top of page

Awards and Reviews



Julia Miller, Books Will Speak Plain

Julia Miller, Meeting by Accident

Cathleen A. Baker, From the Hand to the Machine

Aimee Lee, Hanji Unfurled

Christine A. Smith, Yours Respectfully, William Berwick



Julia Miller

Books Will Speak Plain: A Handbook for Identifying and Describing Historical Bindings

(reviews of 1st and 2nd ed.; 3rd edition published in 2023)


2012 Eric Hoffer Book Awards

Reference: Winner

First Horizon (superior work by debut author): Winner

Grand Prize: Short listed

Deborah Evetts: “Julia Miller’s desire to make people aware of the many styles and variations in the West’s bookbinding heritage has led her to compile an extraordinary reference book. As promised in its subtitle, her goal was to produce a handbook for identifying and describing historical bindings, but beyond that she provides the information whereby institutions, book conservators and collectors can learn how to recognise, describe and catalogue the bindings that are in their institutional or personal care.

She starts out with a fast-paced review of the early history of the codex, from precursors like papyrus, parchment or leather rolls, through tablets with wax, metal or ivory writing surfaces, to single or multi-quire notebooks of papyrus and vellum. Black and white photographs and line drawings, excellently reproduced on the book’s matt clay-filled paper, help readers understand exactly what she is describing under such headings as ‘The western medieval codex’, ‘Carolingian bindings’, ‘Romanesque bindings’, ‘Fourteenth-century Gothic’, ‘Late sixteenth-century Gothic’, ‘Girdle books’, etc.


In chapter 3, she tackles the radical changes in bookmaking from 1452 to 1800, stating that: ‘The history of bookbinding practice in the Near [E]ast and the West before 1800 could be viewed in three parts: the earliest history of the codex as a series of structural experiments, the twelfth century as the pinnacle of successful practice in combining structure, materials and proven technique, and the period 1200–1800 as a time of gradual but steady changes in [the] quality and types of structure, materials, and techniques… The changes that took place have elements of decline but also exhibit creative adaptation.’


From knowledge she has gained as a practicing book conservator, Julia Miller takes us through each step of the changes in book structures, and then goes on to write about the many materials besides leather that can be used as covers. ‘The book from 1800 to 1900’ introduces us to publishers’ bindings and shows how the original fairly simple embellishments up to 1830 developed, decade by decade, into more sophisticated designs and decorations. The ‘main purpose’ of her book is ‘the presentation of descriptive information and suggestions to help collectors and custodians identify and describe the types of findings that are most likely to show up in American book collections’.


This is a big book … but readers should persist to its last page, because its concluding chapters are full of information that is hard to find anywhere else. For instance, if you need to design a bindings survey, there are lists of headings to suit almost any collection. And don’t miss the author’s advice about the tools you will need and keeping your hands clean. As a fellow conservator, I applaud her view that turning the pages of rare books with clean hands is far better than using cotton gloves insisted on by many rare book librarians. And the reasons she cites are surely valid—gloves blunt our tactile senses and make it difficult to turn brittle pages safely.


The last 200 pages provide three appendices, a glossary, bibliography and an index. Tucked into the front cover is a CD with all the illustrations shown in colour and with many extra close-ups, which greatly enhance the book’s value.


Julia Miller has studied bookbinding since 1978 and joined the Book Conservation Department of the University of Michigan in 1984. Since leaving that position in 1994 she has concentrated on research, writing and lecturing and for the last ten years has been compiling the material for this book. I only wish I had had this amazing work to refer to during my many years in book conservation. I cannot recommend it too highly to my colleagues, to librarians, collectors, book dealers or anyone interested in the history of bindings.” Parenthesis 28 (Spring 2015): 50–51.


Chela Metzger: “‘The book is dead’ is a phrase that seems to have generated a cottage industry of keynote speakers and opinion pieces over the years. Julia Miller, conservator, binder and book historian, has undertaken an enormous task in her Books Will Speak Plain: A Handbook for Identifying and Describing Historical Bindings. She has championed the miles of shelves holding historic bindings in America’s research collections. She has tapped into the unique perspectives of book conservators and librarians, as well as book historians. She has placed today’s book artists alongside the anonymous binders of years past, and she has drawn all these different groups into a continuum. She builds from this synergy, and the synergy lends her book force and weight.… As we move toward a screen-based world, we may indeed know books ‘for the first time.’ The book seen deeply and lovingly described for the future is brought alive. The book described and made accessible in new ways is given new possibilities—it is not dead.” “Bonefolder Extras”


