Thursday, August 23, 2012

Book Pulping - a History

New York Magazine looks into it.

From the article...

What eureka moment gave us book recycling? The details are forgotten, but we know that in the early seventeenth century, when the cost of paper was astronomically high, proto-publishers ripped old pages from unwanted books and used them as endleaves. Adam Smyth, a senior lecturer in literature at the University of London, notes that a mention of the lost Shakespeare play Love’s Labour’s Won was discovered inside a copy of the 1637 text Certaine Sermons. * “All of which suggests,” Smyth says, that “an early Jonah Lehrer would have quickly seen his pages binding the boards of someone else’s book.”

Between those ancient repurposed pages and modern pulping came another stroke of inspiration: the invention of wood-based paper. It used to be that paper was made from rags, a shortage of which gripped the Western world in the early nineteenth century. In Nova Scotia, a young logger and poet named Charles Fenerty proposed a solution: Why not make paper out of wood? (Rags have to be made; trees grow.) “I entertain an opinion that our common forest trees, either hard or soft wood, but more especially the fir, spruce, or poplar, on account of the fibrous quality of their wood, might easily be reduced by a chafing machine, and manufactured into paper of the finest kind,” he wrote in 1844. 

Fenerty died in 1892 without ever having secured intellectual property rights to, or a following for, his notion. It took German mechanic Friedrich Gottlob Keller to actually develop a machine that realized Fenerty’s vision. Keller sold his invention to an entrepreneur; a patent was granted; an industry was born.

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