory of our fathers.  And it seemeth to me a proper conjunction, that seeing Cambridge yieldeth so many good writers, Cambridgeshire should afford paper unto them."

The Worthies of England  Thomas Fuller   ed. R. Barber

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