Jennifer K. Sheehan: “Part of what makes Books Will Speak Plain unique in the field of bookbinding history is that it approaches the topic from a conservation standpoint rather than a curatorial one. Julia Miller has worked in the field of book conservation for more than 30 years, including ten at the University of Michigan Library, and her experience as a conservator is evident in this work. Miller offers a history of the handmade book and its distinguishing characteristics, but her stated objective is ultimately preservation of, and access to, these items in library collections. In the introduction, she states that the purpose of her book is training the custodians of collections to look at books and make judgments about what to record and why—whether it is an element common to a type of book or an unusual feature. She sees this as fundamentally a preservation issue. Furthermore, in the process of assessment and documentation, greater access to ‘hidden’ collections is provided, which Miller believes will ultimately advance the work of binding scholars in the future.… The glossary is an excellent resource for someone not familiar with binding terminology, and even someone more experienced can benefit from this comprehensive set of binding description terms. Miller provides bibliographic sources for the definitions where appropriate. For those without citations, one must assume that the definitions have been created by Miller herself. Finally, Miller has assembled an extensive bibliography and has divided it topically. As well as providing full citations for the sources referenced in the book, it also includes additional information about sources for study of bookbinding and book history. Assembling a list of this kind was clearly a significant undertaking and enhances the value of the book as are source. Perhaps the most notable feature of Books Will Speak Plain is the supplemental material. The book is accompanied by a DVD containing color images of all of the bindings cited in the printed volume. Clearly, the organization of the DVD was given significant thought. Not only does Miller divide the images into a series of manageable files, with each image containing a descriptive caption, but she provides an additional PDF document to make the images searchable. In this document, she lists all of the captions for the images she has included, allowing the reader to do a keyword search for specific styles of characteristics. Part I of the DVD offers color images for black-and-white photos within the text, while Part II contains supplementary images divided into 13 groups, based on distinguishing characteristics. The variety of images provided attests to the depth of research Miller has conducted and the richness of the collections that she has accessed in their compilation. Books Will Speak Plain, with its supplemental DVD, is an important resource for any staff member or volunteer faced with the description or identification of historic bindings. Although it is somewhat unlikely that an inexperienced volunteer would be prepared to take on the necessary level of description based on a reading of this book alone, Miller presents a strong foundation for institutions contemplating the use of volunteers in such a capacity or simply training their existing workforce to take on these new responsibilities. What sets Books Will Speak Plain apart from other binding texts is not only the preservation-oriented approach that Miller takes but also that she does not focus her efforts on the presumption that every reader will be working with collections of luxury bindings. In doing so, she makes this book relevant for a much wider audience than those that simply focus on the loveliest examples binding history has to offer.” RBM: A Journal of Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Cultural Heritage 12, no. 2 (Fall 2011): 135–138.


Anon: “Julia Miller has created, in our opinion, the best and a most complete resource on book binding published in English. Being a binding scholar and preserver of books, having a years-long  record of service, and as a true practitioner and specialist in her field, she compiled an aid. The goal of her work was to give librarians and collectors accessible and authentic information about the sources and peculiarities of the individual book binding.…


Particular respect is evoked by the studied apparatus of the book. Let us note, in particular, the sizable dictionary of binding terms and the complete bibliographic list of literature in English. Also included are separate references to French sources. Concerning Russian authors, J. Miller introduces only one reference to the works of S.A. Klepikov, which were published in translation into English. One should yet one more time especially note that the book contains a great number of illustrations, the majority of which are of the highest quality and in most cases, colored. Supplementing the book is a DVD, on which are contained hundreds of illustrations of the author’s bindings from various epochs.  An acquaintance with best quality examples  of the binding art provides readers with genuine pleasure.


The book of J. Miller came out in a small private press ‘The Legacy Press,’ situated  in the state of Michigan. The publisher produces small-circulation highly artistic books. Its owner Cathleen Baker herself writes on book bindings and paper of ancient books.


The quality of the printing of the book by J. Miller is more than praiseworthy, and its price is fully acceptable—80 dollars. We are certain that the book will become an irreplaceable aid for serious bibliophiles.” Pro Knigi [About Books, a Journal for Bibliophiles] 21, no. 1 (2012): 136–137; in Russian, translated for The Legacy Press.


John Townsend: “I devoured Julia Miller’s book and found it wonderfully done and much needed. It is a major piece of work and deserves widespread attention and praise. I’ve been casually working on a database for some time to record things that come into my shop, so was especially pleased to find so much in common with Julia’s efforts in this direction. Even so, she is far ahead of most of us who have been talking and thinking—and not writing—about these things for a long time. Like any librarian/conservator, I may quibble with some details, but this in no way diminished my pleasure and satisfaction in reading it. How often do we even get the opportunity to quibble!? I truly appreciate the discipline and fortitude such a work required and hope Julia has received all the praise the book deserves.”


Amanda Flynn: “Arguing passionately for historical bookbindings as rich repositories of our cultural and intellectual development, Julia Miller starts with a call to action: ‘if custodians are able to make the time and turn their efforts to understanding the structural and stylistic elements of their collections, sharpening their eyes and their knowledge so historical artefact bindings can be identified, described, and preserved, books will indeed ‘speak plain’ to future scholars of the book’ (p. xiii). Miller’s appeal is certainly topical. The importance of bringing bindings into the heart of bibliographical studies, and the increasingly urgent need to make this possible by including useful bindings descriptions in catalogue records were key themes at the recent conference The Place of Bindings (June 2011), held at Merton College Oxford and supported by the Ligatus Research Centre, CERL and the Bodleian Library’s Centre for the Study of the Book. What Miller’s handbook does which is really welcome, is to give curators a set of carefully crafted tools to carry out such bookbinding documentation.


