It surprised me to learn, when perhaps it ought not have done, that communist East Germany was a source of high-quality stationery. Was it, I wonder, a democratic luxury, or one restricted to the export market and to those in the upper echelons of the Party? Five or six years ago I aquired the box of Koenigstein paper and envelopes shown above. The simple design on the box reflected exactly the watermark in each A4 sheet. The paper within was beautifully hand-made: some of the best I’ve yet to put my hands on.

As well as the Koenigstein paper, the box held a smaller number of sheets bearing a different watermark: Spechthausen, likewise hand-made, and of no lesser quality. The Spechthausen mill, I gather, was not far to the north-east of Berlin; whereas the Koenigstein one was located south-east of Dresden. Like the majority of hand-made paper it had a very slightly hydrophobic surface which made it less than perfectly suitable for use with a fountain pen. Even so, I had no difficulty using it all up.

More recently I’ve acquired the set of paper & envelopes below. This paper is perhaps a tad less deluxe, with a smooth machine-made finish, but it still has a lovely high-quality feel. This paper isn’t watermarked, and the only indication of a manufacturer or brand-name are the words Briefalux Papier on the outside of the folder. The envelopes are tissue-lined. Each sheet in the pad bears a sepia-toned illustration of one of ten different East Berlin landmarks: it’s by no means clear in the small image that follows that we’re seeing the Marx-Engels-Forum depicted on the uppermost sheet. According to wikipedia, this park, with its statues of the authors of The Communist Manifesto, wasn’t inaugurated until 1986, thereby (one imagines) dating the set to the last years of the DDR, or the first years of a reunited Germany.