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Rare Book School at the University of Virginia

H-60. History of European and American Papermaking

Timothy Barrett and John Bidwell

Papermaking from its introduction in Europe through the Industrial Revolution, emphasizing changes in technology and the economics of the trade. Topics include: labor and management, the identification and description of paper in early books and manuscripts, and the revival of hand-papermaking in the c20. The course will include demonstrations of manufacturing techniques, and sessions in which students will date and localize early papers on the basis of watermark and other physical evidence.

This course will examine the historical setting of early papermaking, its aesthetics and technology. The lectures will view (1) changes in technology in the light of documentary evidence; (2) the economics and organization of the paper trade (mostly in England, France, and America); (3) the relationship between the paper trade and the book trade; and (4) paper as bibliographical evidence.

No hands-on experience in printing or papermaking is required, but applicants should have a general acquaintance with the history of books and printing.

Course Resources

Course History


Timothy Barrett and John Bidwell have taught this course together many times since 1987.