Beginning with an overview of the history of the codex (and a special focus on colonial and post-revolutionary American bindings), Miller then provides a basic introduction to identifying binding materials and applications, and sets out a template for describing historical bindings (based on her own work surveying library collections) that is packed with advice on what to look for (and how to look) when inspecting a book. The real treasure, however, is to be found in the appendices and generous glossary. Miller’s concern is not only to capture decorative and structural information about bindings, but also to strive for a consistent and thorough terminology for online cataloguing. Her ‘Historical Bindings – Structure and Style Hierarchy’ (Appendix 1) is a thesaurus designed to help readers fill out her survey template, which contains vastly more binding terms than either the RBMS Binding Terms thesaurus or Getty’s Art and Architecture (ATT), including such useful additions as ‘visible structure through damage’. All of her terms are defined clearly in the glossary, and many are backed up by photographic examples. Appendix 2 offers several case studies, demonstrating Miller’s template and thesaurus in action. The accompanying DVD extends the usefulness of the black and white illustrations in the book by providing them in (fully zoomable) colour, and augments them with further images of bindings, arranged in useful categories such as ‘paper bindings’.


Conscious of how budgetary constraints impact on library workflows, Miller is reassuringly aware that her readers will have to make choices about the level of detail to include in their own records; indeed, she assumes that most are intent on creating basic bindings descriptions that could be expanded with further research.


Aimed very much at library professionals, Books Will Speak Plain complements more specialist handbooks such as David Pearson’s English Bookbinding Styles 1450–1800 (2005) and Stuart Bennett’s Trade Bookbinding in the British Isles 1660–1800 (2004), and should be of great use to rare book cataloguers.” Rare Books Newsletter 91 (January 2012): 8–9 [CILIP/RBSCG: Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals/Rare Books and Special Collections Group, UK]


Julia Miller

Meeting by Accident: Selected Historical Bindings (2018)


Hugo Lundhaug: “Miller and Spitzmueller, 'Gift from the Desert' [from Meeting by Accident by Julia Miller]. This is a lavishly illustrated and clearly written study documenting the construction of the covers in an excellent manner and constitutes the most well-documented analysis to date of their construction and preservation." From “Material Philology and the Nag Hammadi Codices.“ In The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi Codices. Eds. Dylan M. Burns and Matthew Goff, 118, fn. 44. Nag Hammadi and Manichaean Studies 103. Leiden: Brill, 2022.


Barbara Adams Hebard: “Julia Miller embarked on an ambitious journey when she set out to write Meeting by accident: selected historical bindings. Book conservators, indeed book lovers in general, should be grateful for her diligence. Miller could have rested on her laurels after producing the acclaimed Books Will Speak Plain, instead choosing to elaborate on books that previously had received brief mention in that publication. Readers should not be intimidated by the high page count—707 pages of densely packed text—not only because the text is rich with information, but also it is complemented by 717 full-color images. The colored illustrations clarify Miller’s detailed focus on the bindings’ characteristics in a way that black and white or gray scale images would fail to do. [The] Legacy Press is to be commended for committing to include so many full-color images, a costly production. The six chapters within Meeting by accident: selected historical bindings each could each could have merited a separate book; making this $125.00 volume a bargain.


Miller’s chosen topics for the first four chapters are binding styles that have not always received ample attention in binding structure or book history publications, in part because they are not generally considered to be the most glamorous styles and/or are lacking exciting ownership associations, for example. In those chapters she looks at: bindings decorated by staining, canvas bindings, over-covers, and books made for scholars. Miller clearly is fascinated by the techniques used by bookbinders of the past and, indeed, in these pages the structure of those books has become more interesting because of the questions that she poses and answers about them. Add to that, likely many an institution has examples of these styles either incorrectly, incompletely, or not identified because of the lack of readily available language with which to describe them. Miller has changed that, Meeting by accident has given catalogers and conservators precise terms to use for records or reports. The footnotes offer a wealth of information and their tone is conversational. Miller, recognizing that other conservators and bookbinders are in her reading audience, uses the footnotes to: explain her reasons for choosing a particular descriptive word, assiduously credit others either for their workshops or publications that further illuminate the topics, and offer links to on-line data-bases with additional visual aids to educate the viewer.


Chapter five, ‘A Gift from the Desert: A Report on the Nag Hammadi Codices’, can be summarized by Miller’s own words, ‘The purpose of this chapter is to give the reader an idea of what the Nag Hammadi bindings look like and how they were put together, and what they represent to the history of the codex and the history of hand bookbinding’. She completely delivers on those words and, as with the four prior chapters, has packed the numerous footnotes with more information and with the same painstaking effort to honor the research of others.


In ‘A Model Approach’, the final chapter in this pithy volume, Miller is, ‘urging the reader to engage with historical bindings by creating models of structures interesting to you. The rewards are great: you gain a better understanding of historical binding developments and you soon comprehend the possibilities (and limitations) of modern materials’. The models, she points out, have value beyond that given to creating a bookbinding—when used in a teaching setting, they offer cultural and historical importance. Seeing and interacting with a physical object engages a student beyond the knowledge gained by merely reading about its existence.


Julia Miller’s Meeting by Accident: Selected Historical Bindings, can be interpreted as a quiet yet persuasive call to preservation action, within the volume she is: asking conservators and curators to look at under-appreciated structures with new eyes; teaching them in great detail how to study book structure, thereby tempering decisions regarding the care and custody of historic materials; and fostering an appreciation of the value of historic models both for instructing the professionals as well as students.“ “Bonefolder Extras,“ 17 March 2018


Cathleen A. Baker

From the Hand to the Machine. Nineteenth-Century American Paper and Mediums:

Technologies, Materials, and Conservation (2012, 2014)


2012 American Institute for Conservation Publication Award

2012 Eric Hoffer Book Awards: Reference: Honorable Mention


Martha Little: “After five years of somehow not getting around to it (I had it in sheets and meant to bind it first, etc. etc.), I just read Cathleen Baker’s From the Hand to the Machine. In case any of you have similar excuses, just forget about them and read the book. It’s fascinating, readable and just an amazing work of scholarship. Almost every page held either information I hadn't read about before at all, or new aspects of things I'd thought I knew all about. There were innumerable revelations about the causes of familiar details I’ve observed in 19th c. book leaves that made reading the book continually surprising and exciting to me. And even with the density of sometimes quite complicated information, Baker somehow manages to explain things simply and clearly. I now want everyone I know to read this book.” Posted to GBW listserv on May 1, 2016. Martha Little, Library Conservator, UC Berkeley.


