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Cold and Unyielding Ocean: Custom Paper for Arion Press's Moby-Dick

Summer 2018
Summer 2018
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Simon Barcham Green  holds a BSc in paper science from the University of Manchester.   He joined J Barcham Green Limited of Hayle Mill, Maidstone, England   in 1968, after working for brief periods in six mills in England, France, Germany,   Switzerland, and the US. From 1972 to 1975 he worked on technical development   at W and R Balston Limited's Springfield Mill in Maidstone before setting up Barcham   Green and Company Limited in 1975 to continue the making of handmade   paper at Hayle Mill until production ended in 1987. During the 1980s and 90s   Green was engaged in handmade paper consultancy in Bhutan, India, Kenya, and   the Philippines. He was chairman of the Institute of Paper Conservation from 1987   to 1992, and has been business manager of the Institute of Conservation since   2011. Green has lectured widely and published numerous papers and articles on the   technical, conservation, and historical aspects of papermaking. Andrew Hoyem and I first worked together in 1976 on a custom paper order for Arion Press. Although he had been using our papers before, they were entirely standard stock papers. However, for Bibliography of the Grabhorn Press 1957–1966 and Grabhorn–Hoyem 1966–1973 Andrew wanted something more distinctive, so we added the words "Arion Press" and his AH logo as watermarks in our Tovil paper. The logo was composed of nearly straight lines and not very challenging, although in retrospect we should have at least flared the ends as we did later for the lyre logo the press adopted. The quantity was also not very large. During the same time Andrew was already working on a much larger project—a new edition of Moby-Dick; or, The Whale by Herman Melville. Andrew recounted that in 1971 or 1972, he suggested to his partner Robert Grabhorn that they should make a comparable edition of Moby-Dick, in folio format, handset, printed on dampened handmade paper, with illustrations, and hand bound in a comparable manner.

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Without sufficient capital of their own, the project was set aside. In 1977, Fritz Maytag and Barry Traub, friends and members of a monthly dining group Andrew belonged to, asked him what he most wished to print. Moby-Dick was his immediate answer. Planning began with trial pages and an estimation of cost. Barry Moser was chosen as the artist and given the charge that the prints, from blocks of end-grain hardwood, should illustrate things the reader might not know of, and that characters or creatures (the White Whale, Ahab, Ishmael, for example) and dramatic situations in the story should not be shown but left to Melville's descriptions and the reader's imagination. Both Moser and the Press undertook considerable research to ensure that the representations of whaling from the period were accurate.3 From the papermaking point of view the key features were: the overall size of the order—initially about 25,000 sheets, over a ton of paper; the watermarks; and the hue and shade of the paper. Whilst Hayle Mill was built to make hundreds of thousands of sheets of paper a year, a single order of this size had not been made for many years. Naturally Andrew expected every sheet to be identical and perfect and had little use for seconds. He did of course know the nature of making paper by hand and expected some variation and imperfection. However apart from the aim of getting every aspect of the book exactly right visually, variations in the paper could also have adverse effects on the printing process. The large page size of the book—15 x 10 inches—and the need to budget tightly led to the choice of double crown—20 x 30 inches— as the paper size, folded and stitched quarto. Royal at 20 x 25 inches was too small, and Demy at 15. x 20. inches too large. "We expected to cut the paper down from 20 x 30 \[inches\] to 20 X 15," explained Andrew, "because the platen press we were to print the book on is a 14 x 22, which will accommodate 15 inches."4 Two of the watermarks identifying the Arion Press and Barcham Green were straightforward but the whale was unique and possibly the first to appear in any paper in history. It is a deceptively simple shape, but we needed to get the feel of the 50-ton creature into less than 3 inches. The shade of the paper was even more important as it provided the backdrop for all the beautiful type and over a hundred wood engravings by Barry Moser. Andrew wanted the feel of the cold and unyielding ocean. We decided to use blue smalt with a trace of carbon black to "cool" the shade further.5 Backlit page from Bibliography of the Grabhorn Press 1957–1966 and Grabhorn/Hoyem 1966–1973, published by John Howell/Books, 1977, showing the Arion name and logo as watermarks in a special make of Barcham Green Tovil paper. Please note that the photograph is purposely flipped so that the watermarks are right-reading. Having agreed to the basic requirements we did some smallscale color development work with our laboratory beater, vat, press, and drying system. The new paper was based on our standard printing paper Chester Double Crown 50lb NOT.6 This was "light toned" (meaning pale cream) containing small amounts of ochre and umber. Once we were satisfied with the pale blue laboratory trial, we made about a thousand sheets at the production vat on the correct moulds, with the right fiber (largely cotton linters with some abaca). The watermarks were also inserted. We sent a number of sheets to Andrew for comments. Andrew was generally pleased with the shade but wanted it to be slightly paler. We reduced the pigment by about one third. He also wanted the paper to be slightly harder and smoother. To make it harder (and stronger) we increased the abaca content and adjusted the beating. To increase the smoothness, we gave it additional pack pressing, also referred to as cold pressing (CP). To