The Papermaker’s Mould in Middle-Eastern Papermaking: An Aid for the Classification of Papers
Helen Loveday

The introduction and development of papermaking throughout Persia, the Middle East and the Western Mediterranean, is one of the principal technological achievements of Islamic civilisation. The techniques by which the earliest papers were made are naturally vague after a lapse of approximately 2000 years: no records describing the production of the first Chinese papers are known, and our knowledge and understanding of the materials, tools and techniques of the Islamic papermaker, based on a handful of textual accounts, is limited; moreover, no contemporary examples of the papermaker’s mould are known to exist. However through the examination of the impressions left in a sheet of paper by the mould on which it was formed, it is possible to track variation and progression in the construction of the mould, and to glean a greater understanding of the papermaker’s craft. A tentative typology of mould impressions can be established through the systematic analysis of dated samples, and from here, through a comparison of data between known and unknown samples, information concerning the place and date of manufacture of uncategorised samples can be uncovered.

Helen Loveday, Independent Paper Conservator

Helen Loveday is an accredited member of the Institute of Conservation, and an independent paper conservator specialising in the care and preservation of manuscripts and miniatures from India and the Middle East. Her research into the nature and characteristics of papers from these regions, based on a study of over four thousand dated samples, has helped to provide a means by which hitherto unknown items can be classified according to objective standards. This research has been carried out over a period of nearly 20 years, and at once supports, and is supported by, the practical work on manuscripts that she undertakes daily.