Alice McClintock: “Cathleen Baker's book From the Hand to the Machine is a comprehensive study of nineteenth-century papermaking, describing both historical techniques and the care and conservation of nineteenth-century papers. From the Hand to the Machine draws on Baker's forty years of experience as both a paper conservator and educator. Baker hopes that her book might prove accessible and useful to paper conservators, those involved in the preservation of cultural heritage more broadly, and those wishing to obtain a foundational understanding of papermaking technologies, processes, and history. Baker writes, ‘it is often easy to dismiss paper as merely the support material for a variety of mediums that comprise the image or words’ (94). Baker's work is predicated upon the belief that paper should not be judged as just support material in the study of book history, but as a medium worthy of its own study.


Baker begins her book with a broad survey of American papermaking history; the opening chapter, ‘Development of the Paper Industry in the United States, 1690–1900,’ is a short introduction to the papermaking history of America. She moves through the book systematically, writing on the various stages in the papermaking process, linking these stages to the more expansive topics of printmaking history and conservation challenges and decision-making.


Baker's documentation of the papermaking process is written in an absorbing and accessible tone. Each step in the nineteenth-century papermaking process—from rag collection to the use of papers in the print shop—is delineated clearly, with helpful illustrations accompanying these descriptions. These chapters give one a foundational understanding of papermaking technologies, and Baker offers the reader a thorough description of these technologies. Building upon these sections, Baker then links these technologies to the history and workings of nineteenth-century print shops: she describes the hand and machine presses of the era, with a focus on printing techniques—relief printing, intaglio, etching, engraving, and so forth—that were popular at the time. The wealth of material in these particular sections is welcome, but it suffers somewhat from Baker's organizational strategy. The material in question would perhaps be easier to digest if the one chapter devoted to presses and printing techniques was broken up into separate sections.


Her final chapter, ‘Conservation of Nineteenth-Century Paper and Mediums,’ ties Baker's investigation of nineteenth-century papermaking to contemporary conservation practice; this chapter in particular is invaluable to any professional in the book and paper conservation field, whether working in an archive, library, or museum. Baker provides the reader with a necessarily complex description of paper and its deterioration/aging process (including chemical formulas for each major process), as well as a detailed account of addressing problems and particular conservation challenges as they arise, according to the type of material that must be used.


The content and organization of the appendices are worth remarking upon. Baker groups some of the more technical and specific aspects of paper conservation into several sections, and these work as a way to supplement material provided in the main body of the book. She also devotes an appendix to a more detailed description of other print and manuscript materials, specifically papyrus and vellum. Baker's appendices would prove helpful to those working with multimedia books or manuscripts, and she also provides a glossary that is a helpful resource in understanding the specifics of this technical material.


The one area where I found that there was some material lacking was in Baker's use of American paper as examples. There is little elaboration on the use of these examples and the way in which they connect to broader topics in American social history. To those interested in papermaking history, such a link would be welcome, especially to those just developing an interest in such history. The brief overview of the American papermaking industry at the beginning of the book is general at best, and one does not necessarily acquire a complete understanding of the industry during its development in the nineteenth century. It seems that in describing the American papermaking industry, Baker dwells too much on the generalities of the industry and processes and situations that apply to the Western world in total, rather than sharpening her focus to look at the American situation specifically. Although she does provide some supplemental material in the appendix, ‘Contemporary Accounts of Papermaking by Hand and Machine,’ this material might serve to contextualize the papermaking processes and be better suited to the main body of the book. More information on the social and political situation in nineteenth-century America would be welcome, as it would give more historical context to the otherwise well-documented papermaking processes and production methods.


Baker's book is a thorough investigation and documentation of the nineteenth-century papermaking industry and printing techniques. Her focus on conservation is invaluable, and should prove useful for anyone interested in the conservation process, although at times the complexity of the description can be daunting. Lacking, perhaps, is a more detailed discussion of the papermaking industry as it applied to the American situation. Regardless, From the Hand to the Machine is an accessible and engaging reference work, which anyone interested in papermaking should consult.“ Papers of the Bibliographical Society of Canada 51, no. 1 (Spring 2013): 145–147.


Elizabeth Adams: “The slightly wordy title of this book seemed more apposite having read each one of its 400–odd pages. Knowledge has been squeezed into this book as if with the aid of one of the hand-presses discussed in the latter chapters. This is by no means a criticism, as the text contains a harvest of meticulous research, historical accounts, and practical advice, all of which are imparted by the author with enthusiasm and an obvious dedication to the subject.


Cathleen A. Baker demonstrates an extensive knowledge of nineteenth century paper-making materials and processes, as well as the various different printing technologies of the time, and the conservation of works on paper in modern times.


