The Coming of Asian Papers to America 亞洲紙引進美國 Sidney Berger 西德尼.博格

The impact that paper has had on the world is inestimable. Equally incalculable is the impact that Japanese paper has had on the West. The Chinese invented paper in the 2nd century BC. By the 7th century the Japanese were making paper, and the knowledge of its manufacture made it to the West by the 8th century. Early Western contact with the Far East took place in the 1500s, but by then paper mills in Spain and Italy had already been in place for centuries.

Thanks to the Dutch, the Japanese were trading with the West by 1641, and certainly the knowledge of Asian papers came with this trade. By the early 1640s Rembrandt was using Japanese paper for his etchings. But Asian papers do not come to America for another 150 years.

This essay will explore the movement of Japanese paper to the West, its early recognition as a superior substrate for art, its relative disappearance from use in much of the 19th century (despite their use in Japan for the so-called Yokohama prints), its “rediscovery” in the U.S with the appearance of Takejiro Hasegawa’s Meiji-era crepe-paper books, and the establishment in New York of the Japan Paper Company in 1901. In fact, this company had an enormous effect in spreading the knowledge of Asian papers throughout the U.S. A strong focus will be on the Hasegawa publications and the work of the Japan Paper Company in bringing Japanese papers to America.

Sidney Berger, The Ann C. Pingree Director, The Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum

Sidney Berger is presently the Ann C. Pingree Director of the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum. His Ph.D. is from the University of Iowa in Medieval English Literature and Bibliography. His M.S. in Library and Information Science is from the University of Illinois, Champaign/Urbana. He has been Curator of Printed Books and Curator of Manuscripts at the American Antiquarian Society, Head of Special Collections and University Archivist at the University of California, Riverside, Director of the California Center for the Book, and a professor in English, Communications, and Library and Information Science. He has published widely on literary and bibliographic topics, and he was editor for six years of Rare Books & Manuscripts Librarianship. He continues to publish and give lectures and workshops on many library and bibliographical topics.