What was “Japan paper”?

What was the Japan paper often used in fine printing during the first half of the twentieth century? I’m asking about the stuff used for the high-end editions of the fleuron, printer’s keepsakes, etc.. Was it the translucent bamboo paper the term is applied to today? Was it an omnibus term for fine papers imported from Japan? Was it paper from the Japan Paper Company in New York? Or could it be any of the above?


  • Craig EliasonCraig Eliason Posts: 1,327
    Handmade paper from mulberry bark. Originally from Japan but I'm not sure the word "Japan" always signified the source specifically.
  • PabloImpallariPabloImpallari Posts: 765
    edited May 2013
    It's a general term, used to imply high-quality handmade paper.
    Like saying Cuban Cigars, French Wine, or Spanish Ham.

    If you want to get specific, you need more details.
    For example, you can say Cuban Cigars... but which one: Cohiba, Montecristo, Romeo y Julieta? Also, which kind: Corona, Robusto, Mini?
    Talking about Japanese Paper is the same. Kinmari, Kujyaku, Kakumidare, Hagakure?
  • The term "Japan paper," as opposed to "Japanese paper," was used to describe a Western-made smooth sheet with a slightly mottled surface, inspired (if only vaguely) by Japanese printmaking paper. The Japan Paper Company was an importer of handmade and mould-made papers from throughout the world, including some from Japan. They were absorbed by the Stevens-Nelson company, which, when I started out in the 1970s, was called Andrews-Nelson-Whitehead. Later, it became ANW/Crestwood and is probably something else by now. Japan paper was favored by printmakers looking for a very crisp look and, as James said, was often used for limited editions in the pre-WWII era. As you can imagine, the term lost its caché on December 7, 1941.
  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,933
    Thanks for the responses. It’s nice to see I’m not the only one who had trouble nailing this definition. Special thanks to scott for all the detail.
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