Using extensive examples and meticulous research Baker helps to deflate a recurrent myth: that paper made by hand out of rag pulp is necessarily of a higher quality than paper made by machine using wood pulp.… Whether read from cover to cover or dipped into as a work of reference, there is much in Baker’s latest tome to capture the interest of anyone involved with paper, whether as producer, historian, conservator, curator, enthusiast or simply as humble reader.” Rare Books Newsletter 92 (July 2012): 16.


Laurel Davis: “Baker’s book revolves around the innovations occurring in the paper and printing industries in nineteenth-century America, but the scope of the work is actually broader. Because her chosen time frame is one that involved much change and development, and because her knowledge is so deep and broad, Baker looks backward in time and discusses the tried and true techniques that were still being used in early nineteenth-century America and then moves smoothly into the developing technologies. It is a hefty task, and she pulls it off in a seemingly effortless way, imparting a surprisingly comprehensive history of papermaking and printing.


In terms of audience, Baker straddles the fine line between being accessible to a beginner and interesting and informative to a veteran. As a novice in the field of special collections, I found the book to be a well-written and entertaining introduction to the world of paper and papermaking as well as to the world of printing. Some of the discussions of chemical processes and reactions were beyond my ken and interest (and these are exactly what would make the book worthwhile for someone beyond beginner status), but I found it simple enough to pick up the basics. My purpose in reading the book was to gain a basic understanding of the papermaking process and to have a better sense of the types of paper in our collection [Special Collections, Boston College Law School], which includes many nineteenth-century legal books and documents. It filled that need perfectly.…


I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of papermaking and printing and particularly to curators and conservators who are working with paper materials created in the United States during this time frame. It is tremendously well-written, well-organized, and well-cited work that will be a standard reference for me for years to come.” RBM: A Journal of Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Cultural Heritage 13, no. 1 (Spring 2012): 64–66.


Gary Frost: “This is a classic exposition of a technology and practice of cultural transmission. It is also an adventure across an expanse of change and intended and unintended consequence. Through it all, Baker’s distinctive voice guides the reader.


The focus is on the nineteenth century when American papermakers found themselves in a vortex of market expansion and industrial enterprise. Along with other trades of printing and binding they responded with surprising innovations. Automation and industrialization of papermaking resulted in quantities and qualities of paper previously unachievable. Mass media as well as whole sectors of material and artistic culture flourished with new papers. It was a fabulous period of achievement and as Baker states in her introduction, ‘There is nothing inherently inferior about paper made on machines.’ This book is liberated from narrow admiration for handmade paper.


Another focus of this book is on ‘common papers and mediums.’ Baker’s premise that the ‘average or typical’ should be distinguished proves itself as the book progresses and we start to recognize familiar paper and medium types and their typical composites…. In addition, the author presents the historical and technical information in clear and pragmatic terms. One of Baker’s intentions is to enable practitioners and curators to distinguish the stable from vulnerable materials in collections so that they may allocate efficiently their conservation resources….


[Baker] clearly states, ‘This [conservation] information is not intended to be used as recipes for treatment, nor should any, and certainly not all of these steps, be viewed as essential.’ Instead of a methods manual, Baker offers a manual of intentions positioned in terms of chemical and physical influences on paper graphics and parsed in the language of options to stabilize and protect objects, rather than change them: ‘no invasive treatment should ever be considered mandatory.’ Baker explains that paper is a thin and porous material that reacts quickly. Strong capillary and evaporation forces can suddenly take over. The various mediums ride out these dramas with un-reversible visual, chemical, and physical changes. Surprises are everywhere. They lurk in familiar routine; pre-testing can be deceptive. This is such an honest and refreshing understanding….


Wow! What a treat and what an education; this work is an unforgettable and continuing experience. The reader is guided not only by Baker’s voice but also by her invitation to directly assimilate a lifetime career of exploration of graphic works on paper.” Excerpted with permission from Hand Papermaking 26, no. 2 (Winter 2011):  43–45. © 2011 by Hand Papermaking, Inc. ( All rights reserved.


Randy Silverman: “From the Hand to the Machine represents a tour de force in the connoisseurship of paper as a physical object during its least understood period of  production: the transition from handcraft to the modern machine age. The work’s groundbreaking complexity helps illustrate why machine-made paper, despite its ubiquitous presence in museums, archives and research libraries, has traditionally been underappreciated when compared with handmade paper. Through an exhaustive analysis of American production methods, Dr. Cathleen Baker reveals the simple truth that paper produced during the industrialization is abundantly rich in handwork, experimentation, and variety, and deserves closer scrutiny.


Baker’s text sheds  light on numerous machine-milled mysteries such as the reason some sections of  a printed and bound nineteenth century book appear reasonably bright and robust while others immediately following are much softer and darker brown. The solution to this riddle lies in nineteenth century paper mill practices necessitated by the use of gelatin sizing, which putrefies rapidly at room temperature, especially in the summer. Gelatin produced for vat  sizing on a Monday or a Tuesday included a little alum sizing on a Monday or a Tuesday included a little alum and worked well as evidenced by the book’s bright paper following 100–200 years of natural aging. However, as increasing amounts of alum and white vitriol (zinc sulfate) were added to preserve the gelatin as the work week progressed, me sizing became far less effective and considerably more acidic. Paper sized on a Friday or a Saturday produced sheets that could discolor disastrously over time, yet when printed in the day proved indistinguishable from Monday’s paper.


