Paper for Books, etc.

Two old books comprising numerous paper samples.

Here are a couple more of the books of paper samples I’ve collected. Robert Horne’s Paper for Books (‘A comprehensive survey of the various types of paper used in book production’) dates from 1961, and is a revised & enlarged edition that followed an original one in ‘53. There were multiple editions of Edward H. Dawe’s Paper and its Uses (‘A Treatise for Printers, Stationers and Others’) with my copy of vol. 2 belonging to the one issued in 1929. I’ve yet to acquire a matching copy of vol. 1. Dawe’s book covers more ground than Horne’s, with sections devoted to writing papers, cover & wrapping papers as well as printing papers.

The samples in Paper for Books are grouped into four sections, the first of which is concerned with “bulky book papers … from featherweights to smooth woves.” On the subject of so-called featherweight papers, Horne’s introductory text has some disparaging remarks which, I think, still have some relevance today (at least here in the UK). Such paper, he writes, “has as much guts, character and ‘feel’ as a wet blanket”. He continues:

Publishers rely on their customers, the booksellers, and booksellers have to please their customers, the public. They claim, in fact, that the man in the street … gauges the value of a book by its bulk: some would even, in their insistence on bulk, seem to claim that the public buys its books by the inch. A 320-page book at 12s. 6d., bulking half an inch, will stay on the shelf, while a 240-page book at 15s, bulking one inch, will sell out in no time! Or so some booksellers seem to believe.

Speaking for ourselves, we should much prefer a book to be slim, printed on good paper, so that it took up less room in the pocket, in a brief case, or on the shelf…. However, Featherweight appears to be what many publishers want, so we muct continue to order it from the manufacturers. For there is no gainsaying that, substance for substance, Featherweight is the bulkiest paper made.