Japan: paper manufactures of the Japanese

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The Paper is made in Japan of the bark of the Morus Papyrifera Sativa, or true Paper-tree, after the following manner. Every year, when the leaves are fallen off, or in the tenth Japanese month, which commonly answers to our December, the young shoots, which are very fat, are cut off into three foot long, or shorter sticks, and put together in bundles to be afterwards boiled with water and ashes.

If they should grow dry before they can be boil’d, they must be first soak’d in common water for about four and twenty hours, and then boil’d. These bundles, or faggots, are tied close together, and put upright into a large and spacious kettle, which must be well cover’d, and then they are boil’d, till the bark shrinks so far, as to let about half an inch of the wood appear naked at the top.

When the sticks have been all sufficiently boiled, they are taken out of the water and exposed to the air, till they grow cold, then they are slit open lengthways for the bark to be taken off, which being done, the wood is thrown away as useless, but the bark dried, and carefully preserved, as being the substance out of which they are in time to make their Paper, by letting it undergo a farther preparation, consisting in cleansing it anew, and afterwards picking out the better from the worse.

In order to this, it is soak’d in water for three or four hours, and being grown soft, the blackish skin which covers it, is scraped off, together with the green surface of what remains, which is done with a knife, which they call Kaadsi Kusaggi, that is, a Kaadsi Razor.

At the same time also the stronger bark, which is of full a year’s growth, is separated from the thinner, which cover’d the younger branches, the former yielding the best and whitest Paper, the latter only a dark and indifferent sort. If there is any bark of more than a year’s growth mix’d with the rest, it is likewise pick’d out and laid aside, as yielding a coarser and worse sort of Paper. All gross, knotty particles, and whatever else looks in the least faulty and discolour’d, is pick’d out at the same time, to be kept with the last coarse matter.

After the bark hath been sufficiently cleansed and prepared, and sorted according to its differing degrees of goodness, it must be boiled in clear lye. As soon as it comes to boil, and all the while they keep it on the fire, they are perpetually stirring it with a strong reed, pouring from time to time so much fresh lye in, as is necessary to quench the evaporation, and to supply what hath been already lost by it.

This boiling must be continued till the matter is grown so thin, that being but slightly touched with the finger, it will dissolve and separate into flocks and fibres. Their lye is made of any sort of ashes in the following manner: Two pieces of wood are laid across over a tub, and cover’d with straw, on which they lay wet ashes, and then pour boiling hot water upon it, which as it runs through the straw into the tub underneath, is imbued with the saline particles of the ashes, and makes what they call lye.

After the boiling of the bark, as above described, follows the washing thereof. This is a business of no small consequence in Paper-making, and must be managed with great judgment and attention. If it hath not been washed long enough, the Paper will be strong indeed, and of a good body, but coarse, and of little value. If on the contrary, the washing hath been continued too long, it will afford, ’tis true, a whiter Paper, but too greasy, blotting and unfit for writing.

This part of Paper-making therefore, if any, must be managed with great care and judgment, so as to keep to a middle degree, and to avoid either extreme. They wash it in a river, putting the bark into a sort of a fan or sieve, which will let the water run through, and stirring it continually with the hands and arms, till it comes to be diluted into a delicate, soft wool, or down.

For the finer sort of Paper the washing must be repeated, but the bark put in a piece of linnen instead of a sieve, because the longer the washing is continued, the more the bark is divided, and would come at last to be so thin and minute, that it would run out through the holes of the sieve, and be lost. At the same time also, what hard knots or flocks, and other heterogeneous useless particles remain, must be carefully pick’d out, and put up with a coarser sort of bark for worse Paper.

The bark having been sufficiently and thoroughly washed, is put upon a thick smooth wooden table, in order to its being beat with sticks of the hard Kusnoki wood, which is commonly done by two or three people, until it is wrought fine enough, and becomes withal so thin as to resemble a pulp of soak’d Paper, which being put into water, will dissolve and disperse like meal.

The bark being thus prepared, is put into a narrow tub, with the fat slimy infusion of rice, and the infusion of the Oreni root, which is likewise very slimy and mucous. These three things being put together, must be stirred with a thin, clean reed, till they are throughly mixed in an uniform liquid substance of a good consistence.

This succeeds better in a narrow tub. But afterwards the mixture is put into a larger one, call’d in their language Fine, which is not unlike those made use of in our Paper-mills. Out of this tub the leaves are taken off, one by one, on proper patterns, made of bulrushes, instead of brass wire, and called Mijs.

Nothing remains now but a proper management in drying of them. In order to this, they are laid up in heaps upon a table cover’d with a double mat, and a small piece of reed, (which they call Kamakura, that is, a cushion) is put between every leave, which standing out a little way serves in time to lift them up conveniently, and take them off singly.

Every heap is covered with a small plank or board of the same shape and size with the Paper, on which are laid weights, first indeed small ones, lest the leaves, being then as yet very wet and tender, should be pressed together into one lump, but by degrees more and heavier, to press and squeeze out all the water.

The next day the weights are taken off, the leaves lifted up one by one, by the help of the small stick abovementioned, and with the palm of the hand clapt to long rough planks made for this purpose, which they will easily stick to, because of the little humidity still remaining. After this manner they are exposed to the sun, and when full dry, taken off, laid up in heaps, pared round, and so kept for use, or sale.

I took notice that the infusion of rice, with a gentle friction, is necessary for this operation, because of its white colour, and a certain clammy fatness, which at once gives the Paper a good consistence, and pleasing whiteness. The simple infusion of riceflower would not do it, because it wants that clamminess, which however is a very necessary quality.

The infusion, I speak of, is made in an unglazed earthen pot, wherein the rice grains are soak’d in water, and the pot afterwards shaken, gently at first, but stronger by degrees. At last fresh cold water is poured upon it, and the whole percolated through a piece of linnen. The remainder must undergo the same operation again, fresh water being put to it, and this is repeated so long as there is any clamminess remaining in the rice. The Japanese rice is by much the best for this purpose, as being the whitest and fattest sort growing in Asia.

Read more:
Japanese Tea: history of Darma
Japanese Tea: manner of cultivating the Tea in Japan
Japanese Tea: gathering of the tea leaves
Japanese Tea: chief different sorts of tea
Japanese Tea: tea for the Emperor’s court
Japanese Tea: use of the tea

Source: Engelbert Kaempfer: The History of Japan, London 1727
Photo: Ukiyo-e print, internet

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