The author brings an extraordinary depth of  knowledge to this demanding topic. Currently the senior paper conservator at the University of Michigan Library, Baker has previously taught paper conservation at the Art Conservation Department of Buffalo State College and earned her doctorate practicing papermaking, letterpress printing, punch cutting, and bookbinding. Her definitive biography on paper historian Dard Hunter, By His Own Labor (2000), was completed while living for several years in Hunter’s Chillicothe, Ohio home and having unprecedented access to his archive of 10,000 letters, books, and photographs provided by his grandson, Dard Hunter Ill. Baker brings to the present study a rarefied expertise gleaned through critical examination of tens of thousands of paper artifacts over the past forty years combined with extensive hands-on experience. The result is a discerning blend of  numerous threads of paper history and conservation practice melded into a cohesive work that is a modern American classic.


While this edition could use more refined editing in places, the text is carefully linked with over 500 illustrations that visually underscore nuances of  the technical points discussed. Baker moves beyond the subtleties of  nineteenth-century paper manufacture to address paper as a printing, printmaking, writing, drawing, and painting medium. She concludes that greater restraint is called for in the conservation of machine-made paper artifacts, a thesis of  grave importance to current practitioners and future generations of  aficionados. This work should facilitate the reevaluation of  this nation’s paper legacy and establish Baker as our leading light on the topic.” SHARP News 20, no. 4 (Autumn 2011): 8.


Timothy Barrett: “With the possible exception of the century when papermaking was invented, nothing comes close to what happened to the paper trade in the 1800s, especially in America. After eighteen continuous centuries of making paper by hand, suddenly, a tumult of inventions changed the technology forever as new mediums and new uses for old ones prompted the development of different papers. Documenting all of this innovation in one comprehensive volume seems a monumental task, but Cathleen Baker has accomplished just that in a thorough, enlightening, and orchestrated manner. From the Hand to the Machine is certain to become a standard reference for conservators, curators and librarians, collectors, and anyone else with an interest in nineteenth-century works on paper.”


Jeffrey S. Peachey: “Baker has ventured into the enormously difficult and confusing world of 19th century papermaking history, and returned to give us a book that is important, readable, scholarly and highly illustrated—over 500 photographs according to the dust jacket blurb. As the subtitle indicates, this is a book not just about 19th century paper, although roughly a third of the book deals with this topic, but it also documents 19th century printing technologies and mediums, contains chapter on the conservation, and has six appendices. This is an investigation of paper from the viewpoint of a conservator, using chemical analysis, the history of technology, art history, material culture, the history of craft, and perhaps most importantly, Baker’s personal experience, encompassing a deep, holistic understanding.… Cathleen A. Baker has written an important and accessible book. It is not only for specialists in the history of paper and books, although they will be well served to read it, but it should interest anyone who has ever touched a piece of paper and paused to consider how it was made.” “Bonefolder Extras”


John Townsend: “Cathy’s book is extraordinary. As it happens, I was rereading R. Reed’s Ancient Skins when it arrived and have been struck by how much alike they are in some ways, for all their obvious differences. Both are authoritative and comprehensive but also eminently readable and endlessly fascinating. Both are on my short shelf of technical books that can be picked up and read at any time and at any length with great benefit. There is a real beauty to well done technical descriptions; rarely encountered and all the more notable for that. I think Cathy has set a very high standard for future work in scope, clarity, writing and—not least—book production.”



Aimee Lee

Hanji Unfurled: One Journey into Korean Papermaking


2013 Eric Hoffer Book Awards

Reference: Honorable Mention

First Horizon (superior work by debut author): Winner


Minah Song: “In Korea, papermaking is a craft that has only been grasped by people who learn directly from their masters, who also learned it from their grandmasters. The craft, transferred in the old, remote paper mills from one generation to another, is not necessarily a mystical secret, but it is somehow shielded from the eyes of the general audience. There are only a few books in Korean that document the production of old-style Korean paper, hanji, and other traditional crafts of the country. It is natural to presume that the subtleties of the papermaker’s craft can never be learned from a book, but—not only among artists, conservators, papermakers, and paper hobbyists—there is a strong need for information regarding various technical and cultural aspects of Korean traditional hand papermaking. Today gigantic factories in Korea use an automated production process to make billions of sheets of paper. There are fewer and fewer people who carry out the difficult task of learning how to make hanji. Korean-American Aimee Lee is one such person, and she has written Hanji Unfurled: One Journey into Korean Papermaking, the first book exploring practical and artistic aspects of hanji that has been published in English. Aimee Lee’s book, written in straightforward narrative and not evading personal reflection, describes experiences of the author, who had a unique chance to study Korean papermaking and other traditional crafts at the source. In 2008, Lee travelled on a Fulbright grant to Korea and became an apprentice at Jangjibang, the paper mill of the Jang family that has been making hanji for three generations in the mountainous region of Gapyeong, northeast of Seoul. Explaining her reasons for undertaking her task, Lee observes, ‘Although my original intent during my visit to Korea was to learn one particular way of making paper, my journey led me far beyond the surface of hanji. I started to appreciate the social and cultural importance of paper on various scales: prosaic, elite, functional, decorative, structural, and symbolic.’


