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Papyrus, Parchment, and Our Fondness for a Perfect Writing Paper

Papyrus, Parchment, and Our Fondness for a Perfect Writing Paper

  • Jul 18, 2018
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“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” ― Anaïs Nin

Deep inside everyone who keeps a journal, there are words waiting to be written. When you finally find the exact ones that perfectly describe the way you feel in the moment, your words will bring back to life the colors that you see and the textures that you feel. The inspiration that comes from beautiful things can be life-changing. Your life experiences tell a personal story, tell yours out loud, in technicolor, and with all the sophistication and flair you can manage with a little help from Italy’s Amalfi coast.

The coastal town of Amalfi, Italy has been associated with skilled paper artisans since the 12th century. Using hydraulic power from the Canneto River that cascades down the mountain valley, and heavy wooden mallets, cotton, linen and hemp fibers are transformed into a paper product that has been revered since the Middle Ages.

Those who are familiar with the Amalfi coast have most likely hiked up the mountain that towers over the city to view the ruins of the many mills that were once a vital part of the area’s economy. If you are fortunate enough to visit the area, be sure to check out the Amatruda paper mill, still in operation today. Steeped in history, Italy’s southern coastline is spectacularly beautiful. Imagine sea breezes and quaint winding streets dotted with craftsmen and artisans. This town deserves a place on your bucket list.

The Amalfi Coast

The charm and dedication to craftsmanship sets Amalfi paper apart, which is why the team of artisans at Epica continue to fill our journals with the gold standard of paper. Does the quality of the paper in your journal impact the creative process? Absolutely. High-end, hand-crafted paper is both luxurious and sensory. There is a distinct tactile difference that will inspire creativity. When you put pen to paper, you are preserving and recording your personal history. Why would you entrust your words to anything less than the best? 

Each journal is a fresh start—the pages are blank, a clean slate just waiting for you to write with passion and leave your indelible mark for posterity. Create a legacy. A friend of mine began a journal when each of her grandchildren was born. She wanted to archive a “forever present” for each of them that she plans to give each one when they graduate from high school. Over the years she has detailed the moments in each of their lives that gave her joy and intertwined their stories with highlights of her own childhood. What a beautiful idea, and what a meaningful gift they will make.

Paper itself is complex. Varied in texture, weight, and feel, the best quality paper evokes an emotional response in both readers and writers. If you ever held an antique, leather-bound book, you understand. Without reading a word, you instinctively know that you are holding something of great value. The paper looks different; it even smells different. Our senses influence perception and perception becomes our reality. When we document our thoughts and feelings in a journal, we are archiving a small piece of ourselves for posterity. We are, in fact, creating a legacy. The look and feel of quality paper give substance and credibility to simple words and ideas.  The handmade paper feels impressive. Quality makes a difference.

Paper has made its mark in history. Even in today’s digital world, paper will continue to be a global necessity. Bitcoin notwithstanding, currency is a prime example of the importance of paper. Papermaking is an industry that was born in Egypt in 3000 BC.  Papyrus was the writing medium of choice for Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. The paper that we use today has its roots in China. Often called the “patron saint of papermaking,” T'sai Lun separated the fibers of plants and dried them on a screen, to produce a flexible product with a smooth surface called T'sai Ko-Shi (aka, Distinguished T'sai's paper).

Good things will endure. By the 3rd century, paper had migrated to Vietnam and Tibet, became prevalent in Korea in the 4th century, and was being used in Japan in the 6th century. The saga continued westward through Baghdad and Cairo. When the Moors invaded Spain and Portugal in the 12th century, paper went with them. And the rest is history.  

Epica Classic Leather Journal Featuring Handmade Amalfi Paper

As the printing technology developed and advanced, the demand for paper increased, though there were times when its reputation was besmirched. During the height of the Black Plague, it was thought that the cotton and linen rags used to make paper were a source of contamination. What resulted was a series of experimentations using straw, cabbage and even wasp nests as a replacement—the only material to come close to success was wood, which still had its own host of issues. As the Plague dissipated along with the invention of better papermaking machines, the end of the 18th century saw the resurrection of wood pulp paper.

With the advent of papermaking machines, and as industrial production blossomed, the art of single-sheet handmade papers began to fade into extinction. Today, the tradition lives on through a few skilled artisans, and handmade paper is a luxury item still sought after by discerning consumers. For us, there has never been any question—handmade paper and its legacy is a hallmark of our products.

Always acid-free and of archival quality, Epica’s beautiful and unique journals use varied grades of paper. Based on your individual style and preference, each choice is available in several sizes. If pure luxury is at the top of your list, our premium handmade Ivory color selection is the way to go. Individually made sheets, with some bearing a distinctive watermark, have the look and feel of fabric. But the options (and the history lesson) don’t end there: prior to the 19th century, the paper manufacturing process resulted in each sheet having a slightly ragged, or feathered edge. Referred to as a “deckled edge,” this is a feature of our more affordable, hand-cut paper. The texture is soft and is available in five sizes. Whether your preference is lined, or unlined, heavyweight, delicate, or handmade, quality shows. Just as one can easily visualize the difference in quality between a paperback novel and a leather-bound classic, it is easy to differentiate between high-end papers and copy machine stock.

There is no better example that the difference is in the details than when it comes to high quality paper. It has a beauty and elegance that is easy to identify, and unparalleled to write on—all you have to do is start. As Maya Angelou said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

Lynne Swanger recently retired after 30+ years as a medical practice administrator. She also worked as a motivational speaker, and now indulges in her passion for writing. If you have your own passion for putting pen to paper, why not send us an article at info@epica.com?


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