You know how sometimes you can get ideas for a subject you are interested in by studying a different but related subject? So, strangely enough, I’ve found myself reading about paper conservation. Specifically, at the moment, a book called Books and Documents: dating, permanence and preservation by Julius Grant. It was printed in 1937, so I guess a lot of the material is dated now (haha)…but somehow it’s only making it that much more interesting to read.
There are long sections detailing experiments on paper and ink to determine their composition, in order to roughly estimate when a document was likely to have been created. On pages 41-44 he provides a list of supplementary evidence that can be used.
There are of course many other minor sources of evidence which may prove helpful in establishing the date of a book or document, but to discuss them all in full detail would bring this volume outside its professed scope. It has, however, been thought desirable to summarize the more important of them in the form of a chronological table, which may be used in conjunction with the information on paper and ink already provided.
The list was so delightful, and oddly thought provoking, that I took the time to transcribe it below. I randomly linked some of the terms and names to Wikipedia to ensure you get completely lost.
Seventh century. The first bound books and introduction of quill pens.
863. The oldest printed book known (printed from blocks by Wang Chieh of Kansau, China).
1307. Names of paper-makers first incorporated into watermarks.
1400 (circ.). Introduction of alum-tanned white pig-skin bindings.
1454. The first dated publication produced with movable type.
1457. The first book bearing the name of the printer.
1465. The earliest blotting paper (vide infra, 1800) ; this is sometimes found in old books and manuscripts and its presence may help to date them, although of course, the blotting paper may have been inserted subsequently to the date of origin.
1470 (circ.). Great increase in the number of bound books produced, following the advent of printing ; vellum and leather used principally.
1472. The first book bearing printed signatures to serve as a guide to the binder.
1476. The first work printed in England (by William Caxton).
1483. The first double watermark.
1536. The first book printed in America.
1545 (circ.). Introduction of custom of using italics only for emphasis. Mineral oil and rosin first used in printing inks.
1570. Introduction of the I2mo.
1570. Introduction of thin papers.
1575 (circ.). The first gold-tooling.
1580. Introduction of the modern forms of “i,” “j,” “u,” and “v.”
1580. (circ.). The first pasteboards.
1600 (circ.). Copper-plate illustration sufficiently perfected to replace crude woodcuts. Introduction of red morocco bindings.
1650. Wood covers (covered with silk, plush or tapestry) used for binding.
1750 (circ.). The first coth-backed paper (used only for maps).
1750 (circ.). Gradual disappearance of vellum for binding and introduction of millboard covered with calf; or half-covered with leather and half with marbled paper, etc. The first wove paper (Baskerville).
1796. The first embossed binding.
1803 (circ.). Metal pens first placed on the market.
1816 (circ.). Coloured inks first manufactured in England using pigments.
1820 (circ.). Linen-canvas first used instead of parchment to hold the back of the book into the cover. Introduction of straight-grained red morocco bindings (see 1600).
1830. Title printed on paper labels which were stuck on the cloth for the first time.
1835 (circ.). Decoration by machinery introduced.
1836. Introduction of iron-gall inks containing indigo (Stephens).
1840. Titles first stamped on cloth.
1845. Linen board cover in common use. At about this time it became usual to trim the edges of books, and the practice of binding in quarter-leather declined.
1860. Beginning of the custom of paring calf binding leathers to the thickness of paper.
1861. Introduction of synthetic indigo for inks.
More about the other subject later …