In the beginning of the book, the readers will find a theoretical description of hanji, explanation of the history of the craft, characterization of raw materials used by Korean papermakers, details of the process, and a comparison with other Asian papers. Lee connects the theory to practice by outlining a chain of empirical examples from her own experience—the difficulty of finding a hanji master, the struggle of early apprenticeship days, and the slow way of learning how to make hanji. Numerous photographs and the author’s hand-drawn diagrams of tools and process provide unusual and a truly stunning number of useful details. By sharing her point of view, not as a master, but as a student, she has, in essence, allowed us to have a look at her student notes. Instead of explaining techniques of papermaking and traditional crafts in a detached, academic way, Lee’s personal narrative enables readers to follow her own steps in learning the complicated and meticulous process of papermaking. Vivid descriptions let the readers almost smell the cooking bark, feel the sliminess of natural formation aid and the weight of slurry on the screen, and hear the sounds of water moving in the vat.


Lee’s was not easy task since traditional hanji makers are not keen on accepting foreign apprentices even though they often complain that young people do not want to undertake hard work and no one wants to learn hand papermaking. In this traditionally male-dominated craft, and in a male-dominated society, when a woman from another country wants to come and learn paper-making, the craftsmen’s attitude can be described as anything but enthusiastic. The author describes in chapter three how difficult it was for her to get in touch with masters and even more, to convince them to open their minds and to finally accept and teach her. Her hardship comes alive in the account of perseverance and hard work that was necessary for her to build a professional relationship with the craftsmen.


In chapters six through nine, Lee presents other traditional Korean crafts directly related to hanji: jiseung (twisting paper into cords and weaving them into objects), natural dyeing, joomchi (paper felting), and calligraphy. As Lee mentions, even though joomchi is known to some Western artists, sadly for contemporary Koreans both jiseung and joomchi are becoming obscure and forgotten.


For many years it has been customary to call mulberry paper by its popular, Western designation – ‘Japanese paper’ or ‘Japanese tissue,’ a fact related to the quality and popularity of Japanese paper. Washi, Japanese handmade paper, has already become a familiar name, while its Korean equivalent, hanji, is still new and largely unknown. Aimee Lee’s book will undoubtedly contribute to hanji’s recognition amongst artists, papermakers, bookbinders, and conservators. But this is only the beginning of the process to widely promote and ensure the continuation of hanji. As emphasized in chapter ten, ‘Hanji Today,‘ not much can be done without Korean papermakers’ effort to consistently maintain the highest quality of their products. Given the specific demands of the highly skilled professionals who buy handmade paper, a point made by Lee is well taken: ‘Korean paper mills need to learn how to become accountable and competitive in the international market, recording and maintaining samples of their product lines for quality control.’


For Aimee Lee, the end of her apprenticeship and her studies in Korea did not mean the end of her journey. After returning to the United States, she built a Korean-style hanji papermaking facility in the Morgan Art of Papermaking Conservatory in Cleveland, Ohio, and continues to teach hanji workshops and experiment with hanji in her artwork. ‘My impetus was to find a way to connect my heritage with my identity as an artist and a person,’ reflects Lee in the final chapter of the book. ‘But I believe that the study of hand papermaking can be as rewarding to someone approaching it for entirely different reasons.’ No matter what the reasons and paths are, Lee remarks, ‘I am heartened by all the ways that we can connect’ through the study of the remarkable tradition of hanji.” Excerpted with permission from Hand Papermaking 28, no. 2 (Winter 2013): 41–43. © 2013 by Hand Papermaking, Inc. ( All rights reserved.


Barbara Shapiro: Inspired by a desire to connect more deeply with her heritage, visual artist Aimee Lee traveled to Korea and offers us a perceptive and detailed personal account of the state of Korean papermaking. We are privileged, as she was, to spend time in the workshops of current masters of the art of Hanji (mulberry paper) and many of the associated crafts, enriching our understanding of the formation and usage of a pristine luminescent sheet drawn from the pulp of the chamdak tree. Presented with the flow of a travel journal, this book will appeal to those scholars and craftsmen who seek a deeper understanding of fast disappearing traditional processes as well as a frank analysis of the state of the craft in Korea today. Hanji is enjoying a slight upsurge due to the ‘well being’ health movement and the work of a few recognized artists, but it will never again be as prevalent as in the past when strong ubiquitous hanji papers covered floors and windows, were woven into chamber pots, and even served as clothing.

Armed with a Fulbright Fellowship research grant and a few fortuitous personal connections, Lee devoted a year to total immersion in her subject. We follow her daily practice during the apprenticeships she obtained, rare for a woman and rarer still for a foreigner, albeit Korean-speaking. Her own diligence and work ethic carried her deep into the study of Hanji and earned the confidence and friendship of her various tutors. The cold and physical fatigue she experienced are palpable, as is her joy at learning to pull a proper sheet of the distinctive Korean webal tteugi or ‘single screen scooping’ paper.


Following an introduction to Hanji’s history, ingredients and the contemporary pressures on its production, four chapters chart the saga of Lee’s Hanji apprentice-ship from the five-month search for a master willing to take on an American woman student through the demanding physical ordeal of learning in a month what practitioners spend a lifetime acquiring. Upon completion of her Hanji training at Jang Ji Bang paper mill, Lee broadens her horizons and ours with a further apprenticeship in Jiseung, the cording and weaving or twining of a variety of vessels and traditional objects. This leads into exposure to the natural dyes necessary to give the woven works their distinctive allure. Especially interesting is the story of persimmon or gammul dyeing Lee experienced on Jeju Island, known for its strong independent women. Equally delightful are Lee’s explorations of Joomchi, an artistic use of the felting qualities of manipulated Hanji, and of calligraphy, ‘the main reason that paper came into being.’ Contemporary artists and the few schools that teach hanji are presented with a frank analysis of current political trends and failings.


