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Saturday, May 31 • 10:00am - 10:30am
(Book and Paper Session) Investigation of Historical Japanese Paper: Experiment to Re-Create Recycled Paper from 18th -19th century Japan

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This presentation will discuss the physical characteristics of recycled paper used for Japanese printed books from the18th to 19th century, exploring their production methods and historical developments based on the collaborative experiments with the University of Iowa’s Center for the Book (UICB).

The majority of conservation practices and studies of traditional Japanese paper-based artifacts have focused on the high end arts such as screen paintings and scrolls, luxuriously printed books (such as Sagabon), and certain ukiyoe prints and paintings. Conservators generally have limited knowledge about the printed books and materials used; however, they are the most commonly found traditional Japanese artifacts in the collections of American cultural institutions. Many of these printed materials were mass-produced and made of poor quality paper, such as recycled paper. Making recycled paper required different source materials (waste paper) and lower papermaking skills than those involved in producing the high quality paper.

Conservators’ unfamiliarity with these printed materials has a direct impact on their treatment. For instance, conservators might attempt to treat severely damaged covers of the printed books by disbinding, washing, and lining. This treatment will result in altering the softness and texture of the recycled paper used for the covers. It also destroys the evidence of the subtle embossed cover decorations which are worn-out on the recto and only traceable on the verso of the covers.

This talk will highlight the findings from my experiment to re-create recycled papers and certain cover decorations with the help of Timothy Barrett and his graduate student Anne Covell at UICB. This experiment was designed to investigate the recycled papermaking processes including preparation methods of raw materials (waste paper), use of additives such as tororoaoi (viscosity agent), ink-removal methods, sheet formation and drying methods. We studied the literature to find information about recycled papermaking processes. We then analyzed the physical traits of traditional Japanese books and interviewed Japanese papermakers for their comments. After a series of trials using Thai kozo to determine recycled papermaking processes, we finally made recycled paper using the 19th century Japanese books as raw material. Sample papers and video recordings from this experiment will be part of my presentation.

This project demonstrates a unique benefit of collaboration with conservators and papermakers. My knowledge of historical paper and chemistry complimented Anne’s practical knowledge and experience with papermaking. When the research is limited to a few sketchy historical documents and the remaining artifacts, this type of collaborative experiment is one of the most effective research approaches.

Finally, this research can help us better understand traditional Japanese papermaking in general, its products and its conservation. Our experiment found recycled papermaking could produce relatively high quality paper which was white in color and had a similar texture to the paper made of kozo plant. These findings provide evidence that many paper-based artifacts in the 18th-19th century were most likely made of paper mixed with kozo fiber and waste paper. My research is a step to investigate these important artifacts, and will stimulate further study.


Kazuko Hioki

Conservation Librarian, University of Kentucky Libraries
Currently Kazuko Hioki serves as the Conservation Librarian and Asian Studies Liaison Librarian at the University of Kentucky Libraries. She has worked at the New York Public Library and the Library of Congress. She is a recipient of the 2012 FAIC/Samuel H. Kress Conservation Publication... Read More →

Saturday May 31, 2014 10:00am - 10:30am PDT
Grand Ballroom A