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[BKARTS] India paper


Physically, the most distinctive feature of the New Encyclopaedia Britannica [11th edition, 1910] is that it is printed on India paper. The use of India paper for such a purpose was indeed a revolution in the manufacture of books. It has been called ?an inspiration of genius.?
Just what is this marvelous material, it may be asked, and how did it get its name? Does it really come from India?
Genuine India paper is a thin, opaque, tough paper, of great tensile strength, usually made chiefly from pure linen rags or flax fibre, and entirely free from mechanical wood pulp. The principal materials have to be imported, and now, owing to the war, the supply has been almost exhausted. The opacity of India paper is due mainly to the admixture of mineral matter; but, in general, its extraordinary properties are due primarily to the infinite care and skill employed in the treatment of the raw materials. Such skill can be attained by few, and naturally the details of its manufacture are a jealously-guarded secret.
The origin of the name ?India paper? is most interesting. In 1841 a traveler brought to England from the Far East a small quantity of extremely thin paper, more opaque and tough for its weight than any paper then made in Europe. It was called ?India paper,? owing to the prevailing tendency to describe as ?Indian? any commodity from the Far East. It was not until 1875 that a similar paper could be made in England. This paper soon came into wide use for the printing of fine Bibles; but being very expensive, was little used for other publications. The use of India paper for the new Encyclopaedia Britannica was thus a most daring innovation, and the quantity required was much larger than the total output of all the mills in the world that had previously made the paper.
Until recently no genuine India paper was manufactured in this country­every sheet had to be imported from mills, which now, on account of the war, have had to shut down. Finally, after experimenting many months at a very large cost, Messrs. S. D. Warren & Co., of Boston, Mass., succeeded where others had failed; and now the India paper used both for the Cambridge issue and for the ?Handy Volume? issue is manufactured by this company, exactly the same quality being used for each.
Not only is the manufacture of India paper costly and difficult, but its use in the large sheets required for such a book as the Britannica, presented problems in printing and in binding which were solved only at much expense and with the utmost difficulty. The purchaser of the Encyclopaedia Britannica receives the benefit of the courage of the publishers in adopting India paper, of the enterprise and skill of the paper mills in meeting the new and extraordinary demand, and of the patience and ingenuity of printers, and binders in overcoming their many problems and difficulties. It is literally amazing that an India paper set of the ?Handy Volume? Britannica can now be offered to the public for only $1.00 down and small payments for a limited period­the total cost being only a fraction of the price of previous editions printed on the regular book paper.

[1] From The Book of a Hundred Wonders , an illustrated promotional booklet published by the Encyclopaedia Britannica Co. in about 1916; the pamphlet has 128 pages and is printed on India paper.

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