Once back home, Lee keeps her promise and finds the means to open the first Korean papermaking facility in the US, Eiben Studio at the Morgan Conservatory in Cleveland, OH. Aimee Lee’s dedication to her craft and generosity in sharing her saga make for a passionate and informative read. For more information on Aimee Lee:“ Textile Society of America Newsletter 25, no. 3 (Fall 2013): 16–17.


Molly Elkind: “Lee provides a thorough description of the distinctive process of making hanji, its history, its myriad uses, and the state of the hanji industry today. This is one artist’s candid story of the struggle to make contacts in Korea that would allow her to learn, her successes and failures along the way, and her deepening passion for her subject and her heritage.… This book will appeal to papermakers, basketmakers, and to those curious about Korean people and culture. It is sure to stand as a solid contribution to scholarship in its field. It is also a good read.” Shuttle Spindle & Dyepot 44, no. 2 (Spring 2013): 11. In the same issue, also read “Aimee Lee and the Art of Hanji” by Judy Dominic, 34–39.  ­­


Libby Pomroy: “I love this book. I knew I would even before I cracked it open. In 2010, The Hanji Crew contributed to a Kickstarter campaign for author Aimee Lee’s project to build North America’s first hanji studio—in Cleveland. The Hanji Crew is a group dedicated to learning and teaching Korean hanji, or traditional papercraft, and using the proceeds from the sale of our products to benefit Korean arts and cultural efforts, mainly in the Twin Cities.


In return for our support of Aimee Lee’s project, we were rewarded with fascinating updates on her blog, and a few months later, some sheets of the glorious hanji paper she created. Her recently-published book chronicles the path she followed from her Korean American roots in New York City to her journey as a Fulbright scholar traveling through Korea learning about the history and soul of hanji, Korea’s strong, beautiful handmade paper.


The book is part cultural travelogue, part character study (each of the author’s Korean teachers is more interesting than the last), and part technical guide.…


While Lee’s description of hanji-making goes into some detail, the text is easily understood and a delight to read. Tidbits of information jumped off the page as I read, such as Lee’s papermaking teacher saying it is possible to discern when a sheet of paper is ready, based on the shapes of the fibers of the finished sheets.…


For a glimpse at this uniquely Korean art form—and one artist’s journey to discover its versatility—’Hanji Unfurled is a gem.’ ‘Old art learned the old way.’” Korean Quarterly (Winter 2013): 55–56.


Melissa Jay Craig: “Hanji, an incredibly strong, beautiful, versatile and sustainably sourced paper, was once literally woven into the fabric of Korean lives. That wide-ranging presence is also how hanji affected Aimee Lee as she spent a Fulbright year intensively studying with some of the few remaining masters of hanji-making and its related arts. She takes us along on an intimate, comprehensive journey into this ancient, essential, humble yet noble material, from its history to its struggling present and possible paths for its future. This book is a valuable resource, a must-read not only for papermakers but for anyone interested in perpetuating honored traditions into an environmentally responsible future. Read it, and then get your hands on some hanji. You will be as enthralled with it as I am, and as grateful to Aimee and the Morgan Conservatory for bringing hanji production to this country.”


Christine A. Smith

Yours Respectfully, William Berwick. Paper Conservation in the United States

and Western Europe, 1800 to 1935 (2016)


Karl Buchberg: “In thirteen elegantly written and meticulously-researched chapters, Smith portrays the field of archives and library restoration/conservation, its relationship to the management of these institutions and the techniques used by restorers during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This volume is targeted at various constituencies. Paper conservators, especially those working in archives and libraries or dealing with archival documents, will be fascinated with Berwick’s career at the Library of Congress while also working privately for other major institutions in the United States. Equally, archivists and librarians would profit greatly from a deeper understanding of the history of the care of collections and the role that their administrative predecessors played.... One of the great strengths of this volume is the description of historic paper repair techniques from technical, scientific, aesthetic as well as financial points of view.... We are indebted to the author for this groundbreaking, extraordinarily well-researched and readable book.“ News in Conservation [IIC], no. 65 (April 2018): 22–23


William Butts: “Christine Smith’s new opus puts the onus on many of us, dealers and collectors especially, to become more knowledgeable about the history of document repair and conservation. Most of us dealers have scant interaction with paper conservators – but we also have extensive experience in handling documents repaired a century or more ago.... Call reading Yours Respectfully continuing education, call it due diligence – just don’t call it dull and don’t call it homework, for Smith makes what could be a lackluster topic in another’s hands lively and entertaining. The fact that she is a seasoned conservator with broad experience shines through these pages and informs her approach to the many technical matters that arise.... So thorough is Smith in her approach that fully 300 pages at the close consist of really useful appendices such as ‘Miscellaneous Interesting Recipes’ and the 1924 ‘Library of Congress Paper Conservation Bibliography.’ Her endnotes are thorough beyond compare, her bibliography sizeable and worth studying, her index lengthy and what you would want from a tome of this size. All of these help make Yours Respectfully, William Berwick indispensable in understanding how our conservation methods have evolved since the nineteenth century – and it's always gratifying to see the achievements of an unsung hero such as Berwick brought to light. In Christine Smith’s capable hands, she accomplishes both tasks admirably.“ Manuscripts 69, no. 3 (Summer 2017): 263–268.


bottom of page