Volume 25 - Spring 2008


Flash Bang Wallop - What a Paper

by Christine Gibbs

Although most of the Griffen Mill papers sold by J. Hewit & Sons are used by bookbinders and conservators, a growing number of sheets are being bought for use in films and documentaries. Recreating historical events whether on film or on location in a Royal Palace or on a battlefield often involves the use of "antique" paper in the form of scrolls, letters, maps, books and proclamations.

The tone and character of each of the papers in the Griffen Mill range were carefully chosen to resemble the type of paper commonly used in a particular period or century so they have been found to be particularly suitable for this kind of use.

The "medieval" papers, Falcon and Old Cleeve which have the have narrow chain lines and crispness found in many papers of the 15th and 16th Centuries seem to be used for a variety of purposes. For example, at the thinner weights, Old Cleeve has been used to make paper cartridges for muskets used in the recreation of battle scenes whilst the thicker 115gsm sheets have been turned into early playing cards! The brown toned Falcon has been used for old inventories and books.

Proclamations and notices usually require a tough paper and this is where Akbar Natural, a tough, off white paper is often the paper chosen. Griffen has been used to make Tudor recipe books for the kitchen re-enactors at Hampton Court Palace as well as being converted into notices and pamphlets and labels for pots of jams and bottles of medicine!

The conservation and recreation of historic wallpapers is also a growing market for archival handmade paper. For example, the Strawberry Room in the Victoria and Albert, Museum, London and Queen Charlotte's Boudoir in the Royal Palace at Kew have all be conserved and repapered using paper made by Griffen Mill.

Such papers are always made to the client's specifications since the wall surfaces, printing techniques and paper hanging methods used can vary enormously. Handmade wallpaper in the forms of individual sheets are available through Hewits by special order.

One of the major problems when filming paper for historical documentaries is that many modern white papers appear to have an unsightly colour cast when filmed. Not being filmmakers we were unaware of this problem until we heard that an increasing amount of paper was being sold to film and historical documentary makers. Not only does the paper look authentic in the close- up shots but the problems with the colour cast are usually negligible. Is it magic? Perhaps not but young Harry Potter was spotted using it!

NEW For 2008

We are very pleased that three more papers are being added to the Hewit range. The first of these is Akbar Brown. This paper was originally made for the British Library and as its name suggests is an "antique" brown version of Akbar Natural. Besides being used as a conservation paper it has also been used for limp paper binding, box lining and for the making of scrolls and proclamations.

The second paper 1750 Laid was designed to be used as a general purpose 18th C paper and is a popular endpaper with bookbinders. Made in an off-white colour, it is capable of being tinted with watercolour, if necessary, to achieve the correct matching tone.

The new paper, Mount Royal is a paper for use by print conservators and picture framers rather than bookbinders. It is a handmade, archival print mounting paper with a low expansion rate, good wet strength and a useful fibre length and is capable of taking a plate mark. It gets part of its name from being made on a royal size paper mould.

Christine Laver-Gibbs - founded Griffen Mill in 1987, helped by practical and technical advice from Whatmans and St. Cuthberts Mill in Somerset. Initially, hand made stationery was made at the mill, which supplied customers such as Harrods and the National Trust. However, the closure of Barcham Green in the late eighties, production was switched to supplying repair papers for bookbinders and paper conservators. Since 1994, when Michael Gibbs joined the Mill, production has risen and Griffen Mill Papers can now be found in collections as far away as Japan, New Zealand, South Africa and the Americas.


Skin Deep - Volume 25 - Spring 2008

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