do this, we would gently press packs of over a hundred sheets of damp papers (with about 50% moisture content), overnight, to compact the surface. Most NOT or CP papers are cold pressed twice; Moby-Dick required a third pressing. Once Andrew had approved the modified paper, we started production in batches as the entire order would take over four weeks to make. Meanwhile, in parallel, the Arion Press was setting type and printing. During the course of printing, it became apparent to Andrew that more paper would be needed than the initial 25,000 and he ordered a further 5,000 sheets. This was probably to make up for the amount of seconds that could not be used.7 As printing progressed, a number of issues became apparent and Andrew wrote to me in some detail about them in early 1979. These ranged from variations in sizing and weight to the occasional deformation of the whale watermark. I was mortified to receive this letter as we had tried so hard to get everything exactly right. Looking back though our records we concluded that the variations in weight summer 2018 - 21 and sizing were greater than they should have been and we were open in saying so. The watermark problem was more unusual. The whale was made out of a single line of wire bent into shape and sewn to the laid lines on the mould surface. The laid lines all run in the same direction, and in a single-faced mould (without a backing wire), the watermark is only held in place by the friction of the sewing wire with the laid lines and the occasional stitch onto the twist wires (which appear in the paper as chain lines). In this case, part of the watermark wire had moved and the watermark in the paper was deformed in a few thousand sheets. As we approached the end of the first 25,000 sheets, we ran into another problem: we were running out of blue smalt. It was clear that we did not have enough of the pigment to make another 5,000 sheets. We had not needed to buy any for years and, up until this order, we might not have needed more for many more years. With great difficulty, I found several sources of the pigment, but the samples differed in color from that which we were already using. As the paper's shade was so subtle, variations in the pigment were a problem. Surprisingly we then found that our stock of ultramarine8 was remarkably close in shade to the smalt. Following further correspondence with Andrew, including another color trial, the final parts of the order were made with ultramarine and an adjusted amount of carbon black. Unsurprisingly, there was some variation which you can observe in the fore-edge of a finished bound book from the edition, many of which are in rare book collections accessible to the public. Despite the problems and challenges of the paper, Andrew kindly remarked, "I was very pleased with your making and am proud of the book. It remains our best-known publication and is ranked high among finely printed books of the twentieth century."9 In retrospect, every aspect of making the paper for Moby- Dick was extremely challenging, but as Nathan Heller wrote in The 30,000-sheet production run proved too much for the single-wire whale watermark. During the course of production, the wire shifted and the watermark in the paper lost its full-belly shape in a few thousand sheets. A three-inch-long watermark of a sperm whale specifically designed for the production run of Barcham Green paper for Arion Press's Moby-Dick; or, The Whale by Herman Melville. "An Almost Perfect Book," a profile on Andrew Hoyem in Harvard Magazine, "The paper is a faint blue-gray, like the surface of the ocean on a cloudy day. When the reader lifts a page to turn it, the watermark of a whale shimmers through."10 I would like to thank Andrew Hoyem for his help in writing this article and also for donating the Moby-Dick paper sampled in this issue. Since Moby-Dick, Arion Press has published more great books—both in size and content—and continues to flourish. ___________ notes 1. "The AH logo came from Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Book of Signs. It was a German builder's mark," wrote Andrew Hoyem, in personal communication to author, September 19, 2017. 2. Moby-Dick; or, The Whale by Herman Melville, was published by Arion Press, San Francisco, 1979. Ever since the first editions of the Melville book published in 1851 in London (October) and New York (November), there have been variations in the title, the punctuation, and the presence or absence of the hyphen in Moby Dick. 3. Abridged personal communication from Andrew Hoyem to author, September 19, 2017. 4. Personal communication from Andrew Hoyem to author, September 19, 2017. 5. For more on smalt and carbon black pigments, see: http://www.webexhibits .org/pigments/indiv/recipe/smalt.html and indiv/recipe/carbonblack.html. 6. NOT is a matte, textured surface, sometimes called cold-pressed. 7. Personal communication from Andrew Hoyem to author, September 19, 2017. 8. For more on ultramarine pigment, see: indiv/overview/ultramarine.html. 9. Personal communication from Andrew Hoyem to author, September 19, 2017. 10. Nathan Heller, "An Almost Perfect Book," Harvard Magazine September–October 2013, (accessed October 9, 2017). Custom-designed in consultation with Andrew Hoyem of Arion Press, this paper was used in the production of Arion Press's seminal, limited-edition publication of Moby-Dick; or, The Whale by Herman Melville (1979). The paper consists of 23-percent Alphacell M4 manila pulp and 77-percent Holden Vale HV 69 cotton linters pulp. The manila pulp was made at Mount Sion Works in Radcliffe, as described in Hand Papermaking Newsletter no. 119 (July 2017). The linters pulp was made at Holden Vale Bleach works at Rossendale, 10 miles north of Radcliffe and on a tributary of the same River Irwell. The pulp was tinted with blue smalt or ultramarine and a trace of carbon black. The paper was made in 1978, at Hayle Mill, in Maidstone, England, on Double Crown 20 x 30-inch moulds, fixed with watermarks, including the outline of a sperm whale.