Paper-Moulds and Paper Traditions

David W. Sorenson

“Paper-Moulds and Paper Traditions:
What Mould-Patterns
in Near-Eastern and Indian Paper
Suggest Regarding Origins of Local Papermaking

Front Cover of Paper by David W. Sorenson on "Paper-Moulds and Paper Traditions" (2017 and 2020), with 7 illustrations from paper manuscripts in various languages

Front Cover of Paper by David W. Sorenson on “Paper-Moulds and Paper Traditions” (2017 and 2020)

Here we publish the illustrated text of David’s paper on “Paper-Moulds and Paper Traditions” as a freely downloadable pdf.

The paper was presented at the 26th Annual Conference of the World History Association, held at Northeastern University, Boston, on 22–24 June 2017, as reported in the 2017 Conference Program.

The paper begins:

The study of paper has been of interest to historians for well over a century, and has attracted the attention of scholars, not only for its own sake, but also for its use in other fields such as manuscript studies.  The use of watermarks, for example, is well established . . . But at least in the West we have watermarks; outside of the West, watermarks are much less common, and until well into the nineteenth century they are found on imported paper exclusively.  When we consider the really interesting material found in most of the world, we are out of luck, as watermarks are not found in such paper. . . . Fortunately all is not completely lost, as the varieties of paper-moulds in use, identifiable by the line-patterns seen in the products of the moulds, can give us some useful information . . .

The discussion and illustrations consider early examples; Mamluk and Ottoman examples; Italian, Ottoman, and Mamluq paper and their Mould-Patterns; examples from North Africa and Yemen; Persian, Indian, and Nepalese paper; and Indian and Chinese samples.

In sum,

This study is still in its infancy, and it is hampered by the rarity of localized and dated examples, especially before 1550.  So we must make the most of what is available, particularly in terms of the welter of fragments which are so readily available.  It will take time for a precise picture to emerge from our study, although the outlines are becoming visible.

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The 2020 version of the paper, offered here, has some revisions and adds footnotes, a List of Figures, and captions.  It is set in RGME Bembino, our multilingual digital font (also freely available).

This 14-page illustrated paper is presented as a Draft for Comment.

It marks the first publication on our website of the full text of a paper presented at conferences other than our own (such as our sponsored Congress Sessions and other Events).

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Other Papers by David Sorenson are available for download on our website.

1) His Paper for one of our 2015 Congress Sessions:

Presented for our Session on “Making It or Faking It? The Strange Truths of ‘False Witnesses’ to Medieval Forms”, held at the 50th International Congress on Medieval Studies, on which see our 2015 Congress Report.

2) David’s Abstract in our 2020 Symposium Booklet has been expanded to a Paper:

Intended to be presented at our 2020 Spring Symposium (which had to be cancelled or postponed), this paper is presented as a Draft for Comment.

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We thank David Sorenson for his multiple contributions to Research Group events over the years.

They include Papers for our Congress Sessions in

and for our Symposia in

As mentioned above, David’s Abstract in the 2020 Symposium Booklet has been expanded to a Draft Paper for Feedback:

  • “A Quick Introduction to Indian Manuscripts for the Non-Specialist”, with examples and illustrations,
    available as a download here

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The preparation for publication in November 2020, here, as a Draft for Comment, of the revised version of David’s paper on “Paper-Moulds and Paper Traditions” from the 2017 WHA Congress in Boston corresponds with our work this year to draw upon cumulative work on aspects of the history of paper.

For example, we have now assembled the initial stages of an online discussion and gallery of images devoted to

Open for inspection and feedback, that webpage gathers multiple Specimens of Watermarks, with descriptions, found on paper in manuscripts or printed materials from a variety of times and places.  For this project, years in the preparation, David Sorenson steadily provided advice and expertise.

We look forward to learning more.

Please let us know your Comments and Feedback.

Front Cover of Paper by David W. Sorenson on "Paper-Moulds and Paper Traditions" (2017 and 2020), with 7 illustrations from paper manuscripts in various languages

Front Cover of Paper by David W. Sorenson on “Paper-Moulds and Paper Traditions” (2017 and 2020)

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