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Origin Of The Materials Of Writing
by [?]

Our present paper surpasses all other materials for ease and convenience of writing. The first paper-mill in England was erected at Dartford, by a German, in 1588, who was knighted by Elizabeth; but it was not before 1713 that one Thomas Watkins, a stationer, brought the art of paper-making to any perfection, and to the industry of this individual we owe the origin of our numerous paper-mills. France had hitherto supplied England and Holland.

The manufacture of paper was not much encouraged at home, even so late as in 1662; and the following observations by Fuller are curious, respecting the paper of his times:–“Paper participates in some sort of the characters of the country which makes it; the Venetian, being neat, subtile, and court-like; the French, light, slight, and slender; the Dutch, thick, corpulent, and gross, sucking up the ink with the sponginess thereof.” He complains that the paper-manufactories were not then sufficiently encouraged, “considering the vast sums of money expended in our land for paper, out of Italy, France, and Germany, which might be lessened, were it made in our nation. To such who object that we can never equal the perfection of Venice-paper, I return, neither can we match the purity of Venice-glasses; and yet many green ones are blown in Sussex, profitable to the makers, and convenient for the users. Our home-spun paper might be found beneficial.” The present German printing-paper is made so disagreeable both to printers and readers from their paper-manufacturers making many more reams of paper from one cwt. of rags than formerly. Rags are scarce, and German writers, as well as their language, are voluminous.

Mr. Astle deeply complains of the inferiority of our inks to those of antiquity; an inferiority productive of the most serious consequences, and which appears to originate merely in negligence. From the important benefits arising to society from the use of ink, and the injuries individuals may suffer from the frauds of designing men, he wishes the legislature would frame some new regulations respecting it. The composition of ink is simple, but we possess none equal in beauty and colour to that used by the ancients; the Saxon MSS. written in England exceed in colour anything of the kind. The rolls and records from the fifteenth century to the end of the seventeenth, compared with those of the fifth to the twelfth centuries, show the excellence of the earlier ones, which are all in the finest preservation; while the others are so much defaced, that they are scarcely legible.

The ink of the ancients had nothing in common with ours, but the colour and gum. Gall-nuts, copperas, and gum make up the composition of our ink; whereas soot or ivory-black was the chief ingredient in that of the ancients.[7]

Ink has been made of various colours; we find gold and silver ink, and red, green, yellow, and blue inks; but the black is considered as the best adapted to its purpose.

[Footnote 1:
Specimens of most of these modes of writing may be seen at the British Museum. No. 3478, in the Sloanian library, is a Nabob’s letter, on a piece of bark, about two yards long, and richly ornamented with gold. No. 3207 is a book of Mexican hieroglyphics, painted on bark. In the same collection are various species, many from the Malabar coast and the East. The latter writings are chiefly on leaves. There are several copies of Bibles written on palm leaves. The ancients, doubtless, wrote on any leaves they found adapted for the purpose. Hence, the leaf of a book, alluding to that of a tree, seems to be derived. At the British Museum we have also Babylonian tiles, or broken pots, which the people used, and made their contracts of business on; a custom mentioned in the Scriptures. ]

[Footnote 2:
This speech was made by Claudius (who was born at Lyons), when censor, A.D. 48, and was of the highest importance to the men of Lyons, inasmuch as it led to the grant of the privileges of Roman citizenship to them. This important inscription was discovered in 1528, on the heights of St. Sebastian above the town. ]

[Footnote 3:
The paintings discovered at Pompeii give representations of these books and implements. ]

[Footnote 4:
The use of the table-book was continued to the reign of James I. or later. Shakspeare frequently alludes to them–

“And therefore will he wipe his tables clean,
And keep no tell-tale to his memory.”

They were in the form of a modern pocket-book, the leaves of asses’ skin, or covered with a composition, upon which a silver or leaden style would inscribe memoranda capable of erasure.

[Footnote 5:
A box containing such written rolls is represented in one of the pictures exhumed at Pompeii. ]

[Footnote 6:
See note to Vol. I. p. 5. ]

[Footnote 7:
The ink of old manuscripts is generally a thick solid substance, and sometimes stands in relief upon the paper. The red ink is generally a body-colour of great brilliancy. ]